The Dao Region of Portugal – Biking & Boarding

In the north of Portugal, just above Coimbra but below Porto and a little east towards the Spanish border, lies a region known as the Dao. Through it the river Dao and alongside it were once tracks for a train that ran between the towns of Santa Comba Dao and Viseu from the 1890s to the 1980s. It is about 50 kilometers in length and back then it provided transportation for locals and delivered them supplies. When it was discontinued a “Rails-to-Trails” was put in its place. This is the process of converting abandoned rail lines (“Rails”) into bike paths (“Trails”), and it has become very common in both Europe and North America. In Portugal these bike paths are known as “Ecopistas.”

Dao River

The Dao Ecopistas is the longest in the country and from what we’ve been told, the most scenic as well. We have biked a fair bit now in Portugal and this was definitely the nicest bike path we’d done, perhaps better than those we’ve done in France as well. It’s in very good condition, the majority of it is through countryside and riding along the Dao is especially inviting.

The path follows the Dao out of Comba for about a third of the distance, until the Dao becomes just a small stream, and then makes its way through numerous small villages and as many abandoned train stations, to Viseu further north. A few of these stations have been turned into restaurant/bar/cafes to serve hungry and thirsty bikers.

The best time to do the Ecopista is in the spring, before it gets too hot and while the multi-colored wild flowers are blooming.

We decided to do the ride in two sections, riding first halfway up from Santa Comba and then driving with our bikes up to Viseu to then ride down to the halfway point – which is close to the town of Tondela.

We did the path in the mornings and in the afternoons we enjoyed paddle boarding on the Dao River. The river is quite flat and somewhat narrow near Comba, with few markings left by man along its banks.

We left Lisbon around 10AM and arrived in Santa Comba Dao at just after mid-day. Check-in wasn’t until 3PM so we went to a terraced restaurant, Cota Maxima, along the river for lunch. Flo had the meat dish which came with roasted potatoes, rice and a salad. I just had soup and shared her rice and salad. We had a 50 mil of wine with it and coffee afterwards. Price? 10 euros. How is that possible? But it wasn’t a mistake.

After that we walked through the sleepy village of Combal. “Sleepy” is definitely overused but that best describes this village. Very few cars or bikes. Very few people around except sitting on benches in the many parks in the center of the town or in front of their homes. Very, very slow pace. We then went and checked in to Quinta Lusitania, a lovely 200-year old farm house that has been in the family all that time and now is operated as “chambre d’hote” by owners Miguel and Christine.

Viseu is quite a bit larger than Santa Comba and has been recognized a few times as the best place to live in Portugal. It is a beautiful, easy-to-walk-and-explore town, which we enjoyed doing on our final day before heading back to Lisbon, just 2.5 hours away.

Madeira, Portugal

Madeira is a place we’ve been wanting to visit since we first began visiting Portugal about five years ago. It’s an archipelago  that is part of Portugal, made up of the islands of Madeira, Porto Santo and the Desertas with an overall population of less than 300,000.  It’s situated to the south of Portugal about 500 km off the coast of Morocco. Madeira was claimed by Portuguese sailors in the service of Prince Henry the Navigator in 1419 and settled in 1420. From Lisbon it’s just a little over 1 1/2 hours flying time. Covid caused us to cancel our trip last year, but in March we decided to try again as it was open to Portuguese residents as long as you had a Covid test recently done. 

Continue reading “Madeira, Portugal”

Exploring Northern Portugal

Our trip into northern Portugal took us to the very top of the country, to a region that has the Spanish border both to the north (which follows the Minho River) and to the east (marked by the Peneda-Geres National Park). To the west is the Atlantic ocean while the Lima River forms this region’s southern border. Through the middle flows the Vez River from the north until it empties into the Lima River. 

Continue reading “Exploring Northern Portugal”

A visit to the Arabida Peninsula

Well, after a few delays caused by a couple of dreaded the “C” diseases (Cancer and Covid), we have finally been able to venture out of our apartment and do a little exploring once again. It seems that our travels for awhile will be limited to Portugal as the borders in Europe are not all open yet and flying anywhere right now is not only a little risky but downright complicated. So we’re happy to just take this time to get to know Portugal a little better.

Continue reading “A visit to the Arabida Peninsula”

Biking Portugal

Anyone considering biking in Portugal, there’s an essential tool you must have and that’s the National Cycling Network guidebook, which maps out nearly 5,000 km of routes and includes GPS tracks in KML and GPX file formats, so you can follow the routes on your smartphone. As well, the guide has great photography and descriptions, so you have a really good idea of what your trip will entail before you begin.

Continue reading “Biking Portugal”

Visit to Cinque Terre

The week before we were to head to Cinque Terre from Nice, the weather forecast said it would be raining the whole time we’d be there. And the day before we left it did, indeed, rain. But then the skies opened up, the weather Gods looked fondly upon us, and we ended up with clear blue skies during our whole trip, until we returned and the clouds started rolling back in. Lucky again.

Continue reading “Visit to Cinque Terre”

Train (and bike) Ride to Tende, France

We’ve been wanting to venture farther from the coast with our bikes, but not having a car to take them has made that difficult. So we looked into taking a train and found one that goes leaves to Tende, a small town that sits alongside the Italian border in the national Mercantour park, and allows bikes on board. The train follows what was the old “Route de Sel” or salt route.

Continue reading “Train (and bike) Ride to Tende, France”