A 3-4 hour circuit through some high, remote countryside in the far north of Portugal, close to the Peneda-Gerês National Park and the border with Galicia. The ride starts in the attractive small frontier town of Montalegre.
Distance & difficulty
Total distance of 51km (32 miles) with 786m of ascent. Moderate. It’s not exactly flat but there are no major hills or severe gradients.
You’ll find cafes and shops, plus some accommodation, in Montalegre. The nearest campsite is about 7km south of town, next to the Rabagão reservoir and only about 1km off the route.
For an alternative base, you’re only about 40km (25 miles) from Chaves, which is the biggest town in the region and has a wide choice of accommodation, shops and supermarkets.
Once on the ride, there are no villages or towns of any great size. You might find a cafe or restaurant at some of the villages along the way – including Frades, Sezelhe, Pisoes and Morgade – but opening hours may depend on the time of year and day of the week.
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The ride begins from just outside the town hall (Camara Municipal) in Montalegre, which is almost 1,000m above sea level. The town’s got some interesting streets to wander around, a couple of decent bakeries – and a picturesque castle.
Set off west towards the Peneda Gerês on the EN308. You’re on the main route towards the national park but it’s a quiet road – particularly outside the summer months – and you’re unlikely to meet too much traffic.
For the first 7km or so, you’re gradually dropping, losing about 100m in elevation. After crossing the bridge there’s a bit of a climb towards Frades and Sezelhe – you don’t need to turn off to either village, which are up to your right, but they could make an interesting and picturesque detour.
Turn left off the EN308 opposite the turn for Sezelhe. From here it’s a steep drop to the dam across the Cavado River. Cross the dam and then climb steadily but fairly gently for a few kilometres. You’ll get up to about 10,500m then drop again down to the N103 and the Albufeira do Alto Rabagão (High Rabagão Reservoir).
Turn right and follow the edge of the lake round towards Pisoes. Turn left onto the M250, a minor road that runs along the top of the dam holding back this large expanse of water.
With the dam behind you, it’s a winding, roller coaster route around the southern shore of the reservoir. It’s wild and beautiful up here. You’ll pass a few small villages of huddled granite houses but don’t expect to see many people.
Keep following the shore and turn north at Morgade. Turn right when you reach the N103 and then left towards Montalegre after about 1.6km. From here, it’s a pretty route, mostly quite gentle.
Go through Laje Gorda and after another 3 or 4km you’ll get to the top of the hill, bear left and reach a roundabout. Turn left here onto Rua Mijareta and follow it back round into Montalegre.
Huw & Carolyn Thomas, Spring 2010.
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