Ecopistas & ciclovias

In some countries you can ride for hours and hours – even days – on dedicated bike paths, sometimes completely out of view of cars and other such unpleasant sights.

In Portugal, provision of such ecopistas or ciclovias is patchy. Some great routes have been planned but sadly most are no further than the drawing board. Unfortunately, the Euro Velo 1 Atlantic coast route around Portugal is one example – it exists in theory but very little is signposted, and it’s on a rough dirt tracks and roads that are not always particularly bike-friendly.

However, there are some ecopistas definitely worth exploring – and other potentially great projects in the pipeline. Below are details of a few of those that visiting cyclists might find of interest. Plus some schemes that might one day produce something special.

***Like most pages on this site, I will update it when I can – so any feedback, updates or information on paths that I haven’t listed would be hugely appreciated.***

The list below is divided into the usual sections for Northern Portugal, the Beiras, Lisbon & Central, the Alentejo and the Algarve. Paths – with details of their length, condition etc – are listed under the name of the nearest town.

You might want to check out the Ciclovia website. Although this in all in Portuguese, it contains lists of cycle routes all over the country – from a few km of beach boardwalk to longer trails. The site is broken down into lists by region and town/district. There are also links to maps for each route.

Also of possible interest is the Ecovias de Portugal website. Written in both Portuguese and English, it includes details of a ‘national greenways network’ due for completion by 2020. The map shows routes already in existence – though be warned that some, like the Ecovia Litoral in the Algarve (see below), are very variable in standard and accessibility.

On the Ecopista do Dao near Tondela
On the Ecopista do Dao near Tondela

Northern Portugal

AMARANTE: The Ecopista do Tâmega is a 40km ecopista built along the line of a metre-gauge railway that used to follow the Tâmega valley. The railway was shut to commercial traffic in 1990 and now forms part of the European Greenways Network.

The ecopista now runs from Amarante, through Celorico de Basto and up to Arco de Baúlhe. There’s a section of about 3km that is unsealed but this should be completed once work on a nearby dam is finished. The link above is to the Portuguese Ciclovia website – which has links for three maps covering the route.

For a more detailed description and pictures this Crazy Guy On A Bike journal by Fernando Silva is well worth a look.

Also recommended by Renato Martinho who rode it in late 2014 and said: “I found it to be quite impressive, considering the lack of good cycle paths we have this country. It’s around 40k with only a small section of gravel road, the rest is nicely paved.”

GUIMARÃES: Around 14km of converted railway line link the historic city of Guimarães with Fafe to the east. Recommended by Kim Purdy in November 2014. For links to maps, see the Guimarães – Fafe page on the Portuguese Ciclovia website (there are two separate pages, for Guimarães and for Fafe)..

TORRE DE MONCORVO: The Ecopista do Sabor follows an old railway line from where the Rio Sabor joins the Douro and extends east of Torre de Moncorvo. Plans exist for a 104km cycle path along the disused line, which would be be absolutely stunning.

Unfortunately – as of October 2021 – only the 35km to from the Douro to east of Torre de Moncorvo exists. At the moment, it’s okay for mountain bikes but not great for tourers or other road bikes as it’s a rough gravel surface that can get waterlogged and muddy after rain.

VALENÇA: The Ecopista do Rio Minho runs for about 16km (two sections) along the banks of the river forming the northern border between Portugal and Spain. I have never ridden it but it looks beautiful in pictures online and runs roughly east from Valença to the historic border town of Monção and was opened in 2004. (Some of it can also be seen on Google Street View.)

The Beiras

ALBERGARIA-A-VELHA: The Ecovia Sever do Vouga is a 14km route following an old train track up the Vouga valley inland from Aveiro. Most of it is sealed and, being an old railway, there are no steep gradients. The link is to a write up with pictures on the RideWithGPS website.

SANTA COMBA DÃO – see Viseu.

VISEU: The Ecopista do Dão is probably the best cycle path in Portugal. It’s a 52km section of converted railway line linking Viseu, Tondela and Santa Comba Dão. Good surface, almost 100% car-free, gentle gradients and beautiful scenery.

