Luís Simões, travel sketcher around the world
Tras-os-Montes tour is a bicycle touring route for intermediate or even for the beginner who is keen on a challenge. It’s a long weekend course along the region that is known to have 9 months of winter and 3 months of hell in Portugal. This a 202 kilometers biketour covers Freixo de Espada à Cinta, Mogadouro, Miranda do Douro, and Bragança.
Tras-os-Montes is a 178 kilometers bike tour for intermediate or even for the beginner – who is keen on a challenge. The tour proposes you ride your bicycle through Parque Natural do Douro Internacional until Bragança, an ancient city whose castle still retains its medieval core surrounded by high walls.
Trás os Montes it self is a mountain range in Bragança Province. It’s located on the northeastern tip of Portugal, bordering Spain (Zamora province), which clearly has great natural potential. Because of its position, not many tourists come here, which is also a great reason to explore this region. Nonetheless, this tour is still within the urban perimeter, which may ease the effort in logistics-wise.
How to get there
Tras-os-Montes tour isn’t a loop tour, yet it can be done perfectly in a reverse way. However, given its location in the northeastern tip of Portugal, you need to prepare yourself for a long trip (depending on your starting point, of course). For your reference, nearly 450 km (about 4,30 hours) of distance from Lisbon. The fastest and most practical way to get to Freixo de Espada à Cinta or Bragança is – of course, by car. Thus, it will be easier to discover the immense patrimonial and natural wealth of the country.
Other option will be by bus to Freixo de Espada à Cinta or Bragança. Please keep in mind that the rule to bring a bicycle on a bus is usually different depending on each company. Another way will be by train until Ponchino, and ride 50 kilometers extra along Douro valley until Freixo de Espada à Cinta.
Note that the area of this region is arguably remote in Portugal, not many cars pass by (besides on the main road) or tourists in the places we mentioned below. With all of these, Luís and I felt comfortable getting around to do Bike & Sketch Portugal Tour during the pandemic.
Starting on Freixo de Espada à Cinta, this long weekend tour in Tras-os-Montes will take you up to Bragança through Parque Natural do Douro Internacional, to the east is bounded by the Douro River where it forms the natural border between Portugal and Spain. From vineyards along the Douro valleys to castle to to the preservation of the Burro de Miranda (Miranda’s Donkey) to camp on river beaches, and when it’s time to refuel, go easy on Posta Mirandesa and Douro’s wine, the Tras-os-Montes tour is a great way of exploring this diversity of its region.
Freixo de Espada à Cinta
Freixo de Espada à Cinta is a town full of history that can be enjoyed with great satisfaction, as you stroll through its streets full of Manueline shutters and windows, the old walls and tower still medieval, you will appreciate a pleasure without comparison.
The journey started at a wonderful Congida river beach, where the beach is integrated in a leisure complex that includes a floating pool in the waters of the reservoir and others great support infrastructures, among which we highlight the inviting riverside bar, and the embarkation pier for sightseeing tours on the Douro River. From here, you have to climb up for almost 300 meters in 3 kilometers to the town.
Leaving Freixo de Espada à Cinta, you will ride through the national road – N221 until Mogadouro for about 40 kilometers with up to 500 meters up – depends where will you stay. Although the route is along the national road, we didn’t encounter many cars. And when we did, the cars were respect us and gave safe distance when they were taking over us.
Reaching Mogadouro is a trip down memory lane of ancient Portugal. It is well-loved by those who seek out the gems of Portuguese wonderland, with the authenticity that takes us back in time. Yet, indulge unexpectedly large and modernized. Best of its history is one of the most important strongholds, Mogadouro is also known for its gastronomy. Just ask some locals, and they will be your guide to a culinary trip in the region.
Stopping over in Mogadouro for a night definitely isn’t enough. There are fascinating places to explore, especially if you like to hike in nature. At this moment, there are 8 fantastic trails with various levels surrounding Mogadouro that you may need a week to dig each of them. Regardless, it’s a reason to come back to Mogadouro.
