2013 Portugal

2013 Portugal

If you move the cursor over the photos you will find a second one in some cases

Lisbon/ View to Castelo de São Jorge

Four weeks round trip through Portugal are lying ahead of us. Fritz’ 16-year-old son Moritz accompanies us on his single bike during our second tandem journey. Our well wrapped bicycles fly with us to Lisbon. From there we will head south through the Algarve to the Spanish border. Along the border we will cycle northbound up to Guarda. The Duoro river will then lead us into Porto on the Atlantic coast from where we ride back south to Lisbon after a short detour to Coimbra in the heartland.
Lisbon/ elevador de Santa Justa

Lisbon/ elevador de Santa Justa

We stay in a hostel right in the city centre. No chance to manage the sightseeing by bike. The streets are hilly and very narrow. There would be no space for a bicycle aside the trams which are rumbling through the streets. In the daylight the city spreads a kind of a morbide charme with many buildings needing renovation. But after sunset when the lights are on, the complete historical centre seems to be one big party mile. Awesome!
Costada Galé, south of  Setúbal

Costada Galé, south of Setúbal

To reach the road to the south we have to cross the river Tejo in Lisbon by ferry. Later, down in Setúbal, we will once again enter a boat to cross the water. After that we cycle along the seaside to the south. It is not easy to find a campground in the dusk but next morning we have this stunning view of the coast. We stop for lunch in a very basic looking road house. Grandma cooks delicoius rabbit in cream sauce while the granddaughter is taking care of the service. Dad is in charge of the BBQ. We are the only tourists, the Portuguese next table enjoy plenty of red wine in the midday heat. Afterwards they all drive off with their vans, plenty of alcohol in the blood. We need to be careful!
On our way to  Portugal's south point

On our way to Portugal's south point

The way to the south point of the country leads off the coast a couple of kilometers into the heartland. If you want to see the water you have to take one of the numerous little road to the seaside. We stop at the Praja do Amado for a short bath in the ocean. This is the place where the latest surf world championship took place. Not in summer obviously. There are hardly any waves big enough for a surfer.
Cabo de São VicenteCabo de São Vicente

Cabo de São Vicente

The cape São Vicente (2 pics) is situated in the very south west of Portugal and so it is the most south western point of Europe. We ride from Sagres over a cul de sac down here. The detour is worth it. A scenic road along the cliffs lead to the lighthouse at the end. Although the sea is calm the waves break onto the cliffs under our feet. A few sailing boats anchore scatterd in the little bays. “Letzte Bratwurst vor Amerika” – thes German letters show off a takeaway near the car park. We renounce the German bratwurst in Portugal and head on to cycle through the most popular holiday region of Portugal, the Algarve. We are not so impressed by this area. Maybe because we have no access to the spectacular red cliffs you can see in travel magazines. The main road leads off coast eastbound. To get directly to the seaside, we would have to take one of the numerous cul de sacs. Probably most of them would lead us only to one of the tourist centres packed with hotels. No thanks.
Through Alentejo on the IC 27

Through Alentejo on the IC 27

From Villa Real, which is situated directly on the Spanish border, the highway IC 27 leads northward into Alentejo. From now on we experience the real heat of a Portugese summer. The road runs straight across every single hill. Whenever one of the rare bridges turn up, we stop to hide away from the sunshine. A couple of kilometers ahead we change to a sideroad which is not cooler, but much quieter. We stop-over in Alcoutim, a little village directly on the border. From here you can see across the river Guadiana to Sanlucar on the Spanish side. The village beside a little hill seems to be guarded by a mighty castle ruin on top of the peak. We are allowed to camp free of charge in a little leasure park beside the river. Although there are cold outside showers only, the park has a cultivaded lawn space for our tents, a luxury you do not find often in these latitudes. The further route through the Serra de Mértola turns out to be a torture. 45°C and a constant up and down of the road. The water in our bottles could be used for a hot shower and so we stop occaisonally for an icecold 7up or Coke. The steppe like hilly landscape with scattered cork oaks lets me dream about a horse riding holiday – as hot as this, but by far not so tiring.
Wild camping near MonsantoWild camping near Monsanto

Wild camping near Monsanto

We were told that the minor roads are not suitable for cyclists but we cannot confirm this. The raods we take are mostly easy to ride. In Portalegre a friendly Portugese lets us camp in his garden due to the lack of a proper campside. Next morning he even escorts us to the road we need to take. Meanwhile we are out of the Alentejo and in central Portugal. The decent into the valley of the river Tejo is most enjoyable. Bearable temperature and a scenic landscape make cycling fun again. This evening we camp beside our personal miniature Ayers Rock (2 pics). Romantic place with shower from the water bottle.
Mértola on Rio Guadiana

Mértola on Rio Guadiana

The deep blue sky forms a pretty contrast to the whitewashed village housing. No clould in sight. This postcard weather brings along the heat as well, which makes cycling hard again. We seek some refreshment in a little lake but the water is luke warm. We feel like swimming in a huge bathtub! A kind gentleman hands out a five litre water bottle to us. He is sure that we need it. The guy speaks some German and recognises the flag of Northrhine Westfalia, which we fixed on the stick at the trailer. People seem to think that we are a bit insane cycling through midday heat, where everyone with a rest of brain stays in the house with closed blinds.
Farm life

