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Portugal & The Picos de Europa

One week in motorcycle-riding heaven

There's one place every rider deserves to experience: Portugal. The weather is brilliant; the roads are quiet, twisty and involving; the scenery is beautiful; and the people are friendly. Quite simply, it's riding heaven… especially as to get there means crossing the Picos de Europa – one of Spain's most popular biking destinations. So it's perhaps no surprise that the most-downloaded tour I produced for RiDE was a 10-day, high-mile trip to Portugal. It had everything in it… if you were ready for long hours in the saddle each day, tackling everything from broad sweepers to bumpy single-lane roads.

This trip puts together the best bits of Northern Portugal and the Picos – sticking to the broad, smooth and sweeping roads. It's timed to fit in with the Santander ferry crossing, with daily mileages broken up into pillion-friendly chunks. There's lots to see and do off the bike as well, making this a strong candidate for the title of "ultimate biking holiday". 

What’s included on the route? Each day’s route includes recommended places to stop for coffee in the morning and afternoon, with a suggested lunch stop and planned fuel stops. Tourist attractions along the way are highlighted, so you can pick which to visit.

How long is each day’s ride? It is a riding holiday, so these are day-long rides: check-out and hit the road by 9-9:30am, to get to the next hotel at 5:30-6pm. That's with stops for coffee and lunch: each day is a full but relaxed ride, not an endurance test. Saddle-time rating: five out of 10.

What are the highlights? From the passes and gorges of the Picos de Europa to the sun-kissed peaks of Portugal's Serra da Estrela, there's no shortage of memorable mountain riding. For many people, the flowing ride along the Douro Valley, the heart of the port-growing region, might be the stand-out section of on-bike fun… unless you take your rest day there, to take the historic train or a river cruise through this amazing landscape. Then there are the historic castles and cathedrals to visit, the panoramic viewpoints… even a cheese museum, if you want to see something a little bit different.   

Why seven days? The Brittany Ferries service to Santander (leaving Plymouth on a Sunday, returning to Plymouth the following Monday) gives you eight days to explore in Spain and Portugal. This route guides you through the incredible and varied landscapes, with one day in hand to take a rest day off the bike – or to ride more in a particular region, picking up a route from the daytrips section. You can add this two-night stop into the route at any point that takes your fancy. ​

How is it supplied? You can simply download the GPX files and install them in your sat nav. Garmin or BMW Navigator users should download the complete file; TomTom users (or riders using a GPX compatible phone app like Calimoto, Scenic or MyRouteApp Navigator) should download the individual files. However, I strongly recommend getting the tour pack of day-by-day route notes and marked-up maps (not sold separately).

Download the tour

Garmin/BMW users should download the complete-route file. Individual day files should be downloaded for TomTom or GPX-compatible phone apps. 

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