An extraordinary Trans Iberian adventure for adventure bike riders…
The Picos & Portugal ‘Grand Tour’ combines our Southbound and Northbound routes to create an epic Trans Iberian adventure.
An adventure motorcycle tour running 1987miles, coast-2-coast across the Iberian Peninsula – all the way to the Algarve and back. Incorporating 555 miles of dirt roads, our route showcases the diversity of Portugal from a perspective only achievable from the seat of an adventure motorcycle.
Leaving the Picos de Europa National Park behind us, we cross Spain’s Cordillera Cantabria and enter Portugal through its North East corner; a region once so remote it spawned its own dialect and customs. Once across the border, we join an extraordinary network of trails (many un-mapped), that service the country’s, forests, farmland, orchards and vineyards. From hardpacked dirt, grit and gravel to stony, rocky, sandy and even crushed granite (ever ridden in kitty litter?), the range of riding surfaces is vast. We’ve classified it Level 3 (see FAQ’s). See the Itinerary for daily dirt distances.
Our southbound route through the eastern hills and central mountains (Serra de Estrella) ensures an undulating ride. Tight ‘n’ twisty, steep ‘n’ loose, fast ‘n’ flowing are all worthy descriptions of the trails as the regions roll out before us. And then there’s the tarmac; often so good you won’t care you’re not on the dirt. Yes, really…it’s that good.
The diversity of the Portuguese countryside quickly becomes apparent. Its rich Roman, Moorish and Christian history seemingly untouched. A land of castles and farmsteads, where rural life appears to have remained unchanged for centuries, where cobbled streets and allotments abound; you’d be forgiven for feeling like a time traveller. Springtime brings the early blooming purples of heather and the yellows and whites of wild flowers; whilst autumn brings a palette of colours to the landscape that have to be experienced in person. Nevermind New England in ‘the fall’ – Galicia in the autumn is a must.
Our first rest-day sees us in one of Portugal’s most historic and unspoiled cities; Evora. An enchanting place to spend some time, your biggest difficulty will be deciding how to spend your time in this UNESCO listed gem.
Onward we ride, through the olive groves and cork forests, sweet-chestnut and citrus orchards, vineyards and wheat fields. Eventually we cross the Serra. Three ranges of hills that separate the Algarve from the rest of Portugal; protecting it from the northern winds and contributing to the region’s balmy climate. Welcome to the Mediterranean 😎.
Our second rest day is in the Algarve. A chance to have a lie-in and a lazy breakfast before you give your bike some TLC, enjoy a dip in the pool or perhaps a massage?
Our departure across the Serra de Moncique and the Algarve’s highest point at Fóia, affords us a stunning last look across the coastline before we descend through eucalyptus forests en-route to the wild Atlantic coast. Turning inland we cross the garden of Portugal as we head for the rugged hills of the Serra da Lousã and Serra Açor; home to the Schist villages – so named after the stone with which they are built. Our ridgeline route feels like the backbone of Portugal with extraordinary views both east and west; just remember to look where you’re going!
The descent to Vide is one you’re unlikely to forget 😉. Our time in the valley is short lived though as we’re soon climbing into the mountains of the western Serra de Estrella National Park. A more gentle day follows as we wind our way through the heart of the Douro Valley wine region, where the terraced hilsides are home to some of the world’s best port-wines.
Leaving Portugal we cross some of Galicia’s most spectacular scenery, starting with a 20-mile trail across the Massif Galacio-Leonés; topping out at 1767m and conjouring up a few surprises along the way. Another descent to remember drops us into the valley of the Rio Sil at the foot of the Cordillera Cantabrica and another fabulous run across the mountain range to its northern foothills.
Our last day is a rather special one, taking in the only legally rideable trail through the Picos de Europa National Park. Plenty to reminisce about during our last nights dinner in Bilbao.
Off the bike
It’s not just the riding and scenery that’s spectacular, off-bike highlights include:
- Évora – The UNESCO World Heritage listed Roman city
- Mértola – The riverside town that dates back to Phoenician times
- Chaves – Roman town
- Almeida – The country’s most impressive fortified border settlement
Dirt roads: Distance vs Time
It’s easy to look at the percentage of dirt roads on a particular tour and to think it’s either too little or too much.
One thing that comes up regularly in our customer feedback is that neither distance nor percentage (of dirt roads) accurately portray the actual riding on the day. On a day of 50% dirt for example, your time on the dirt will account for 70-80% of your riding time (pending the nature of the terrain) and therefore feel much more than the 50% by distance. This generally leads to a feeling of having ridden much more dirt than you have.
To get an idea of the terrain, head over to the Big Sky Riders YouTube Channel for some helmetcam footage.
The Trans-Iberian – It’s more than a journey; it’s a journey