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Cycling North Portugal: From Monçao to Viana do Castelo  The Natural Adventure Company 31

Cycling in North Portugal: From Monçao to Viana do Castelo

Overview

Enjoy a self guided cycling tour in the Spanish-Portuguese border region, combining leisurely cycling and many sightseeing, relaxation and wine-tasting opportunities. The itinerary will take you through unsurfaced cycle paths (the so-called ecovías), paved and unpaved country roads, along the banks of the Minho and Lima Rivers and also along a section of the Atlantic Coast. The area is well-known for its high-quality white wines: Albarinho (or Albariño in Spanish) grown on the banks of the Minho / Miño River and Vinho Verde grown on the banks of the Lima River. The tour is based in lovely historical accommodations in the fortified towns of Valença, Caminha and Viana do Castelo. All places offer a great mix of authentic feeling and modern comfort, guaranteeing a pleasurable ending to each cycling day.

  • Rolling hills in the Albarinho and Vinho Verde wine counties 
  • Flat river banks and coastal cycle paths along the Atlantic Ocean
  • Fortified towns of Monçao, Valença and Caminha on the Spanish-Portuguese border
  • Quiet sandy beaches and surfers’ paradise
  • Special accommodation in historical buildings

Click to view map

*This map is only for general reference and you should never use it for navigational purposes.

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Valença

Arrival on your own at Valença, a perfectly preserved star-shaped fortified town, built on the Spanish-Portuguese border marked by the River Minho. The town can be easily accessed by train from Porto (Porto Campanha station, travel time is approximately 3 hours, some services are faster) and by bus or train from Santiago de Compostela (travel time is about 2 hours).

Day 2: Loop Ride from Valença via Tui and Monçao | 38 km

You will receive your rental bike (in case you booked one) in the morning, and you’ll have a chance to test it out at the car park on the east side of the fortress, a 5-minute walk from your hotel. Then you start with the first stage along the Ecovía (a converted railway cycling track, which has been surfaced). Cycling across the old bridge into Spain, you pedal through the old town of Tui (coffee break) and then along the banks of the River Miño – pleasant, easy-riding with very little effort. The average ascent per climb is 35 m, except for one steeper ascent of 80 m as you leave the riverbank to reach the bridge at Salvaterre. After visiting the beautiful historic town of Monçao on the Portuguese side, famous for its old spa, you follow the Ecovía along the riverbank, back to Valença.

Day 3: Valença to Caminha | 32 km

Your second day of cycling starts on the Portuguese side, as you follow the partially surfaced, practically flat Ecovía along the riverbank to reach the fortified town centre of Vilanova de Cervera, where you stop for a stroll and a drink. After Seixes, you do a short section on the busy main road, in order to cross the River Coura via the old steel bridge, designed by Eiffel. Your cycling route ends in Caminha, another beautiful Portuguese town, located at the mouth of the River Miño, where you will stay in a specially designed hotel that rotates 35º degrees twice a day, to offer guests the best panoramas of both river and ocean. The hotel also has a good restaurant overlooking a small courtyard and garden.

Day 4: Loop Ride via A Guarda | 18 or 43 km

Today’s route depends on the tide.

Option 1: At Caminha, the River Miño can be crossed only with the help of a tiny ferry, so this can only be done when the tide is high and never on Monday when the ferryman has his day off. If the tides allow you to take the ferry both there and back, you’ll do a loop following first a coastal gravel track, which becomes a wooden walkway just before you reach the sandy beaches of A Guarda. Cycling through the town, you ride back, taking a different route to avoid as many busy roads as possible. 

Option 2: If the tide is too low to take the ferry, either in the morning or in the afternoon, your ride will be longer as you will have to cycle back via Vila Nova de Cerveira, about 10 km inland to cross the bridge there. From Vila Nova to Caminha you follow the same route as yesterday or take an alternate route.

Day 5: Caminha to Viana do Castelo along the Atlantic Coast | 29 km

An easy route through totally different scenery, but always with the ocean nearby. The Ecovía is not completely finished on this section of the coast, so you follow surfaced lanes, wooden walkways and dirt roads (about 30%), but all with very little traffic. There are several beaches where you can have a swim or enjoy the views across the ocean. At the end of the route, you cross the harbour at Viana do Castelo to enter the old town centre. Spend the afternoon exploring the town, have lunch on a terrace, do some shopping or take the funicular up to Santa Luzia Sanctuary, a beautiful shrine overlooking the coast. Your hotel is an impressive historic manor house in the centre, close to the railway station.