Lisbon & Central

The Alentejo

ÉVORA: The Ecopista Ramal de Mora is another converted railway line. Starting from the eastern side of Évora, the path is sealed for the first 6km or so but turns to gravel as it heads roughly north for just over 20km towards Arraiolos. The old line continues to Pavia and Mora but a few bits have been fenced off (probably illegally). Plans exist to extend the path to 60km to Mora but as far as I’m aware this is another project yet to be realised.  There’s very little official information online about the state of the project. Any updates would be welcomed.

The main link above goes to the excellent Ciclovia website. There’s also a good description (in Portuguese) and lots of pictures by rider Fernando Cardoso on this blog post.

The Algarve

Ecovia do Algarve: This cycle path – which is part of the Euro Velo 1 Atlantic Coast Route – is supposed to go the width of Portugal’s southern coast, from the Spanish border to Cabo São Vicente at Sagres.

Sadly, this is another one of those projects where only parts have been completed, and some of those that are officially ‘implemented’ are of dubious quality – really badly signposted and on normal roads or shared paths.

I’ve seen bits of the section between Lagos and Sagres and I wouldn’t recommend making an effort trying to follow it. Any update on other sections would be welcomed.

11 thoughts on “Ecopistas & ciclovias”

  1. I’m wondering if you can offer–or link to–some guidance about bikes on beach boardwalks. We rode from Vila Nova de Gaia down to Esmoriz, and found some boardwalks clearly divided, with one side for pedestrians and others for bikes; the signs on the boardwalks in the Esmoriz natural preserve allowed for bikes. But not so clear in other areas, and a frustrated hand gesture from a Portuguese man we passed suggested maybe we weren’t welcome elsewhere?

    1. Hi Melissa
      I can’t give you a definitive answer – I’ve never tried riding the boardwalks.
      Confused, absent or contradictory signposting sounds typically Portuguese! (And just because a local didn’t seem to like you riding doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t have been there.)
      The best advice I can offer is to look at the Ciclovia website (link below). It’s all in Portuguese but it shows bike trails all over the country, including lots of boardwalks. I would assume (but that’s just me being logical) that if boardwalks are listed on the site then it’s legal to ride on them.
      Hope that helps!
      http://www.ciclovia.pt/index.html

    2. Hi Melissa. The cycle track from down to Ovar or Furadouro is quite well signed as i remember. Do not give much credit for some gestures as currently there is a domestic fuss around how much well as that money spent. Most of people are ok, but a minority, albeit non-violent demonstrate their latin temper. Have a good ride. Pedro

  2. Olá,

    Can you direct me to a map of the bike trail located directly along the ocean north of Viana do Castelo? I saw it in a video and it seems to reach as far north as Caminha. Does this trail have a name and where does it begin and end?

    Obrigado!

    1. The Ciclovia website is all in Portuguese but it has quite a straightforward menu system:
      http://www.ciclovia.pt/
      If you look at this page it has Viana do Castelo at the top and a link for Caminha. There are pages with maps on as well as descriptions in Portuguese.
      Hope that helps!

  3. Hi, We were thinking of trying the Eurovelo 1 between Lisbon and Porto, do you have any more information about that path yet. The official site makes it look wonderful but experience has taught us to be wary. Thanks, anne

    1. Hi Anne
      I haven’t been along that coast recently (not cycling anyway) but I wouldn’t trust the official site. Somewhere there’s some small print that says some of the routes are planned rather than realised! I know there are some bits of cycle path between Peniche and Ericeira but I’m not sure about the rest of it. There’s supposed to be a Eurovelo route down in the far SW and that’s very badly marked.
      The coast between Lisbon and Porto is also generally quite built up and busy – you’ll find quieter roads inland.
      Cheers, Huw

  4. Thank you for all these tips, your website is amazing 🙂

    There is also the Ecopista do Tâmega. I’ve tried around late 2014 and I found it to be quite impressive, considering the lack of good cycle paths we have this country. It’s around 40k with only a small 4/5k section of gravel road, the rest is nicely paved.

    Cheers!

    1. Hi Renato
      I’m glad you like the site. Thanks very much for the top about the Ecopista do Tamega. I don’t know this one – I’ll have to ride it on one of my next visits to Portugal.
      All the best, Huw

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