Luís Simões, travel sketcher around the world
The Beira Interior tour is designed for cyclists who want to experience the region’s rural life and immerse themselves in the local culture. For 174 kilometers, you will cycle from Castelo Branco through traditional villages such as Penamacor, and Almeida, until Castelo Rodrigo, which offer a glimpse into the region’s rich history and culture. You can also take a dip in the river beach in Sabugal, enjoy local cuisine, and relax in the tranquil surroundings.
The Beira Interior tour is a unique and authentic experience for cyclists who love exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations, starting from Castelo Branco until Castelo Rodrigo. A long weekend excursion presents the region’s natural beauty, ancient castles, and charming hilltop villages overlooking the Spanish border. This experience offers a mix of challenging mountainous terrain and gently rolling hills, making it an ideal destination for both experienced and novice cyclists.
How to get there
The Beira Interior tour isn’t a loop tour, yet it can be done perfectly in a reverse way. However, given its location in the east of Portugal, close to the Spanish border, you will need to prepare yourself for a long trip (depending on your starting point, of course).
If you do it as we did, the fastest and most practical way to get to Castelo Branco is by train. Another option will be by bus. But, please keep in mind that the rule to bring a bicycle on a bus is usually different depending on each company.
If you decide to do the Beira Interior Tour in reverse way, you may need a bit more effort to reach Castelo Rodrigo as it is arguably a remote village in Portugal. The fastest and most practical way to get to Castelo Rodrigo is – of course, by car. Thus, it will be easier to discover the immense patrimonial and natural wealth of the country.
Starting on Castelo Branco, this long weekend tour in Beira Interior will take you up to Castelo Rodrigo through Portuguese historical villages guarded by the castle, overlooking the Spanish border.
We’ve got some flexible sections below to help you plan your bike tour. You can customize it to your liking, whether you want to take it slow or pedal to the metal. If you’re like Luís and want to sketch every inch of the way, plan for a leisurely 4 to 7-day ride in Beira Interior!
Castelo Branco is a suitable place to start the Beira Interior Tour. The city has a rich history, with a medieval castle and charming old town that is worth exploring. The castle, which dates back to the 13th century, offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside and is a great spot to watch the sunset.
In addition to its historic sites, Castelo Branco also offers a variety of restaurants, cafes, and bars where bicycle tourers can chill before starting the venture. The city is also known for its local cuisine, including traditional dishes like “ensopado de borrego” (lamb stew) and “bacalhau com broa” (cod with cornbread).
Once you are ready to embark on the journey of the Beira Interior Tour, you will cycle through charming villages and rural landscapes for approximately 50 kilometers (depending on where you stay). As you approach Penamacor, you will face a challenging hill to reach the town. At the same time, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the Serra da Malcata mountain range.
Penamacor is a charming small town, surrounded by beautiful mountains and valleys, making it a perfect overnight for bicycle tourers who enjoy scenic routes and natural landscapes. The town has a rich history dating back to Roman times and offers plenty of cultural and historical sites to explore, such as the medieval castle, the Igreja Matriz church, and the charming narrow streets of the historic center. Additionally, the town is known for its delicious local cuisine, which features a variety of traditional dishes made from fresh and locally sourced ingredients.
Penamacor is also well-connected to other popular cycling routes in the region, such as the Aldeias Históricas route (GR22) which become our inspired the Beira Interior Tour, starting from here until Castelo Rodrigo.
You will proceed your journey through GR22, a picturesque and challenging route that covers around 31 kilometers with some steep climbs that are worth it for the stunning scenery of the Natural Reserve of Serra da Malcata. As you cycle through the route, you will pass through a quaint village, Meimão, which is famous for its cheese.
After that, you will encounter the last hill, which is the longest climb of the day. This ascent ends once you reach the main road (N233) that leads you to Sabugal.
Sabugal is a charming medieval town in this Beira Interior tour. It is situated on the banks of the Côa River, where you can dip into the river beach after a long day of cycling. And it is surrounded by beautiful natural landscapes, including the Serra da Malcata Natural Reserve.
