Situated on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, western Portugal is a land of rolling hills, charming fishing villages, tiny resort towns, and stunningly scenic vistas. Lighthouses dot the coastline, the rocky remains of medieval castles are found perched on small hillsides, and seafood reigns supreme in an area where most of the population lives near the water’s edge. Western Portugal is also the home to a small and incredibly well-organized tour company, called Portugal Nature Trails, that specializes in cycling and hiking/walking tours across all of Portugal.
I recently had the pleasure of participating in one of Portugal Nature Trails‘ self-guided bicycle tours (the Atlantic West Coast & Sintra tour) with my friend Kevin, and in this article I plan to share with you the highlights from that incredible cycling experience. Photos, videos and details on the tour (including costs, how to get to the start of the tour, what you need to bring with you, what kind of bikes you’ll be riding, and a whole lot more) are included here.
If you’re looking for a stress-free cycling holiday in Portugal, but don’t want to break the bank, then the Atlantic West Coast & Sintra bike tour from Portugal Nature Trails might be just by the bicycle tour you’ve been looking for!
Bike Tour Information
- Tour Name: Atlantic West Coast & Sintra
- Tour Company: Portugal Nature Trails
- Website: www.portugalnaturetrails.com
- Bike Tour Type: Self-Guided
- Tour Length: 7 days / 6 nights
- Starting/Ending Location: Lisbon, Portugal
- Total Cycling Distance: 255+ km / 159 miles
- Price: Starts at 669 EUR (approximately $750 USD) per person
Watch the video above for a day-by-day account of the Atlantic West Coast & Sintra Bike Tour with Portugal Nature Trails.
Who Is This Bike Tour Designed For?
Portugal Nature Trails specializes in low-cost, self-guided cycling and hiking tours. While each of the tours includes a short orientation meeting with an individual from the company, there are no tour leaders to escort you along your route each day. Instead, you’ll be given all the information you need to complete your tour on the first day of your trip and it will be up to you to follow the instructions that have been laid out for you by the tour company. Think of it as something like a treasure hunt. Portugal Nature Trails gives you the map, and then it’s up to you to find the treasure (your hotel and meals) each day.
The advantage to this type of travel is that everything is organized for you in advance. Portugal Nature Trails designs your daily routes, organizes all of your accommodations, and will even transport your luggage from one hotel to the next each day so that you don’t have to carry everything on your bicycle as you ride. According to the company, 90% of the people who participate in one of their self-guided bicycle tours will opt for the optional luggage transport.
If you want, you can bring your own bicycle to Portugal for use throughout the duration of the tour, but most tour participants find it easier to simply rent a bicycle from the company (the cost of which varies from 100 – 200 Euros, depending on the type of bike you wish to use). High-quality road, hybrid and electric bicycles are available for you to rent.
While breakfasts are included at each of the hotels you’ll be staying at throughout your bike tour, you’ll be responsible for finding your own lunch, dinner and snacks each day (so make sure you budget that in to the overall cost of your trip). Luckily, food and drinks are relatively inexpensive in Portugal (when compared to much of western Europe), and Portugal Nature Trails does a good job of telling you in advance where you can find food and drinks along your route each day.
Finally, it should be noted that your self-guided bike tour with Portugal Nature Trails can be made longer by booking extra nights at any of the hotels along the route. So, if you’ve got a little extra time, this is a great way to expand your holiday in Portugal while allowing yourself the time necessary to really explore some of the beautiful locations you’ll be cycling through. If you have the extra time, I’d consider adding a night in either Óbidos or Sintra (which were two of my favorite locations on the tour).
Tour participant, Kevin Burrett, admiring a beautiful beach near Ericeira, Portugal.
Advantages of a Self-Guided Bike Tour
A self-guided bike tour, like the ones offered by Portugal Nature Trails, has many benefits:
1. Eliminate your need for planning – Your bikes, your route, your hotels and at least some of your meals are all arranged for you in advance by the tour company, Portugal Nature Trails. Just show up at the start of the tour and enjoy yourself!
