Portugal - The Next Motorcycle Vacation?

The motorcycle bucket list seems to grow with shipping and renting bikes around the world becoming easier and affordable. With this in mind, should the rich country of Portugal be on that motorcycle destination list?

Claiming its own language, Portugal borders the Atlantic Ocean to the west as well as Spain and is accustomed to visitors. With its winding seashore, Portugal has been no stranger to the comings and goings of ships throughout history. This helps explain Portugal’s own openness to travelers, and to the world itself, making the country an emerging destination for motorcyclists looking to explore and enjoy the open road.

Some quick facts on why this might be the next international two-wheeled destination;

  • Proximity to the US; Seven cities will have non-stop flights this summer, and motorcycles are easily rented/available in both Lisbon and Porto
  • Wide range of roads and landscapes within a short distance
  • A mild climate all year round.

With a pleasant climate and a sun shining all year-round, Portugal offers lovely conditions to be explored by motorcycle. The diversity of landscapes makes it possible to ride from the hills to the sand dunes and beaches, from the city to the countryside, all within a few miles.

Set on a peninsula, Portugal has a fast changing geography coupled with a very good infrastructure of older roads bypassed by newer highways perfectly suited for bikers with very little traffic and good pavement.

The gateway to any motorcycle journey starts in Porto, the second biggest city in the country and an emerging destination for visitors, where traditional and modern are mixed together. Just a few miles away, following the Douro’s wine routes, travel green valleys and impressive mountain landscapes, stopping at regional city centers such as Mirandela, Vila Real, and Bragança.

Many comment on the country’s magnificent views with the roads offering some of the most scenic rides in the world.

Within the Centro de Portugal, Aldeias do Xisto, consisting of old recovered schist villages, offer a very special experience taking you through these very special places. The district is currently being rehabilitated and, with its growing Nature Tourism industry linked by a network of vast mountain roads, beautiful landscape, and few cars, is an ideal place for sightseeing and riding peacefully a motorbike. Along the coast, you’ll be able to ride around memorable beaches, such as Nazaré, where Gareth McNamara famously surfed one of the biggest waves ever.

Heading south, riders can travel to the sunny Algarve, passing through the southern bank of the great river Tejo and the Alentejo, a mystical place of gliding plains. Sudden mountains and the largest cork forests in the world can be found here.

Between Santiago do Cacém and Cape St. Vincent, is the Vicentina Coast where motorcycle enthusiasts will find a big network trails totaling about 180 miles. The route, developed in partnership between local authorities and businesses, earned the European certification for “Leading Quality Trails-Best of Europe.”

While the soul is fed with beautiful views, the appetite is spoiled with remarkable seafood and plaenty of local beer along the route.

What is anything to do with motorcycles without a biker-event?

Every year Portugal hosts an event gathering motorcyclists from all over the world to explore the country’s potentials, be they environmental, heritage or landscape-wise. Recently enjoying its 18th edition, Portugal's Lés-a-Lés takes riders on a 600-mile journey from Albufeira to Vila Pouca de Aguiar.

As for the technical questions, US visitors with a valid driving license can ride in Portugal for a 6-month period. Those lucky enough to spend longer on that exotic road trip should consider applying for a Portuguese (EU) driver’s license as its absolutely mandatory for a stay beyond six months.

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