Carry on from Mogadouro, the next stop in this Tras-os-Montes tour is Atenor. This stretch is only 30 kilometers long. But, despite being short, it has no lack of interest. After 15 km ride your bike through the main road, you will turn left to EM1182, a quiet and eventually guide you to a dirt road with a beautiful view around. This dirt road will lead you to the village. As Mogadouro is located on the altiplano of the Mirandese mountain range, the ups and downs of this course are reasonable. The maximum inclination will be 11% in one or two sections before you reach Atenor.
Atenor is the only rural village of a night stop on this tour, Tras-os-Montes. The best reason is there is a preservation place for the extinction of the donkey of Miranda, AEPGA.
In AEPGA, in addition to the proximity it maintains with the breeders, in order to ensure the interest of donkeys and mules, they have been organizing activities that share cultural value. Most of them are educational activities that have essentially recreational nature, whether festivals, easy hikes, or simply to know the home of the donkeys.
Please take a note that as Atenor is a rural village, there is no supermarket or option of a restaurant. The only place we could find food was a simple sandwich in the local bar in the center of the village.
Miranda do Douro
Proceed the Tras-os-Montes tour on the next day, to ride your bike through small villages until Duas Igrejas for 20 kilometers before hitting back the national road N221 that will bring you to Miranda do Douro, an impressive town on one of the banks of the Douro River.
From Atenor to Miranda do Douro, the journey is 30 kilometers far with an average of 4% of inclination. The trickiest section that will be challenging is on the first kilometers where you are leaving Atenor and, later on, when you decide to stay on Miranda’s campground. These sections have up to 15% of inclination. It also the steepest inclination you will get on this Tras-os-Montes tour.
Miranda do Douro has thousands of years of history have given it a castle, a cathedral, and a charming medieval historic center. This town is a destination where the originality is in its ancestry. A day strolling in the historic center will be enough but as its location, you may want to stay longer to explore the region.
Miranda do Douro is located on the west bank of the International Douro, which establishes the natural border with Spain, the city rises imposingly high up on a hill of schist cliffs torn by the river. It is easy to imagine its natural beauty with the outstanding cultural wealth and the deep-rooted traditions and customs.
At the time when you reach this point, your venture is about to be complete. From Miranda do Douro, you will ride your bicycle to the finish point of this Tras-os-Montes tour, Bragança.
However, it will be a long stretch (80 km) and quite hard if you do it at once – which was our first plan. When we passed the river beach of Rio Maças, on kilometer 46, we couldn’t resist stopping, delighted with the fresh water in the river, and eventually camped there. Until the end of the day, there were plenty of people enjoying their time, but it became empty and peaceful at night – only us. If you decide to continue, prepare yourself to climb up to 650 meters until the final destination of this trip, Bragança.
Bragança is the northernmost district capital of Portugal with one of the best-preserved historical centers. The town stands tall with a two-belt castle guarding a well-preserved citadel where we can imagine the peoples of ancient.
By reaching here, you finally finish this tour – Tras-os-Montes – congratulation and cheers!
As the region is rich in history and culture, give yourself time to roam the region. Since this tour goes through Outeiro and Gimonde, it safe you a day to explore a site. Nonetheless, the town itself has plenty of sites that won’t bore you to walk around. But if you have extra days, don’t miss to explore further north to Rio de Onor, one of the Portuguese 7 wonders, or Montesinho village, a typical village of transmontana region – built in granite with slate roofs and wooden balconies, place of coziness.
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- Natural beauty: Trás-os-Montes is a region of unspoiled natural beauty, with lush forests, rolling hills, and fertile farmland. During a bike tour, cyclists can take in the breathtaking scenery and admire the beauty of the region. Also, Trás-os-Montes is known for its rolling hills and vineyards, which produce some of Portugal’s most unique wines.
Traditional rural villages: Explore the traditional villages with local markets, artisans, and local cuisine.
Historic castles and monasteries: Discover historic castles, monasteries, and churches that dot the region.
Friendly local communities: The people of Trás-os-Montes are known for their warmth and hospitality, making the region a welcoming and friendly destination for cyclists. During a bike tour, cyclists can expect to meet friendly locals and learn about their way of life.
Rich cultural heritage: Trás-os-Montes is a region of great cultural diversity, with a long and fascinating history that has shaped the region’s identity and culture. A bike tour provides a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of the region and to learn about its diverse landscapes and rich history.