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Self-Guided Biking Trip from Minho to Porto with Macs Adventure
8 Min Read
04 July 2024
Self-Guided Biking Trip from Minho to Porto with Macs Adventure

Discover Northern Portugal: A Self-Guided Biking Adventure from Minho to Porto

Experience the charm and beauty of northern Portugal on a self-guided biking trip from Minho to Porto with Macs Adventure. This incredible journey takes you through historic towns, scenic landscapes, and along serene rivers, offering a perfect blend of adventure and relaxation. Here’s a detailed overview of the highlights of this unforgettable trip. 

Riverside boardwalk

Day 1: Monção: The Historic Gateway 

Begin your adventure in Monção, a town rich in history and culture. Even on a cycling trip you can still explore places on foot. Take a stroll around the town, explore the enchanting Monção Centre and enjoy a drink in the local square. 

Key Points of Interest

  • Wander through the historic walls of Fortaleza de Monção: Built in the 14th century and modified in the 17th century, it was originally constructed to protect Monção from invasions, today, they provide visitors with panoramic views, including the scenic vistas across to Spain from the Miradouro do Jardim Deu-La-Deu observation deck.

  • Don't miss Porta de Salvaterra: One of the five historic gates of Monção, this grand entrance through the historic walls of Fortaleza de Monção embodies the architectural and cultural heritage of the region.  

Dining Recommendations

Sete a Sete: Follow the locals! It’s usually where the best food is served. This understated establishment is renowned for its delicious lamb croquettes and massive grilled meat platter, perfect for a hearty dinner. 

  Caminha Beach

Day 2: Monção to Caminha 

Your first day of cycling takes you from Monção to the coastal town of Caminha, offering beautiful riverside views and historic sites. 

Valença and Vila Nova de Cerveira: Historical Gems 

As you cycle towards Caminha, you'll encounter two significant historical sites: 

Key Points of Interest 

  • Fortaleza de Valença: Built in the 17th century, Fortaleza de Valença is a grand, star-shaped fortress spanning over 5 kilometres and featuring a dual defensive wall system. The fortress offers stunning views of the Minho River and the Spanish border. Within its walls, you'll find a charming town with cobblestone streets, quaint shops, and historic buildings, blending military history with vibrant local culture, making it a must-visit destination. 

  • Vila Nova de Cerveira: This picturesque town received its Charter of Foral in 1321, granted by King Dinis of Portugal. Known for its medieval castle which still dominates the town center, it also features cobblestone streets, historical architecture, and vibrant art installations. 

Caminha: Coastal Charm 

Caminha, a picturesque town at the mouth of the River Minho. Relax on the quiet beaches and soak in the local culture or take the daily ferryboat that links the two banks of the river. 

Key Points of Interest

  • Praia da Foz do Minho: The most northerly beach in Portugal, Praia da Foz do Minho sits on the very river that separates the country from Spain. The beach at Caminha wraps around the coast and alongside the river giving beachgoers two options – the fine sandy beach facing into the powerful waves of the Atlantic or the river with coarser sand but calm waters. 

  • Forte de Ínsua: A 17th-century fort situated on an island off the coast. Originally the site of a chapel, the island was later commandeered for its strategic importance at the mouth of the River Minho and on the Spanish border. 

  • Riding on the Ecopista do Rio Minho: The Ecopista is a converted train route that has been transformed into a traffic-free route for hikers and bikers journeying through several small villages along the Rio Minho. This is the upstream half of the full route linking Monção to near the mouth of the river on the Atlantic near Caminha. 

Dining Recommendations

  • Restaurante PrimaVera: This charming family spot presents a traditional menu of local flavors, but with a contemporary twist. A great spot for meat and fish dishes. 

  • Solar do Pescado: Since opening in 1991, this rustic eatery has developed quite a reputation for its excellent fish dishes. The owner’s mission was to showcase the exceptional quality of seafood and fish available just a stone's throw away from the coast. 

Today’s Terrain

A day of scenic riding, with historic forts and riverside views. The journey ends in the charming town of Caminha, where you can relax and enjoy the local hospitality. 

  Cathedral of Viana do Castelo

Day 3: Caminha to Ponte de Lima 

Cycle from the coastal charm of Caminha to the historic town of Ponte de Lima, passing through unique landscapes and historic sites. 

Viana do Castelo: A Historic and Cultural Town 

Continue your journey to Viana do Castelo, a town brimming with historical landmarks and cultural experiences. 

Key Points of Interest

  • Salt Pans of Canto Marinho (Percursos do Homem e do Garrano): A historical site where traditional salt extraction methods were practiced in the Iron Age and Romanization period. Visitors can explore the scenic salt flats, learn about the ancient salt-making process, and enjoy the surrounding natural beauty, which is rich in birdlife and coastal landscapes. 