2. Choose your own travel companion(s) – This isn’t a big group tour, so you get to decide who you want to travel with. Most people choose to travel with their significant other, but families, groups of friends and even solo travels are extremely common.
3. Go at your own pace – With this type of bike tour, there’s need to keep up with others in a large group. Instead, you have a route map and all the tools you need to get you through each day. You can take it slow and stop several times throughout the day, or race along the route as fast as you possibly can. The choice is up to you!
4. Have your luggage transported for you – If you don’t want to carry a suitcase full of clothes and toiletries on the back of your bicycle each day, then Portugal Nature Trails‘ optional luggage transport makes your time in Portugal even more enjoyable. Just leave your luggage at the front desk of your hotel each day when you checkout and by the time you arrive at your next hotel later that day, your luggage will be there and waiting for you.
5. Stay at beautiful hotels each night – Because Portugal Nature Trails is taking care of all the details for you, they’ve arranged for you to stay in some of the best hotels in the area. When you arrive at your hotel each day, they’ll be prepared to check you in, store your bicycle(s), and help you with your luggage. Plus, many of the hotels have swimming pools, spa facilities, gym equipment and other entertainment options.
Fishing boats welcome you to charming Ericeira, Portugal.
Daily Bike Tour Overview
Like so many of Portugal Nature Trails‘ self-guided tours, the Atlantic West Coast & Sintra bike tour usually begins in Lisbon, Portugal. If you’re planning to fly to Portugal, then Lisbon is the best place to start. Flights to Lisbon are relatively inexpensive, and it’s a fairly easy city to navigate.
Day 1: Arrival in Lisbon, Portugal
A driver from Portugal Nature Trails will meet you in Lisbon and transport you, your bicycles, and your luggage to the start of the bike tour in São Pedro de Moel. It takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes in the car to get to São Pedro de Moel – a small resort town situated on the edge of beautiful wind-swept beach in central Portugal.
After arriving in São Pedro de Moel, you’ll check into your hotel (Hotel Mar e Sol), have a short orientation meeting with someone from Portugal Nature Trails, who will walk you through the entire bike tour and tell you everything you need to know. You’ll be given your bicycle, a bike lock, a pump, a GPS (if necessary) and all the necessary paperwork to complete your self-guided bike tour down the western coast of Portugal.
Then you’ll have the rest of the day to do as you please. You can hang out at the hotel, take a walk down to the beach, ride your bike along the nearby bike path, go into town for dinner, or do anything you please. I highly recommend taking a walk down to the nearby lighthouse, Farol Penedo da Saudade, which is just a short distance from the hotel and is a wonderful place to take in the ocean views before sunset.
Watch the video above and you’ll see me (Darren Alff) and my friend Kevin Burrett during our first day of the Atlantic West Coast & Sintra bike tour with Portugal Nature Trails. We spent two days in Lisbon, Portugal before the start of the tour and were then transported to São Pedro de Moel during our third day in the country. In the video you’ll see the Hotel Mar e Sol and the Farol Penedo da Saudade lighthouse, as well as the tiny town of São Pedro de Moel where the bike tour begins.
Day 2: São Pedro de Moel to Óbidos
It’s not until day two of the Atlantic West Coast & Sintra bike tour that you actually begin the cycling portion of your trip. During this particular day, you’ll cycle approximately 53 kilometers (33 miles) from the tiny town of São Pedro de Moel to the charming walled city of Óbidos. Along the way, you’ll be riding on bike paths through spectacular red pine forests, through charming fishing villages, and stopping in a place called Nazaré, which is not only a historic stone city, but also the place where the famous surfer, Garret McNamara, surfed a 30 meter tall wave (the biggest wave ever surfed) in January of 2013.
