Welcome to the Portugal Motorcycle Travel Guide! This packed guide is full of all the info you need to plan an epic motorcycle tour through gorgeous Portugal including destinations, expert tips and loads more.
Portugal Motorcycle Tour and Travel Guide
Portugal is one of the most beautiful and versatile countries in Europe. Nothing compares to my home country of Portugal. It’s the most western European country and small in comparison to its neighbours, but its history, heritage, diversity of stunning landscapes, delicious food and wine, wonderful culture, beautiful beaches and insane motorcycle riding mean it’s like no other.
This little pocket of beauty can be crossed in less than eight hours. In a day’s riding you can enjoy so many different types of roads, trails and discover hidden gems like breath-taking beaches that back onto mountain ranges, secret waterfalls, river crossings and a gorgeous wilderness. There are so many wonders in such a tiny territory and it’s absolutely perfect for motorcycle riding, whether you like off-road or tarmac, Portugal has got it all. And we hope this guide will help you discover the very best of it on your motorcycle trip!
When to go
All year long! The weather is always mild and it’s tremendously rare to catch severe conditions. But bear in mind that August can be hot in the south and is generally busier especially along the coast – the same goes for July.
We’d suggest that one of the best months to visit is September, most kids are back to school, it’s still hot, but not ridiculously hot and the sea is warm.
You should take originals of your passport, driver’s licence, insurance certificate, MoT if required, your V5 (logbook) and insurance for your motorcycle. Make sure your insurance provider covers you to ride in Portugal and check how long you’re covered outside of the UK. While you’re at it, double check if you have EU breakdown cover too.
It’s also highly advisable to get personal travel insurance that covers you to ride a motorcycle abroad. Plenty of UK based travel insurance companies that say you’re covered to ride don’t actually cover you if it’s over 125cc and others won’t cover you if it’s your main form of transport on that holiday.
Bear in mind that if you book a rental motorcycle or sign up to a bike tour, some companies offer motorcycle and travel insurance included in the price.
International Driving Permits (IDP) are available from your local Post Office and will be required once the UK leaves the EU, probably from Jan 2021. Check the Gov website for more information.
For more info on personal travel insurance for motorcyclists, check out our comprehensive guide:
The type of motorcycle riding on offer
That are all types of roads to ride and choose from in Portugal. There’s plenty of sweet, smooth black tarmac lacing its way around the country. And there’s thousands of miles of dirt tracks too.
The north of Portugal is known for its perfect off-roading because it offers a multitude of tracks including mountain, beach, river-crossings, mud, gravel and so on. It also as a lot of good tarmac roads with great views and dives deep into authentic Portugal if that is what you prefer! You can’t really go wrong wherever you go and you can find whatever type of riding you want everywhere.
Portugal is one of the least expensive countries in Europe for motorcycle travel. You can really make the most out of your budget here. Moreover, the Portuguese are known for being a very welcoming and generous people that love to share the best of their hospitality, home-made food and wines – especially with foreigners! Here are some examples to give you an idea of costs:
- Fuel is around £1.35 a per litre.
- A good meal in a restaurant with all you can eat and drink will cost on average £22-£40 per person.
- A very good craft beer is £4.52, but it can cost less than £1 for a standard pint.
- A good hotel room with breakfast included starts at around £54 per night.
- A top camping spot can cost around £18 per night.
- Free and wild camping is possible dependent on location and time of year.
- Watch out for motorway toll roads – the prices can rack up.
If you’re travelling on a budget, check out our motorcycle money saving and budget guide:
3 of the best places to visit in Portugal
Portugal is literally brimming with amazing routes. The Costa Verde is home to historic and pictureseque cities and is also where mountain ranges meet the sea. There’s also Caminha, Viana do Castelo and Praia do Cabedelo… too many to list! So instead, here are three of our absolute favourites.
Porto to Douro Valley: N222 the rode from Régua to Pinhão
The Douro Valley and the route N222 from Régua to Pinhão is classed as one of the best motorcycling roads in the world. It’s 27 kilometres of the most incredible twists, turns and landscapes on the planet.
If you’re coming in from Spain, then the ride isn’t too long to Porto – Portugal’s second largest city. Porto is an historic and old city filled with colourful buildings sprawled across hilly streets and set alongside a great river. The city shines with culture, gorgeous gardens, medieval palaces, cathedrals and is known for its fine cuisine (often classed as the best in the country). Porto is also known for its famous Port wine. You can literally feel the history behind the iconic drink and how it shaped the entire region. From Porto, head to the vineyards and then onto the nearby Douro Valley.