  • Cathedral of Viana do Castelo: This 15th-century Gothic church was elevated to cathedral status in 1977 by Pope Paul VI  

  • Santa Luzia Sanctuary: A stunning mountaintop church with the largest rose windows on the Iberian Peninsula. It was built on the model of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris, it’s a fairly ‘new’ church having only been built in the 20th century, between 1904 and 1959. 

  • Ponte de Lima: Is known for its charming medieval architecture and scenic beauty. It features a picturesque Roman bridge spanning the Lima River, vibrant gardens, and a rich cultural heritage. The village is renowned for its traditional festivals, delicious vinho verde, and welcoming atmosphere.  

Dining Recommendations

Francesinhas: Known for its delicious Francesinha, a local sandwich made from layers of toasted and an assortment of hot meats, topped with a slice of melted cheese. Sounds delicious to us! While you can find this sandwich across Northern Portugal, Francesinhas make the real deal. 

Today’s Terrain

The ride starts easy with a mix of beach sidewalks and boardwalks but becomes tougher as you navigate some gravel, and dirt tracks which require extra concentration. But the final stretch to Ponte de Lima rewards you with beautiful rural views. So worth it! 

  Ponte De Lima Circular - River View

Day 4: Ponte de Lima to Arcos de Valdevez Circular 

Enjoy a circular route from Ponte de Lima to Arcos de Valdevez, exploring riverside paths and local culinary delights. 

Key Points of Interest

  • Ponte de Lima market: The oldest in Portugal, dates back to March 4, 1125. Dona Teresa, mother of Dom Afonso Henriques, Portugal’s first king, granted the charter to Ponte de Lima. Every other Monday, the south bank of the river transforms into a bustling market with hundreds of traders offering fresh vegetables, fruits, candy, bread, cheeses, charcuterie, clothes, shoes, and household items. 

  • Arcos de Valdevez: Nestled in the lush landscape of the Minho region, this terracotta-roofed town boasts historic sites like the medieval Paço de Giela, charming riverside promenades along the Vez River, and vibrant cultural traditions. It’s also a gateway to the Peneda-Gerês National Park and is famous for its “charutos”, a sweet traditional dessert, and coffee, and its beautiful historic center. 

  • Municipal Market (Mercado Municipal de Ponte de Lima): Open Monday to Saturday from 7am to 7pm, featuring a wide range of regional produce including flowers, charcuterie and cheeses. 

  • Other Local Markets in Ponte de Lima: There’s a craft market on the fourth Sunday of each month where you can pick some unique gifts handmade by small local businesses. And an antiques market on the second Sunday along the riverbank where you can shop for items that are vintage or have a history attached to them. 

Dining Recommendations

Doçaria Central Cafe: Make sure to stop by for a “Charutos dos Arcos”. This sweet is a traditional Portuguese pastry from the town of Arcos de Valdevez. These cigar-shaped treats are made from a delicate, flaky dough filled with a rich, sweet egg cream. Often dusted with powdered sugar, they’re a local speciality and a firm favourite to go with a cup of coffee.

Today’s Terrain

A day of exploring local flavors and scenic routes. The dirt tracks offer a challenging but rewarding experience for mountain biking enthusiasts. 

Barcelos

Day 5: Ponte de Lima to Barcelos 

Following parts of the Camino path on a fun and varied ride, with scenic views, historic towns and landmarks. 

Barcelos: The Heart of Minho Art and Crafts 

Barcelos, an ancient city known for its rich cultural heritage, is your next destination. Renowned for its vibrant weekly market, rich history, and the iconic Rooster of Barcelos – a national symbol. Visitors can explore medieval architecture, including the beautiful Ponte de Barcelos, and enjoy traditional crafts, pottery, and local cuisine in this culturally rich destination. 

Key Points of Interest

  • Camino Portugués: A section of the Portuguese Way of St. James crosses the town. Follow the route taken by pilgrims, dotted with statues and churches. 

  • Campo da República: The town’s square where you’ll find the 18th-century churches of Bom Jesus da Cruz and Nossa Senhora do Terço and where Portugal's largest handicraft fair is held every Thursday.  

  • Barcelos Cockerel: Visit the Ceramics Museum to see the iconic brightly colored cockerel and other arts and crafts that represent the local region and culture of Minho. 

Dining Recommendations

  • Casa dos Arcos: With interiors that resemble a traditional Portuguese house, along with a menu of local dishes, there’s a chance you’ll feel right at home here. The food is fresh and flavorful and the wine list is worth a look too. 

