Cycling on the Portugal’s rural roads has given me some of the most thrilling rides of my life. The scenery is always changing, the traffic is minimal and the drivers you do encounter are considerate of cyclists. The country offers thousands of miles (kilometers) of wonderful cycling and plenty of weather to enjoy it.
Before I moved to Portugal in 2019, I was an enthusiastic member of a very active cycling club in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We did a lot of rides around the city and ventured out into the high desert countryside as well. There were places where you had to do a lot of climbing, but it was easy to avoid. Not so in central Portugal. There are hills everywhere! But the hills and valleys are verdant green and I’ve been able to ride beside rivers and even the Atlantic Ocean.
Autumn weather not helpful
Portugal has recently emerged from a nearly three-month spell of rain which brought flooding to several cities. At first the rain was welcome. In 2022 we had a very dry spring and very hot summer. Streams, rivers and lakes were drying up everywhere. But after nearly three months of constant rain, and serious flooding in Lisbon and Porto, people were thinking you can have too much of a good thing.
Finally the sun emerged and I was able to join two cycling friends for a long awaited ride this week. We met just outside the city of Coimbra, famous for its historic university. Our leader Graham, took us on a route he had pioneered that followed a road in a valley along the Mondego river. We could look down to the river and up at the many tiny villages that clung to the impossibly steep sides of the valley.
We rode as far as the small town of Penacova which perches on the steep hillside above the river. Not wanting to tackle the 20 percent grade to climb to the higher part of town, we chose a cafe closer to the river to enjoy a coffee and a wonderful chorizo roll. After out coffee stop we crossed a bridge and rode along the famous N2 road on the other side of the river. The N2 is a national road that traverses the entire length of Portugal from the Spanish border to Faro in the southern province of the Algarve. It is popular with touring cyclists.
At several points along the return journey we took a detour down to one of the “river beaches”. Portugal makes good use of its rivers using the wide sandy areas as inland beaches. They are hugely popular in the summer months. I’m looking forward to a lot more riding and maybe even some kayaking on the Mondego!
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