Farm life

Travelling through Portugal you should carry a good road map or navigation system, since the road signs are not reliable. They show you the way but at the next cross they point out in the opposite direction. Many towns are located on top of a hill. A special example of this is Guarda, north Portugal. On 1,056 metres over mean sea level Guarda is the highest situated town in Portugal. The roads into the centre show a double digit rise and cobblestone. We fight our way up to the top and find a well worth visiting city. The mighty cathedrale reminds more of a fortress than a church. The campsite in the town centre however needs no visit. Cold moldy showers, no grass and noisy surrounding.
Lunch break in the vineyards

Lunch break in the vineyards

From Guarda we ride a little while further north to turn westbound in São João da Pesqueira, from where we follow the Duoro river down to Porto. We ride on the mountain range, literally on the ridge. Looking to the right we see the Duoro below us, while on the lefthand side the Rio Torto winds it way through the valley. What a landscape! The range of campgrounds in Portugal varies quite alternating. While we find a brand new campsite in São João da Pesqueira, we have to camp beside a public swimming the next day. But the staff at the pool is very freindly. They let us take our shower free of charge.
Wine and olives on the Duoro

Wine and olives on the Duoro

The scenery high above the Duoro is spectacular. We enjoy the long downhill ride to the river. We only stop occasionally for a quick photo before we let the bike run again. Olive groves and vineyards as far as the eye can see. But no campground in sight. We ask at a little marina where we spot a group of teenagers with their tents. Although this is a private party the guy in the office allows us to set up our tent beside them. And lucky as we are, they also have a brand new hot shower inside. We buy bread an red wine in the corner shop and enjoy the evening looking back on a fantastic bike day.
PortoPorto

Porto

When you visit Portugal, don’t miss Porto! Beautiful city. Although the hills make sightseeing quite exhausting. On the river bank you find a lot of the little historical boats loaded with port barrels. They indicate the numerous port cellars which invite the tourists to a tasting. It is hard to resist the temptation but the heat and the early hour of the day keep us from drinking alcohol. We save this up for sunset. Water however can be taken without risk from every well you find alongside the roads. On our way to Coimbra we come along a particulary beautiful example (see 2. pic), covered with the typical blue and white Portugese tiles, the azulejos. Stone benches on both sides invite the traveller to rest for a while.
Azenhas do Mar

Azenhas do Mar

Leaving Coimbra we head back to the coast. As the roads lead through pine woods and not -as expected- directly on the shore, we decide to visit Fátima, a famous pilgrimage town. Right on the backside of the pilgrimage church we find an area where everyone may camp, free of charge. Including sanitary facilites, although with cold showers only. What a nice experience to be sung to sleep by choral music. Back to the coast we ride through Nazaré. If you are not into surfing (Nazaré is a famous surfer resort) you should avoid this all over touristic town. Further south the coast shows beautiful cliffs, especially on the peninsula Peniche. Azenahs do Mar is said to have a campground. But we learn at a sushi bar, that this site is closed since a couple of years. The friendly guys at the bar recommend to camp on the beach. Without our tents we ly under the star lit sky, listening to the soughing of the sea.
Sintra, Castelo dos MourosSintra, Castelo dos Mouros

Sintra, Castelo dos Mouros

There a probably hardly any Portugal visitors, who do not come to see Sintra, near Lisbon. So we think, this touristic attraction needs to be on our list too. But as always, castles and fortresses are usually placed on top of the hills. So we cycle down to the campground in Cascais, south of Sintra, to deposit our gear. I had hoped that we could take one of the shuttle busses which drive up to the castle, but the boys insist on cycling. Without any luggage it is easier, but still tyring. We start the sightseeing tour at the Convento dos Capuchos, a capuchin monastary founded in 1560. The buildings are partly cut into the rocks. The whole complex is a bit overgrown, which gives it a picturesque appearance. Don’t miss! Palácio Nacional da Pena, the Neuschwanstein of Portugal is a mixture of kitsch and art. Many different architectural styles seem to be put together without plan. Further down in the town centre of Sintra we watch some residents dancing tango under pine trees to the music from a ghetto blaster in front of the Palácio Nacional de Sintra. Finally we visit Castelo dos Mouros, a Mourish Castle. If you climb up the steps to the top you have a spectacular all-round view.
Lisbon / Tejo-bridge

Lisbon / Tejo-bridge

We ride back to Lisbon along the coast. Our packing material for the bikes an the trailer is waiting in the hostel. Our last evening of this partly exhausting tour with many deadly hot days is appoaching. We have the chance to watch a spectacular lightshow about the history of Lisbon on the Praca do Comércio. What a finish for this facinating journey.
Our route

Our route

28 days the three of us traveled through Portugal. On a tandem bike with trailer and a single bike. We rode 2,190 kilometres with cumulative elevation gain of 18,340 metres. On average we cycled about 78 kilometres per day. In Portugal you do not have to manage high mountains. Although the roads often run straight up and down the hills, which makes cycling hard from time to time. Especially in the south, in Alentejo, no road seems to avoid any hill. In addition to this, we traveled in July / August due to being bound to school holidays. If you can choose, you might take a less hot period. Looking back we found the north of the country more attractive than the south. We assume that the south is favorite amongst most tourists because of the spectacular coast line. But the north offers beautiful landscapes off coast. We did not make it to the very north, just up to Porto. Maybe we will take the chance to discover the rest during another journey in the region.