  • Restaurante Galliano: A floor-to-ceiling glass wall displays the jungle-like garden outside - a tranquil setting to say the least. Along with a menu of fresh meats and seafood and crisp salads, it’s a feast for the senses. And for our Camino adventurers, they offer a pilgrim menu for 15€ which gets you 3 courses and a glass of wine.  

Today’s Terrain

Cobblestones, gravel paths, and road sections with some steep climbs and descents leads you to Barcelos, where a warm welcome with rich cultural heritage and comfortable accommodations await. 

Vila Do Conde Igreja e Mosteiro de Santa

Day 6: Barcelos to Vila do Conde 

Cycle from the historic town of Barcelos to the coastal beauty of Vila do Conde, enjoying riverside paths and beach views. 

Vila do Conde: Coastal Beauty and Historic Landmarks 

A town of beautiful beaches and significant historical landmarks. It's known for its traditional lacemaking, vibrant festivals, and scenic riverfront along the Ave River. 

Key Points of Interest

  • Santa Clara Monastery and Aqueduct: The Santa Clara Monastery in Vila do Conde is a stunning 14th-century Gothic convent overlooking the Ave River. It features impressive architectural elements, including a grand rose window and intricate cloisters. 

  • Nau Quinhentista: This is a meticulously crafted replica of a 16th-century Portuguese ship. It's a unique opportunity to explore maritime history, showcasing the era's navigation techniques and shipbuilding craftsmanship. The vessel stands as a tribute to Portugal's Age of Discoveries. 

  • Fornos da Cal: Located in Vila do Conde, Fornos da Cal are historic lime kilns dating back to the 19th century. These structures were integral to the production of lime, used in construction and agriculture. 

Dining Recommendations

Booggie Snack Bar: Perched right on the sands of the Praia dos Beijinhos beach, this is an ideal spot to grab and drink near the end of your ride and watch the sunset over the sea. Could there be a better way to finish your trip?  

Today’s Terrain 

A relaxing ride with beautiful coastal views with a mix of cobbles, paved cycle paths, and boardwalks. Vila do Conde provides a perfect end to the day with its historic charm and modern amenities. 

  Ponte de Lima - Tapas Experience

Day 7: Vila do Conde to Porto 

Porto: The Vibrant Finale 

Your journey concludes in the vibrant city of Porto, known for its rich culture, delicious food, and lively atmosphere. 

Key Points of Interest 

  • Farol de Leça: Located in Leça da Palmeira near Porto, it’s a historic lighthouse dating back to 1926. Standing 46 meters tall, it offers stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding coastline. Visitors can climb to the top for panoramic vistas and learn about its maritime significance. 

  • Matosinhos “She Changes” Net Sculpture: A captivating art installation created by American artist Janet Echelman in 2005. This massive, colorful net sculpture floats above a public space, symbolizing the city's fishing heritage. It’s known locally as “Anémona”. It shifts gracefully with the wind, creating a dynamic, ever-changing visual experience. 

  • Sandeman Wine Cellars: Located in Vila Nova de Gaia, these cellars offer an immersive experience into the world of port wine. Established in 1790, these cellars provide guided tours showcasing the wine-making process, historic cellars, and tasting sessions, all while sharing the rich legacy of the Sandeman brand. 

Dining Recommendations

  • Gazela: Famous for serving the original “cachorrinhos” (small hotdogs). The atmosphere is lively, and the staff are super friendly. 

  • Time Out Market: A must-visit for food lovers, this bustling food court offers a fusion of local and international flavors from its many food stalls. Embark on a culinary journey around the world, all under one roof. 

 Two cyclists biking from Minho to Porto in Portugal

FAQs 

What is the best time to cycle from Monção to Porto? 

The best time to cycle this route is during the spring (April to June) and fall (September to October) when the weather is mild, and the landscapes are at their most beautiful. 

How challenging is the cycling route from Monção to Porto? 

The route varies in difficulty, with a mix of easy flat sections and more challenging climbs. It's suitable for cyclists with a moderate level of fitness. 

What type of bike is recommended for this journey? 

A hybrid or touring bike is recommended for this trip, as the route includes a mix of paved roads, gravel paths, and some off-road sections. 

Are there facilities for bike storage at the accommodations? 

Yes, all accommodations along the route offer secure bike storage facilities. 

Can dietary requirements be accommodated at the restaurants? 

Most restaurants along the route accommodate dietary requirements, but it's always a good idea to inform them in advance or do some research before your trip. 

 

This self-guided cycling trip from Monção to Porto with Macs Adventure offers a perfect blend of adventure, history, and culture. From historic towns to scenic coastal paths, each day brings unique experiences and unforgettable memories. Get ready to embark on this incredible journey and discover the best of Portugal on two wheels! 

Marc Walker

Written by

Marc Walker
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