After leaving Nazaré, you’ll head south and continue cycling along the coast before turning inland to the city of Óbidos, where the most beautiful and well-preserved medieval village in all of Portugal stands at the top of a small hill. Your hotel for the night (the Hotel Real D’Óbidos) is inside that walled village, so after making your way to the hotel, you have the rest of the evening to explore the village, walked around the walls of the city, and eat dinner in one of Portugal’s most romantic locations.
If you watch the video above, you’ll see the video from our second day on the Atlantic West Coast & Sintra bike tour with Portugal Nature Trails. Unlike most of the people who participate in this particular bike tour, Kevin and I opted to bring our own bicycles with us for the trip, so we spent some time at the beginning of the day preparing our bikes for the ride. We also met up with a friendly local named Joao, who came out to cycle with us for the day.
Day 3: Óbidos to Peniche
On the third day of the Atlantic West Coast & Sintra bike tour, you’ll have breakfast at your hotel, check out of your room, say goodbye to the walled-city of Óbidos, and then cycle south toward the beach town of Peniche, which is situated on a small peninsula that shoots out into the Atlantic ocean. It’s a pleasurable 52+ kilometers bike ride and once you reach the coastline you’ll be greeted with one of the most scenic beaches in all of Portugal.
Surfers are everywhere and it would be smart of you to take some time and enjoy the beaches while you’re there. In Peniche, you’ll see that this coastal town is very much centered around fishing – although tourism now plays a major role in the city’s economic development. If you arrive in Peniche in time, you can explore the small city center on foot or by bicycle, you can take a bike ride around the entire Peniche peninsula and see incredible coastal rock formations in nearly every direction, or you can retire early at your hotel – the MH Peniche (a large, white, contemporary, multi-story hotel located just a short distance inland from the Peniche city center).
When my friend Kevin and I cycled from Óbidos to Peniche on the third day of our self-guided bike tour with Portugal Nature Trails, the sun was shinning and it was a beautiful day, but there was a terribly strong wind once we approached the coast. Watch the video above and note how beautiful those beaches are! And what do you think of that hotel? The staff there was so incredibly friendly – and their English was perfect too, which is another thing I appreciated about traveling in Portugal. Almost everyone speaks English!
Day 4: Peniche to Ericeira
Day four is the longest day of cycling on the Atlantic West Coast & Sintra bike tour at 73+ total kilometers. The day starts out with some small rolling hills in which you cycle on nearly traffic-free roads through tiny Portuguese villages and past privately owned plots of farmland. There’s an enjoyable downhill sprint to the coast, and from there you continue south toward the town of Ericeira on a bike path.
There’s a lot to see and do in Ericeira, so if you can, get there early! You’ll be staying at the Hotel Vila Galé Ericeira, which is a large, modern tourist hotel located right on the edge of a cliff, with beautiful hotel rooms looking out across the ocean and the entire Ericeira shoreline. If you want, you can go swimming in the hotel pool, play a game of billiards down in the hotel’s gaming area, or take a walk around town. When you venture into the center of Ericeira you will find several small tourist shops, restaurants, and bakeries serving up traditional Portuguese tarts.
We were a little unlucky during our fourth day of cycling on the Atlantic West Coast & Sintra bike tour because we spent the first part of the day cycling in a terrible rain storm (something that the locals assured us was extremely uncommon for the summer months in Portugal). Luckily, the rain went away in the afternoon and the second part of our ride was sunny and enjoyable! Watch the video above and you’ll get to see not only what the scenery is like on the longest day of the bike tour, but you’ll also get a short tour of Ericeira and the Hotel Vila Galé Ericeira where you will be staying.
Day 5: Ericeira to Sintra
It’s a short and enjoyable 38 kilometer (24 mile) bike ride on day five of the Atlantic West Coast & Sintra bike tour, but that’s a good thing, because this is the day you arrive in Sintra – a picturesque Portuguese town (and UNESCO world heritage site) built amidst the pine covered hills of the Serra de Sintra in the Portuguese Riviera. The city of Sintra has a population of more than 300,000 people and is easily one of Portugal’s most popular tourist attractions. Once you see the city for yourself, you’ll understand why!
