Overview: In early January 2005, my wife and I caught a ferry across the Rio Guadiana from Ayamonte in Spain. We were about nine months into a one-year trip that had already taken us around much of the French coast, down through eastern Spain and across Andalucia.
We arrived in Vila Real de Santo Antonio in Portugal – the start of our first ever visit to the country. We then spent about two months in Portugal, riding our Trek tandem and towing a Bob Yak trailer from the south eastern corner of the Algarve to the northern border with Galicia.
Despite seeming to be against the prevailing wind nearly the whole way, it was a wonderful journey that started our love affair with Portugal.
These pages – and the second half detailed under the Lisbon to Galicia pages – describe our route. We were navigating using a Michelin 1:400,000 map of the whole country. This was before Google Maps existed and – as we found out – it is extremely hard (if not nigh on impossible) to find decent maps in Portugal.
As a result, our route may not always be the best option. However, having subsequently lived in Portugal for several years, I’ve used this additional experience to suggest alternative and better options where appropriate. See the individual stages for details.
Nevertheless, this was still an excellent route overall and took in much of what makes Portugal special – diverse landscapes, a rich cultural heritage, charming people, fascinating historic towns and villages, sunshine, cobbled roads that shake your bicycle to bits, cheap (but decent) wine, etc, etc.
Stages: The first half of our route – begins at Ayamonte just inside Spain. The four stages detailed below took us across the Algarve, up through the Alentejo and back to the coast to get to Lisbon.
Stage 1: Ayamonte to Lagos – from the Spanish border via Tavira, Loule and Portimao*.
Stage 2: Lagos to Vila Nova de Milfontes– via Sagres, Odeceixe and Zambujeira do Mar.
Stage 3: Vila Nova to Evora – inland through the Alentejo to the ancient city of Evora.
Stage 4: Evora to Lisbon – back to the coast, up the wild Troia peninsula to Setubal and into Lisbon from the south.
The second part of our journey took us north from Lisbon to Sintra, Peniche, Coimbra, Aveiro, Arouca, Vila do Conde and Viana do Castelo – before crossing the border into Galicia in Spain. See Lisbon to Galicia for more.
Any questions about this route – ask away: firstname.lastname@example.org
*Algarve Cycleway: There is an Ecovia Litoral that is supposed to provide a cycleway across the Algarve but I wouldn’t recommend it. See the Ayamonte to Lagos stage for more info.