Portugal: Trás-os-Montes and Beira Alta

Route: Rio de Onor – Vimioso – Palaçoulo – Sendim -Freixo de Espada à Cinta – Vila Nova de Foz Coa – Almeida
Route NE Portugal
My route through northeast Portugal.

After a small climb out of the valley of the Rio de Onor, I soon was on dirt tracks again.  Excellent tracks, nobody else around and with endles views to the mountains around me.  This region in north-east Portugal is called Tras-os-Montes, meaning ‘beyond the mountains’ and is the most isolated Portugese region.  Once I crossed the provincial road En-308, the  dirt track soon became rougher and there was a steep descent towards the Rio Maçãs, (or Rio Manzanas, depending whether you’re Portugese or Spanish).  This tiny stream forms the border between the two countries.  I actually cross the stream to pitch my tent, so technically speaking, I sleep in Spain again.  More rough and often steep tracks close to the border bring me eventually to Quintanilha.

DSC02307

DSC02315
Picture taken from Portugese territory. The stream is the border. The tent is pitched in Spain.
DSC02321
Also in Portugal, the significance of yet another pilgrims route is never far away.

I didn’t find a shop in Pinelo and in the next town, Vimioso, everything was closed.  This would become a constant during my time in Portugal, difficulties to resupply.  

I rode into the Parque Natural Do Douro International.  As so often, they call a region a ‘nature park’ but besides the explicit prohibition to camp, I don’t see any significant difference to other regions which are not in the nature park.

DSC02327

DSC02338
Sometimes the track was really old and overgrown, but there were no alternatives.
DSC02340
I discovered this very old bridge.

DSC02344

DSC02357
Igreja Matriz de Sendrim

I’m riding in the ‘Serra do Mogadouro’ range.  No huge mountains, but constant steep climbs and descents.  After a few days, they killed my legs.  This is a really hard region to cycle.  

DSC02359

DSC02360
The church in Ventoselo.
DSC02363
I rode a mixture of paved roads and this kind of dirt tracks, the GR 36.
DSC02367
First viewpoint to the Douro River
DSC02371
Riding into Freixo de Espada à Cinta over the GR 36

Outside the town of Freixo de Espada à Cinta there is viewpoint with brilliant views to the deep canyon of the Douro River, which forms the border between Spain and Portugal here.  The whole region is also littered with electricity lines from the many dams in the river.

DSC02372
Statue of the explorer Jorge Álvares in Freixo de Espada à Cinta. He is considered to be he first European to have reached China by sea. For this reason, there’s also a statue of him in Macau.
DSC02374
Church in Freixo de Espada à Cinta
DSC02379
You can climb the tower of the castle. View towards the church and part of the town.
DSC02381
The graveyard as seen from the castle tower.

DSC02384

DSC02394
Canyon of the Douro River, seen from the Miradouro Do Penedo Durão. The opposite site is Castilla y Leon region, Spain. Going straight east for 100 km, you’ll end up in Salamanca.

DSC02395After this viewpoint, I turned west, a bit further inland Portugal towards Ligares.  A German retiree I met told me this is the hottest region of Portugal.  Hot and dry, I must say.  The three main crops I see along the road are olive trees, almond trees and grapes for the famous Port Wine.

DSC02406

DSC02414
Sometimes, the GR 36 became a bit rough. Here, the track goes steep down towards the Ribeira Do Mosteiro river. This is hike-a-bike country. No way you’re gonna ride a loaded bike here.
DSC02416
I left the bike at the ridge and hiked down to check for camping opportunities, which were better higher up.
DSC02418
No traffic noise, no barking dogs, no humans. Total peace and quiet.

DSC02427

DSC02451
Here you can see the GR 36 working it’s way down to the little bridge.
DSC02455
Almond trees. The almonds were ready to eat.

DSC02457In the little town Urros there was no shop to be found and no water fountain so I asked an old lady to refill my water bottles.  I got a bag of figs on top of it.

By the time I was in  Vila Nova de Foz Coa, my legs were so utterly tired from all the recent climbing that I, with regret, gave up on the idea of riding the off-road route through the valley of the Coa River.  It was just going to be too hard at this moment to enjoy it.  

DSC02464

DSC02472

DSC02476
Cycling along the Douro River with its many vineyards.

DSC02482

DSC02486
The church in Vila Nova de Foz Coa.

DSC02488

DSC02487
Vila Nova de Foz Coa

Well, I still rode part of the route to Castelo Melhor, but after that sticked to the national route nbr 332.  Not a lot of traffic at all, but just as I noticed several years ago, the attitude of the Portugese drivers compared to the Spanish is astonishing.  I can’t stop mentioning how good the Spaniards are behaving in traffic and how much space they give cyclists and how patient they can wait behind you if they are not sure whether they can pass you in a safe way.

Nothing of that is found in the Portugese driver.

DSC02492
A very steep downhill (-18%) towards the Coa River.
DSC02496
Rio Douro.
DSC02499
Vineyards, olive trees and almond trees.

DSC02502

DSC02503
Suddenly I saw this kilometer sign; km 222 along the N 222 seems to be a special one, looking at all the stickers….
DSC02505
…. the explanation followed a few kilometer later. There’s a motor club here, and apparently this stretch road is claimed as one of the nicest stretches of road in the world. It’s nice allright, but… don’t overrate it pls.

DSC02504In Castelo Rodrigo, I ask the lady of the tourist info after which Rodrigo the place is named, and whether it is the same Rodrigo as in Ciudad Rodrigo, the bigger town a bit further in Spain.

She didn’t have a clue.  Tourist info employees prefer you to ask for a city map and walk out, I guess.  Good thing was, Castelo Rodrigo had the first decent supermarket since entering the country, a French Intermarché.

DSC02509
Castelo Rodrigo, renowned as one of the most beautiful historical towns in Portugal

DSC02520

DSC02514

DSC02518

DSC02515
You often see this statue with the arrows. No idea what it is all about. Let me know, if you know.

The cycling now was easy on a plateau, 600 – 700 m asl.

I visited the historical town Almeida with its star-shaped fortress of the 17th century, built to protect the country against Spanish invasions.

DSC02523
Entrance of fortress of Almeida.

DSC02524

DSC02530
Houses in Almeida.
DSC02534
Nice old Triumph Spitfire. Also the bell tower of Almeida is in the picture.

Near the village Vale Da Mula, I left Portugal and went back into Spain.  More about that soon in a next post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s