For bicycle tourers, Sabugal is an excellent overnight stay as it offers a range of accommodation options, from hotels to hostels, as well as restaurants and cafes, as well as a local market where they can sample some of the region’s traditional foods.
From Sabugal, your next destination of the Beira Interior Tour will be Almeida. You’ll also encounter a diverse range of terrain, from rocky paths and steep climbs to smooth gravel tracks and gentle descents. This stretch will be the longest one – in terms of the kilometer – approximately 58 kilometers, depending on where you stay, of course. Along the way, you will also discover small villages that are loaded with histories of the past, such as Vilar Maior and Castelo Bom.
Almeida is known for its well-preserved military fortress, which is a star-shaped bastion fortification that was built in the 17th century. The fortress is an impressive sight to behold – especially from the bird’s view – and is a testament to the strategic importance of the town throughout history of Beira Interior and the country.
In addition to its impressive fortifications, Almeida has a charming old town with narrow streets, traditional houses, and local shops selling handmade crafts and souvenirs. The town also has several restaurants and cafes where visitors can try local cuisines, such as roasted lamb, bacalhau (salt cod), and Almeida cheese. For instance, don’t miss trying Ginginha at Casa da Amelinha. It is a Portuguese liqueur made by infusing ginja berries in alcohol and adding sugar together with other ingredients. It was summer when we tried it, with ice cubes, their ginginha was one the best we’ve ever tasted!
As you continue the journey, at this point, it will be your last stretch from your final destination of the Beira Interior Tour, Castelo Rodrigo. As much as it will be the easiest journey of this venture (33 km), it won’t be the least interesting. To reach the finish line, you will pedal your bike up to the medieval town of Castelo Rodrigo, which sits high atop a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside.
Castelo Rodrigo is well known for its well-preserved medieval architecture, ancient castle ruins, and stunning views of the surrounding landscape. The town is situated on a hill, providing panoramic views of the valley below, with almond and olive groves stretching as far as the eye can see.
If you arrive when the sun begins to dip below the horizon, prepare yourself to be amazed at the sky, transforming into a kaleidoscope of colors, ranging from deep oranges and pinks to shades of purple and blue. This stunning panorama is framed by the silhouette of the village’s medieval walls and towers, creating an unforgettable scene of the Beira Interior Tour.
In the village itself, the narrow streets and alleyways are bathed in a warm, golden light that highlights the texture and character of the traditional stone houses and buildings. As the sun sets, locals and visitors alike gather in the main square to enjoy a drink or a meal, creating a convivial atmosphere that is both lively and relaxed.
Overall, Beira Interior Tour in Portugal is a great course for anyone looking for a unique and authentic cycling adventure in a remarkably loaded of histories of the country that is surrounded by a beautiful environment.
Other popular routes in the region include the Historical Villages Route, which takes you through some of the most picturesque and well-preserved villages in Portugal, and the Serra da Estrela Route, which offers challenging climbs and stunning mountain views.
Also, Tras-os-Montes tour, a long weekend course along the region that is known to have 9 months of winter and 3 months of hell in Portugal. This 202 kilometers bike tour covers Freixo de Espada à Cinta, Mogadouro, Miranda do Douro, and Bragança. Combining this one with the Beira Interior Tour, it will be a full of week of venture in the rural region of Portugal.
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- Beautiful Scenery: Beira Interior is known for its stunning landscapes of rolling hills, olive and almond groves, and medieval villages. You’ll have the opportunity to see these sights up close and personal on your bike tour.
- Cultural Immersion: You’ll get a chance to immerse yourself in Portuguese culture by visiting traditional villages, historic castles, and local markets. Taste the local cuisine and wine, and meet friendly locals along the way.
- Flexibility: The bike tour is highly adaptable to your interests, timetable, and fitness level. You can take as much time as you need to explore each destination, and even adjust the route to include additional detours or sights.
- Authenticity: Beira Interior is a relatively undiscovered region of Portugal, meaning you’ll get to experience authentic Portuguese culture without the crowds of tourists. It’s the perfect way to get off the beaten path and discover a hidden gem.