7 scenic roads in Portugal

Pooh, November! Usually, the month in which nature tells us to get out our scarves and bonnets by rendering every exhalation visible, and by splashing the land with wet leaves and snowflakes in the making.

The time of year us motorcyclists - with some exceptions - aren’t too fond of. But what if you took your two-wheeled vessel out anyway and set sail for… Portugal?

With its mild climate, over 3.000 hours of sunshine per year and 850 kilometers of splendid beaches bathed by the Atlantic Ocean, the country might just be your perfect motorcycle destination, all year long.

Add up its ancient frontiers, exceptional range of different landscapes just a short distance away, lots of leisure activities, superb cuisine, fine wines and hospitable people, and we’d be surprised if you’re not packing yet… 

 

Three Roads in the Serra da Estrela:

The first three Roads in this list all clamber their way up the Serra da Estrela, mainland Portugal’s highest mountain, which offers a magnificent backdrop for an adventurous ride. Its summit at 1.993 meters towers over an area of rare landscape beauty, with striking mountain drops and a sea of deafening silence above the clouds.

A stunning place, not only enjoyed by humans, but also by a wide variety of birds and flocks of sheep herded by the local - appropriately named - Estrela dogs. The sheep are of great importance to the region, as their milk is used to produce the region's most characteristic product - the renowned Queijo da Serra cheese that’s produced with a bunch of ancestral techniques. A must-try. 

Although our focus is mainly aimed at motorcycle riding, the Natural Park is also a great place for outdoor activities, like hiking, trail running or mountain biking during the summer months - don’t hesitate to try the 25 Lagoon Itinerary, leading you to some refreshing locations. You can even experience the sensation of paragliding in Linhares da Beira, soaring over this historical village.

But, as winter approaches, you might as well strap your skis or snowboard on the back of your bike, as there are several pistes with support infrastructure. In Portugal? Yes ma’am, yes sir.  Given that this is the highest peak in mainland Portugal, it is also one of the zones with the highest levels of precipitation, with abundant snow in the winter, enabling winter sports to be practiced. The fact an ice crystal is the symbol of the Natural Park, in allusion to its climatic characteristics and the glacial origin of this mountain range, is no coincidence… 

 

 

 

N339 on the Serra da Estrela

Well, what can we say… If you’re ever riding through Portugal, there’s no excuse in the world that’s good enough not to ride this one! An asphalted snake, that twists and shakes its way up and around the Serra da Estrela for 44 kilometers on end, while plummeting through and past rocky outcrops, boulders, and crags. Some of the latter have shapes that resemble human forms - and have therefore been given names such as ‘old woman’s head’. 

The road itself is particularly popular with local bikers - not in the least because of its formidably twisty character and the spectacular viewpoints along the way. If you’re a winter sports fanatic, don’t forget your skis, as this one shreds straight through a ski resort, after rising from Covilha to the two-kilometer high summit. Don’t hesitate to take the diversion to the right, pointing you towards Manteigas, which after a mile or so gets to the head of a perfectly formed glacier valley.

On top of that, Manteigas might just be the most beautiful mountain town in the proximity of the Serra da Estrela. No modern high-rises to be seen, just white houses with their typical red roofs, perched on top of grass-green hills. If you need a shot of caffeine and a little nibble - we’d recommend the slightly improvised stall of Ti Branquinho for a cuppa and a piece of local cheese. If you rejoin the main road, the finish is just a few kilometers away in the village of Seia, which offers another set of sweeping views over the surrounding lowlands, and a handful of interesting museums. 

N112 to Fajao

Over to a hidden gem, situated just southwest of the Serra da Estrela Natural Park. This mountain road looks and feels brand new, and was probably constructed as a service road for the windmills on the summit. Long live green power! Eh, at least if the implementation of these windmills is followed by roads of an equal caliber as this one: 13 kilometers of paved perfection, clinging on to the mountain cliffs, with hardly any traffic, splendid views in any direction and no police station around…

Just make sure you ride it the first time while prospecting if the road is clear from small rocks - which tend to drop from the hillsides once and a while. The village of Fajao is well worth a visit if you decide to let the engine cool down for a while - Café Juiz de Fajao serves the best (well, and the only one to be fair) espresso in town...