The roads from Porto along the Douro Valley are known for having millions of curves and splendid views to go with them. Make the most out of it and ride along the riverbanks of Douro River, taking advantage of the different riding roads and off-road tracks if you fancy a bit of the rough stuff too. Seriously, riding here is jaw-dropping. It’s considered one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world with a wonderful backdrop of terraces built over hundreds of years and the Douro river beautifully snaking between the mountains below. It’s a must for any Portugal motorcycle tour.
Lisbon to Alentejo
Portugal’s capital of Lisbon will always sit at the top of travel itineraries. You can explore this fascinating city on a budget as it’s one of the most tranquil and affordable capitals in Europe. Pottering around the city on a motorcycle is great fun thanks to the narrow winding roads and phenomenal lookout points.
After some city life, break away from the crowds and head from Lisbon to Alentejo. The biggest city in Alentejo, Evora, is also a living museum and a world heritage site. It’s a lovely spot with a rich history and a mysterious nature that makes it a perfect Halloween destination too, especially when considering the the Capela dos Ossos – the notorious attraction of the bones chapel. Inside (and on) the walls of this 16th century church are approximately 5,000 human skeletons. Also visit Giraldo Square, the Vauban style walls, the typical whitewashed houses, the Cathedral, and the Roman temple. There’s plenty of delicious comfort food and wine here too and it’s all very different from what’s on offer in the rest of the country.
Évora and the nearby villages are ideal nature retreats where you can hide and ride some amazing off-road trails and locations. You can spend months exploring this region on two wheels and chasing rough tracks – it’s some of the most fun you can have on two wheels!
One of the most beautiful roads to ride is on Alentejo coast. Once you’re by the sea, you’ll pass some incredible and almost deserted beaches until you reach the Algarve. Melides, Porto Covo, Mil Fontes are paradises you should check out before you arrive at Odeceixe, which is another gorgeous spot that marks the separation from Alentejo and Algarve.
The Algarve is one of the most popular places in Portugal. It’s perfect for mixing warm weather, hiking expeditions, trendy beaches and even trendier social scenes. It’s also a great place to speak with people because there are so many Brits and Europeans living there.
It’s worth visiting each of the major cities: Albufeira, Lagos, Vilamoura and Portimão. They’re perfectly located for several day trips including riding to sandy beaches with turquoise waters.
The FIM ISDE 2019 enduro event took place in Portimão, so you know it is a good location for some enduro and more challenging tracks too. Along the way you’ll find tiny treasure troves of jewel-bright waters and mesmerizing cliffs (like Camilo Beach in Lagos) which are sprinkled across the region. Riding past all of these will take a lifetime because of all the stopping you’ll need to do for pictures and to just take it all iin.
If you find some areas crowded, head for more tranquil towns like Sagres, Tavira and Aljezur. A great suggestion is Carvoeiro, take a Benagil Cave tour and go to Marinha Beach. Don’t forget to take a walk a little on the Carvoeiro boardwalk too.
Portugal is full of wonders. There’s so much to see and do that it becomes easy to miss some of its best bits. Here’s a handy list of some beautiful stops that will make your Portugal motorcycle tour really special.
Mountains and smelly cheese
Check out the highest mountain peak in continental Portugal (the highest in all of Portugal is on Pico Island, Azores). Nature-lovers should take note because exploring and riding through the remote mountain range of Serra da Estrela is amazing. In winter it’s the only place you can go skiing in Portugal and is speckled with tiny villages. The mountain feels rather remote and nature is the main attraction, but foodies may enjoy tasting the homemade honey and creamy pungent cheeses that are truly unique delicacies only made there.
Forests and Romans
Peneda-Gerês National Park offers oak forests, a winding Roman road with ancient markers, bridges and waterfalls. Camping is allowed in specific parts of the park and some natural pools allow swimming during the warmer months. It’s a really special place to ride and should be on your Portugal tour itinerary.
Serra da Arrabida is one of the most beautiful natural spots in Portugal. It’s home to some of Portugal’s best beaches: Portinho da Arrabida, Sesimbra, and Galapos. The water isn’t as warm as in Algarve but in terms of beauty, they are as good as it gets.
Nazare is a small, whitewashed beach town in the centre of Portugal. It’s famous for having the world’s biggest waves (only in winter) where Garrett McNamara broke the record of the biggest wave ever surfed. It’s also a beautiful beach destination with stunning sunsets.
Sintra is a lovely, picturesque and small town near Lisbon. It’s world famous for its palaces and castles that stand out over the sublime landscapes. The enchanted castles look like they’re straight out of a Disney movie. It makes for some great motorcycling touring too and awesome backdrops.
