We’ve fallen behind a bit in our recollection of stories and pictures of our adventures in Portugal. Here is Part 4 of our travels by bicycle through Portugal. Click to read Part 3, Part 2 or to start at the beginning click here.
When people ask which part of Portugal was our favourite we have a hard time naming one place. Each spot was beautiful for different reasons but definitely the north end of the country, in the Parque Nacional da Peneda-Geres, with its soaring mountains in the mist, littered with massive boulders and dotted with quiet, preserved villages, has a very fond and special spot in our memories.
We continued north from Peso da Regua, pedalling up steep curving roads out of the muggyness of the Douro. We followed the relatively quiet N2 secondary highway and after about 10kms of steady uphill we were rewarded with amazing views of the Douro valley and the mountains around the region of Tras-Os-Montes.
We spent a night in Vila Real, a university town, that was bustling with students. We camped in the large but mostly empty municipal campground that looked out over the city’s river. Through the evening we were entertained by songs and chants by students coming up from the river valley that we guessed may be a part of “frosh” week.
We chose to ride through the Parque Natural do Alvao as we made our way to Mondim de Basto knowing that any route we chose would be an uphill battle. And boy did we battle. Just a few kilometres outside of Vila Real we were already off our bikes struggling to push these heavy lugs up the crazy steep cobblestone streets. Businessmen and school children passed us in cars and on foot, giving us looks of disbelief; they knew the riding wouldn’t get easier for quite sometime. We continued up and up, seriously questioning our choice of routes, the only relief coming from the cool breeze as we reached higher points in the park. And then finally we hit the plateau. A landscape totally unmediterreanean, almost a tundra-like setting, with scrubby bushes and granite boulders strewn about.
It was beautiful and it was worth it.
Then we cruised downhill to the quaint town of Mondim de Basto, treating ourselves to espresso, pastries and a refreshing dip in the river.
We continued north on our quest to Parque Nacional da Peneda-Geres, stopping overnight in Vieira do Minho after a sweltering hot ride. The campsite custodians were kind enough to let us in to a nearby swimming pool that was closed for the season-a pool all to ourselves-what a treat!
Cycling from Vieira do Minho north we were greeted with fantastic views of the mountains of Peneda-Geres. The mist surrounding the peaks and boulders gave the park a mystical feeling.
Luckily the following day the sun shone brightly for a day of exploring the surrounding hills and towns on unloaded bikes.
Dotting the hillsides are Espigueiros, stone mausoleum-like structures on stilts, used to store corn kernels. These only added to the charm of the area.
We spent the afternoon exploring the nearby “ghost town” of Vilarinho das Furnas. Set on the banks of the river Homem, this once bustling, centuries old village, was completely submerged in 1972 when a dam was built west of the town. All that remains are stone remnants of houses and village walls rising from the water when levels are low.
Our plan was to continue our travels up over the border of Spain to the source of the Rio Lima and then turn west to follow the river to the coast. But the evening before the rains came and didn’t stop. We woke up to a slightly flooded tent, packed our soggy belongings and left the Parque Nacional da Peneda-Geres, heading for Ponte de Lima and the shortest route to the coast.
- Vila Real: Parque de Campismo de Vila Real
- Mondim de Basto: Federacao de Campismo e Montanhismo de Portugal
- Vieira do Minho: Parque de Campismo da Cabreira
- Campo do Geres: Parque Cerdeira (Campismo)
- Campismo: 9-15 euros/night
- Groceries: approx. 20 euros/day
- Cafe: 3.50 euros/day
- Michelin Spain & Portugal Atlas 1:400000
- Camping Portugal: Mapa de Estradas
- GPS: Portugal Openstreet Map
- Book: Lonely Planet Portugal
- Book: Camping Portugal