Thomson Tales

Riding the Trans-Portugal: The Best Cycling Trip You Never Had in Your Life

If your list of the best places to ride in Europe doesn’t include Portugal, obviously you haven’t ridden Portugal yet.

In case you have trouble distinguishing it from its larger neighbor Spain, Portugal’s the one on the left. It’s also the westernmost point in continental Europe; the home of port wine, more than half the world’s cork supply and—most important for our purposes—every element that makes up a bucket-list cycling challenge. Which is only fitting, since Portugal will be our first Trans Challenge of 2018.

The trip features spectacular climbs (<15% grades, plus more than 4200 vertical meters in a single day); diverse terrain, traffic-free roads with breathtaking scenery, cobbled streets in historic villages and of course, outstanding accommodations and local food and wine.

Like we said, everything, Or in the words of one Thomson guest:

Trans-Portugal is a spectacular, off the radar screen trip. The interior of the country offers beautiful, mountainous terrain on empty roads. The Torre climb lived up to its billing as one of the toughest in Europe, but the divine descent was a surprise — one of the best ever. The accommodations were great, many nights in historic pousadas but always with modern, luxurious interiors. The Thomson staff was top notch as always. I highly recommend this tour as it offers challenges equal to Grand Tour peak-bagging and an exceptional overall experience.

–Thomson Guest Rick Bidstrup

Trans-Portugal Highlights: the Royal City, HC Climbs, Medieval Villages and Bedding Down in a 12th Century Monastery.

Our Trans-Portugal itinerary takes you from touchdown at the Lisbon airport to the royal (and pre-Roman) city of  Vila Viçosa, then north to the fortified medieval village of Marvão. We’ll be headed north a lot on this trip, nearly the entire length of the country.

In addition to one of the toughest climbs in all of Europe, the legendary Torre, your trip includes a spectacular ride through the UNESCO world heritage site in the Douro River Valley. Think mile after mile of scenic vineyards, with flat-bottomed boats transporting the local wine to market on a river so impressive the Romans personified it as a god.

Once your legs have enjoyed a break, it’s time for the the corkscrewing Cat 1 ascent of Monte Farinha to the Alto da Senhora da Graça sanctuary at the top. (Race fans may recall the grueling Monte Farinha climb from Stage 4 of  last  year’s Tour of Portugal; both the stage and the GC win went to Raúl Alarcón of W52–FC Porto.)

Finally, there’s the chance to sleep in a (beautifully restored) 12th century monastery on the final night of your trip.

Medieval castle overlooking the village of Marvão, (Creative Commons license)
No, that’s not the Stelvio, it’s a section of the Torre. And you’ll be climbing all 30 km of it. Not to mention gaining almost 2000 m in the process.
Mt Farinha climb to the Alto da Senhora da Graça sanctuary. PS: The final 10 km is an unrelenting 10%. (Creative Commons license)

As we said way up at the top of the page, Portugal is one of cycling’s great secrets. And at 8 days/7 nights, 822 km and 17,197 vertical meters, this is  your chance to find out exactly what you’ve been missing.