Visit Sagres and Cape S. Vicente. It’s Europe’s southwestern-most point. The region is wild, barren and full of dramatic cliffs. While there, visit the Sagres Fort, which was built to control and defend the Portuguese coast. This west region of Algarve also has plenty of stunning hidden beaches that are far more relaxing because they’re less touristy.
Finding accommoadtion in Portugal is simple and straightforward. Hotels are standard prices and usually less than many parts of mainland Europe.
Camping is possible, straight forward and there are plenty of campsites. Wild camping is trickier as there are many places you can’t camp dependent on the time of year. But you will find loads of places to pitch your tent. You’ll find plenty of spots on the iOverlander app.
Our 5 favourite hotels in Portugal
Hotel FeelViana is a great choice in the north and Viana do Castelo area, since it is a unique, sustainable, clean and safe resort that sits between a stunning beach and an equally beautiful pine forest. Ask for a room with a sea view and go through all the offers in their outdoor activities range like water sports and yoga.
The Wine House – Quinta da Pacheca is a gorgeous hotel for wine lovers. You get to sleep in a giant wine barrel transformed into a lovely room in the middle of the vineyards.
Six Senses may just be one of the top luxury hotel resorts in the country. Exquisite rooms and villas, stunning views over Douro and perfect for those who want to splash out for the night.
Pousada Barão de Forrester in Alijó has a deep connection to the Douro and the history of the oldest demarcated wine region in the world. If you love good wine and want to explore the Douro Valley, then this is the place for you.
Mountain whisper in Lousã is a wonderful resort in an authentic schist village in the heart of the mountains. It has a great pool, plenty of charming river beaches and loads of tracks in the surrounding area.
And here’s a handy map so you can see what’s on offer throughout the country.
Watch out for
Speeding in Portugal can land you in serious trouble. Fines can easily hit £2,000 and a seized motorbike.
Speed camera detectors on your sat-nav must be switched off as they’re considered illegal. Caught with one and it’s another heavy fine.
You also need to display a GB sticker on your plate or bike otherwise more heavy, and often on-the-spot, fines.
There are plenty of toll roads in Portugal. You can buy passes, but it’s easier as a tourist to just pay at the booths in cash or via card. Make sure you do pay though as those fines will catch up to you.
Getting there and away
If you’re coming from the UK, the easiest and quickest way to get to Portugal with your motorcycle is by using a ferry to Bilbao or Santander in Spain and then riding down to Portugal. Check Brittany Ferries for services and running times.
Portugal only land borders Spain, so if you’re coming in via road then you will be entering from and exiting to Spain first.
If you’re coming from further afield and want to ship your motorcycle to Portugal, then check out our shipping guide below.
Motorcycle rentals, tours or ride your own
You can always rent a motorcycle and jump on a tour if you fancy a fly-and-ride motorcycle trip. There are some fantastic companies out there, it takes the stress out of getting the ferry and is great if you have a short holiday. It’s an especially good idea if you’re heading to Portugal for an off-road specific trip. Check out these pages below for more info.
Gear and packing
Portugal is renowned for its sublimely hot weather. For your Portugal motorcycle tour you will want ventilated and breathable gear. There’s no point opting for heavy and expensive Gore-Tex pro-laminate as it will be too hot. Gore-Tex waterproof jackets are fine, so long as they’re not pro-laminate (which means the fixed outer layer is waterproof). If you do take a waterproof motorcycle jacket, then make sure the waterproof lining is removable.
A better option would be to go for mesh lined kit and pack a thermal top for cold nights and a pair of cheap waterproof throw-overs in case you get caught out. Be sure to take a pair of summer gloves too.
For more info on riding gear, luggage and packing, check out these handy guides:
Don’t leave Portugal without trying the local wine and delicacies whenever you go. Particularly pastel de nata in Lisbon Belem and francesinha in Porto. Try one of the many bacalhau dishes too. You won’t regret it!
Try Portuguese craft beer. There is a rising movement of extraordinary brewers, particularly in Porto, Braga, Coimbra and Lisbon.
Make sure you visit Lisbon’s traditional neighbourhoods like Alfama and Mouraria – two of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city. These neighbourhoods are filled with mouth-watering aromas and wistful melodies (known locally as fado) drifting from cosy bars and restaurants that line the narrow, cobblestone streets.
About the author
Ricardo Pereira is a professional motorcycle rider, tour guide and adventure travel route planner. Ricardo is passionate about riding in Portugal and runs tours for Freeride Spirit – a Portuguese motorcycle rental and tour company (and one of our recommended favourites).
Read more on Motorcycle Travel in Europe
Liked that? Try these…