Day 6: Ride along the Lima Riverbanks | 54 km

An interesting and varied route today. The start is a bit challenging, as you leave town via the old bridge crossing the River Lima on a narrow sidewalk. After that, the route is pleasant and peaceful, mostly along the riverbank with some sections among vegetable gardens and vineyards, home of the famous Vinho Verde wine. Halfway through the route, you reach Ponte de Lima, the oldest town in Portugal (founded in 1125) named after the medieval bridge you will cross, before pedalling back to Viana. If you prefer to relax at the beach, you can cross the river by ferry or bike and enjoy a day of swimming, surfing or stand-up paddling at Candeledo Beach, one of Portugal’s most popular places for kite-surfing.

Day 7: Departure

Return home or individual stay extension. Easy train connections to Porto or Valença (if you have parked your car there).

What to Expect

Accommodation

The programme offers special quality accommodation. The hotels are located in historic, carefully decorated buildings and provide exclusive services for their clients. Some have a swimming pool or spa facilities and, in many cases, a restaurant with authentic cuisine. We have carefully hand-picked all places and regularly monitor their quality. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour.

Click to view our default hotels for this trip


Hotel Pousada de Valença in Valença
This historical hotel is located in the interior of the old fortress and offers a stunning view of the river and of Tui, on the opposite side. It opened in 1962, a project by architect João de Mello Breyner Andresen. Situated on the frontier with Spain on top of the historical centre and the fortified Valença, its 18 rooms are a treat for those who seek peace and quiet, with classic decoration and views to the natural idyllic setting.

Design and Wine Hotel in Caminha
This Eco-Friendly hotel reconciles modernity with the built heritage. Combining innovation and boldness, combining history with modernity and tradition with technology, but always maintaining the traces of the façade of the 20th century manor house it is built in. Each room is decorated in a different and original way. It also seeks to value Portuguese wines, from north to south, offering an enoteca with independent entrance from the hotel.

Hotel Casa Melo Alvim in Viana do Castelo
Located in the historic center of Viana do Castelo, it is the oldest urban manor house in the city, built in the Manueline style in 1509. Faithfully restored, this stately home has become a comfortable and cozy hotel. There are a total of 20 rooms and suites. Its architectural heritage, historical and cultural origin was carefully preserved in the restoration process,  details where enhanced and environments were created, in order to take the guest through different periods of the Portuguese architecture.


Please mind that hotels are subject to availability. In case a hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a property of equal standard. We will provide full accommodation details upon booking confirmation.

Meals

Breakfast is included each morning. You can prepare your lunch with products from the local grocery stores, ask for a lunch-pack at your accommodation or stop at some of the cosy restaurants along the route. In the evenings you can choose between having dinner at your accommodation or explore the local restaurants in the town where you stay overnight.

Difficulty & terrain

We rate the cycling on the tour as easy to moderate, with an average daily distance of 35 km, and very few climbs (read more about difficulty grades). The routes go mostly on secondary country roads with limited traffic. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.

When to go

This trip is available all year round except between 24 July – 31 August. Another blackout period is 1-5 October. The spring/autumn season is the most pleasant in terms of weather, in the summer months of July and August, it can get quite hot. The flexibility of self guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates, and you can start your trip on any date during the season. Please note that a supplement will be applied in Christmas, Easter and during the Carnival (28 February – 2 March).

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

Click to view travel options and route planner

By plane

Recommended airports: Porto (OPO) and Santiago de Compostela (SCQ)

By train or bus
  • Valença can be easily accessed by bus (1.5 hrs) or train from Porto (Porto Campanha station, 3 hrs) and by bus or train from Santiago de Compostela (travel time is about 2 hrs).
  • There are good train connections to Porto or back to Valença from Viana do Castelo.

Inclusions

Included

  • 6 overnights with breakfast as detailed in the itinerary
  • Luggage transport on days 3 and 5
  • Detailed route notes and maps in digital format
  • Routes in digital format (.gpx) for GPS or mobile devices 
  • 24-hour telephone assistance

Excluded

  • Airfare and connecting land transfers
  • Lunches, dinners, drinks and snacks
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Personal expenses
  • Local tourist taxes and entry fees (payable on-site)
  • Any items not specifically mentioned as included in the programme

Options, extras & supplements

  • Extra charges may be applicable for last-minute bookings for this specific tour!
  • Single room supplement for members of a group
  • This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
  • Extra nights at any accommodation on the programme
  • Supplement during the Carnival (28 February – 2 March), Easter (10 – 17 April 2022) & Christmas

Bike rental

We offer rental of standard 24-gear trekking bikes for this trip, perfectly suitable for the roads of the itinerary. Model: Kross Trans 7.0 2019, or similar.

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