N338 to the Serra da Estrela

A stunning piece of road, which will seduce you for nine straight kilometers. Well, straight is not exactly the right word to describe this ever-crinkling marvel. When riding this one you’ll probably spontaneously turn around to ride it again. We did at least. Several times. And then again. If you ride it from east to west, the Miradouro da Rocha - a small parking lot along the way - will spoil you with the most stunning views over the mountain flanks and the underlying valley.

On the summit, you’ll spot the Torre, which adds 7 meters in height to the Serra da Estrela, taking the summit to exactly 2.000 meters. Coincidence? Nah… Literally translated, Torre means Tower, and that’s exactly what it is: a tower that marks the highest point in Portugal. On the mainland at least, because if you take the Portuguese archipelagos into consideration, Mount Pico, on the island of Pico in the Azores, is the highest point of Portugal overall at 2.351 meters. Another free point for your next pub quiz. You’re very welcome.

Arrabida Top Road

If you’re looking for one of the most beautiful spots of Portugal, look no further: the Serra da Arrabida - between Sesimbra and Setubal, just south of Lisbon -  has got everything and more you could wish for. Lush hills lined with vineyards, idyllic beaches, jagged rocks, and steep peaks are abruptly cut off by the ocean, to form towering cliffs. A truly stunning sight.

And even better: the Arrabida Natural Park has some great views and brilliant roads too. One of the best is perched right on top - needless to say, the views are truly dramatic and, as long as you avoid riding here during the holiday season, traffic is almost entirely absent. ​​​​​

Three Roads in the Algarve

Aah, the amazing Algarve! It was in this southernmost region of Portugal, the Portuguese sailed off on the epic journey that led them to discover the unknown parts of the world. A place with - eh - shiploads of history, and a sun-soaked climate, which makes you feel at home from the moment you arrive: infinite stretches of sandy beaches, gold-colored cliffs and a ton of small coves sheltered by the rocks.

The ocean, painted in every shade of blue known to man, will lure you to at least dip your feet, although there are great surfing spots galore along the coastline. But the part motorcyclists will like even more is the fact that this part of Portugal too is spotted with mountains, of which we know for a fact there aren’t too many kilometers running straightforward. Just the way we like it.

Don’t forget to take a break in one of the Algarve’s magnificent cities along the way: Silves still breathes its Arab past, while Lagos is a portal towards the times of the great discoveries and Faro has a historic center of astonishing beauty. More into a party? Then the rather busy Portimão and Albufeira will definitely get you going. Either way, the Algarve is worth discovering. 

N397 from Palheirinhos to Alcaria do Cume

Take for instance the N397, which kicks off in the stunning village of Tavira. This one is nicknamed the ‘Venice of the Algarve’, with its eye-watering beautiful bridges over the Gilão River, and its rather bizarre anchor cemetery on the Praia do Barril. Well worth a detour, any time of the year.

The part we’ve selected, however, runs from Palheirinhos - 10 kilometers further inland - to Alcaria do Cume. The latter being a mountain which towers 527 meters above sea level, stunning you with marvelous views in any direction. Whatever you do, though, keep one eye on the road:  the state of the asphalt can change suddenly, and we don’t mean in a good way…

N266 from Nave Redonda to Porto de Lagos

If you don’t care for the views too much, but prefer a nice flow during your rides, then the N266 from Nave Redonda to Porto de Lagos will put a smile on your face. Let’s say the eucalyptus trees bordering this Road are blocking the view quite frequently.

But the 36 kilometers of nearly perfect asphalt and fast sweeping corners will make up for that in the blink of an eye. The first part, from Nave Redonda to Monchique is the pearl in this crown and is a much-appreciated classic during motorcycle press tests in the region. We’ve counted well over 100 corners on this part - not even half of the entire length - and altimeters galore, and not even the slightest hint of oncoming traffic. One to enjoy over and over again.

Tiny road from Salir to Ameixial

How the hell did we end up here? Well, we’re not sure, but let's say being lost isn’t always a bad thing. At the time we took out our camera on this magnificent 20-kilometer long treat, we were welcomed by an amazing view, with a few shy sun rays stinging through the dense fog which was draped all over the surrounding mountain range.

The road itself treated us to a very pleasant ride - not amazing, but with a certain flow - and there was no living soul to be seen. Oh, do we love the smell of solitude in the morning! 

 

Where next?

Explore the best roads & POI's around and plan your next trip based on those roads.

 


 

 

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