As you cycle into Sintra, you’ll be instantly amazed at the city and the scenery in front of you. Scattered throughout the hillside are numerous 19th-century Romantic architectural monuments, as well as dozens of royal retreats, estates, castles and other buildings dotted throughout the area, including the medieval Castelo dos Mouros, the Pena National Palace and the Sintra National Palace. Outside the city center, the Sintra Mountains and Sintra-Cascais Nature Park are worth a visit. I would also highly recommend taking a walk up the hillside to the 8th Century Moorish Castle that stands large and proud at the top of the mountain overlooking the city.
If you have any extra time in your schedule, it would be worth spending an extra day or two in Sintra. There’s not only a lot to see and do in the city itself, but lots of cycling to be had in the areas surrounding the city center.
Like the day before, we ran into a bit of rain during our bike ride from Ericeira to Sintra, Portugal, but we didn’t let that stop us from enjoying our shortest day of the bike tour. Instead, we jumped on our bicycles and made quick work of the roads in front of us, arriving in Sintra early enough for a hike up to the Moorish Castle at the top of the hill overlooking the city, as well as a nice, well-deserved dinner out.
Day 6: Sintra to Cascais
On the last official day of the Atlantic West Coast & Sintra bike tour with Portugal Nature Trails, you’ll leave the Sintra Boutique Hotel in the center of Sintra, Portugal and cycle south for an additional 40 kilometers to the beautiful coastal town of Cascais. Along the way you’ll cycle past the Franciscan Capuchin Convent (where you will have time to stop and go inside if you like) or you may choose to ride your bike to Cape Roca – the westernmost point in all of Continental Europe. Once you’ve reached Cape Roca, it’s then a fairly flat and enjoyable bike ride back to Cascais and your accommodations at the Hotel Vila Galé Cascais.
When Kevin and I were in Portual participating in the Atlantic West Coast & Sintra bike tour, we didn’t actually participate in the last official day of the bike tour, so we never did the bike ride from Sintra to Cascais. Instead, we opted to stay in Sintra for an additional day and do a little mountain biking in the area with Antonio – the owner of Portugal Nature Trails. Watch the video above and you’ll see Kevin and I cycling with Antonio through the forests surrounding the city of Sintra. And wait until you see the viewpoint that we ride our bikes to. The views of western Portugal from the top were absolutely spectacular!
Day 7: Departure in Lisbon, Portugal
On the last day of your self-guided bicycle tour with Portugal Nature Trails, you’ll have breakfast at the hotel and then you’ll be met by a staff member from the tour company who will pick you up and drive you back to Lisbon (or wherever you wish to go). If you plan to stay in Lisbon for an extra length of time, Portugal Nature Trails will drop you at your hotel, apartment or other accommodation. Or, if you plan to fly home at the end of your bike tour, Portugal Nature Trails will drive you and your luggage directly to the airport. The car ride from Cascais to Lisbon takes approximately 30 minutes.
The Nightly Accommodations
When you book a bike tour with Portugal Nature Trails, you can rest assured in knowing that you’ll be staying at some of the best hotels in Portugal.
Hotel Mar e Sol – São Pedro de Moel, Portugal
This white, modern hotel is one of the largest buildings in all of São Pedro de Moel. Situated on the edge of the Atlantic coast and surrounded by pine forests on every other side, the Hotel Mar e Sol is a bright, welcoming hotel with comfortable sea-view rooms, a full restaurant, bar and spa. Just over an hour away from the Lisbon Airport, Hotel Mar e Sol is the perfect starting point for your cycling adventure with Portugal Nature Trails.
Hotel Real D’Óbidos – Óbidos, Portugal
Situated in the heart of the medieval walled city of Óbidos, the Hotel Real D’Óbidos is a charming, modern hotel designed with unique decorations from the area’s past. Each of the hotel’s eighteen rooms is 100% unique, with no two rooms having similar lights, ceilings or furniture. The hotel staff wears medieval costumes to further invite you into the mood of the resort, but modern touches (such as a swimming pool, garden, and parking garage) will make the current-day bike traveler feel right at home.
MH Peniche – Peniche, Portugal
The large, white, modern design of the MH Peniche hotel can be seen from quite some distance as you cycle your way toward the center of Peniche, Portugal. Located just a short distance outside the city center, but within easy cycling distance of the area’s local attractions, the contemporary design of the MH Peniche welcomes you in with a friendly, English-speaking staff, exquisitely designed hotel rooms, fresh sea breezes and a variety of luxuries and services – such as a restaurant, spa, gym, pool, tennis court and children’s playground.
Vila Galé Ericeira – Ericeira, Portugal
Located in the picturesque town of Ericeira and just a short walk from the Ericeira city center, the Vila Galé Ericeira is the place to stay during your exploration of Portugal’s western coast. Set against the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean, the Vila Galé Ericeira is positioned in such a way that nearly every room in the place has a spectacular view of the sea. Free internet, a large outdoor pool, a playground for the kids, a health club, and laundry services are available here – not to mention the delicious meals served in the hotel’s restaurant/dining area.
Sintra Boutique Hotel – Sintra, Portugal
The Sintra Boutique Hotel is a small and charming hillside hotel located in the center of historic Sintra, Portugal. The building’s pink exterior makes it easy to locate when you first arrive… and the landscape views that you get from the window of your room will make you want to stay forever. If you’re planning to stay in Sintra for one or two nights, there couldn’t be a better place to call home. Plus, the cinnamon cookies that they serve for both breakfast and snack in the hotel are some of the best treats we had in all of Portugal. Yum!
My Official Bike Tour Summary
In the end, our bike tour with Portugal Nature Trails was a great experience and I’d give it an A+. The booking process was easy, getting to the start of the bike tour was a total cinch, the staff at Portugal Nature Trails is authentic and friendly, the accommodations were top-notch and the food at each of the hotels was worth writing home about.
The Farol Penedo da Saudade lighthouse and bike path in São Pedro de Moel.
In just a short amount of time (only one week), you can cycle your way across nearly one-third of Portugal’s coastline while taking in some of the country’s largest and most interesting tourist attractions:
- The lighthouse in São Pedro de Moel
- The walled city of Óbidos
- The spectacular beaches littered with surfers in the city of Peniche
- The charming fishing village of Ericeira
- And the historic city of Sintra, with its impressive Moorish castle situated on the hill overlooking the area.
Throughout the bike tour, you’ll find yourself cycling through small farming communities, fishing villages and tiny seaside resort towns. The scenery is spectacular and the locals are friendly.
While there are many positive things to say about the Atlantic West Coast & Sintra bike tour, I think the biggest strength of the tour is the organization that went into planning and preparing all the details. Portugal Nature Trails has gone out of their way to make sure that your time in Portugal goes as smoothly as possible. Booking the trip is a cinch, the company is incredibly well-organized, and we didn’t run into even the smallest of problems while participating in the tour.
Overall, the Atlantic West Coast & Sintra bike tour with Portugal Nature Trails is an absolutely spectacular bicycle tour. If you’re considering a trip to Portugal and you want to experience the country in a way that you just can’t do on a tour bus or with a large group, then consider signing up for this or any of Portugal Nature Trails‘ other self-guided bicycle tours. There are more than a dozen trips to choose from!
After experiencing this part of the world for myself, I can whole-heartily recommend western Portugal as a world-class destination for a week-long cycling holiday.
To learn more about this bike tour or any of the other self-guided cycling holidays organized by Portugal Nature Trails, be sure to visit their official website at www.portugalnaturetrails.com
The Atlantic Ocean – as seen from the Moorish Castle atop the city of Sintra, Portugal.