If you’re looking for a long-distance cycle route steeped in history, culture and ancient tradition, it’s time to consider Portugal’s ‘Route 66’: the Portugal N2 cycle route.
National Road N2 offers some of the best road cycling in Portugal. It’s one of the most varied and best cycling routes in Europe. This 739-kilometre route traverses the length of the country, from its mountainous north in Trás-os-Montes, to the verdant valleys of the south in the Barrocal Algarve.
Portugal’s N2 road crosses four mountain ranges, 11 rivers, and 32 counties, with a menu of local gastronomical delights and world-famous wine to fuel your journey of rich Roman heritage.
Carlos, a keen cyclist and A2Z Portugal’s Product Manager, knows a thing or two about Portugal’s cycling routes. Here, he shares his tips for how to cycle the N2 road, and why this life-affirming journey is one to add to the bucket list.
A2Z Portugal [1. Please provide logo]
1. Why cycle the N2 in Portugal?
Cycling the 739-kilometre N2 route is a unique way to discover the historic and diverse heartland of Portugal. It’s one of the only roads in the world that spans a whole country in its entirety. It runs through Portugal “end to end”, crossing the mountainous regions in the north and ending just 10 kilometres from the beaches in the south.
Born from the foundations of ancient Roman Roads that once crossed the Iberian province of Lusitania, its ancient roots have earned it the title of the ‘most mythical road in the country’. It holds a treasure trove of history to unearth: Roman spas in Chaves, the 2,000 year old UNESCO World Heritage site of the Alto Duoro Wine Region and Faro’s ancient city walls to name only a few.
Add to that, beautiful landscapes with countless panoramic views, big climbs and rewarding, sweeping descents, plus plenty of bike lanes on the way – it really is one of the best long distance bike rides in Europe!
2. Give us a feel for what each day on an N2 bike trip is like.
Cycling the N2 can take between 5-7 days, depending on the distance you’d like to cover each day and how much time you want to spend exploring.
There is tons to see and no two days are the same as the landscape is constantly changing. You’ll pass through cities, ancient villages and small towns, over some of the country’s most important rivers and five mountain ranges (while passing alongside five others).
On top of that you cycle through many wine production regions and 18 Protected Areas and sites integrated in the Natura 2000 Network, including a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Douro Valley.
Here’s a flavour of what to expect on our seven day self-guided N2 cycle route with A2Z Portugal (we also have six and eight day trips here):
Day 1: Arrive in Chaves
Most guests arrive by airplane in the enchanting city of Porto, famous for its delicious fortified wine. There's then a quick transfer to Chaves. Guests usually spend the day discovering the thermal baths and Roman bridge of Trajan, fuelling up for tomorrow’s start.
Day 2: Cycling Chaves to Régua (90 kilometres)
Start your epic ride at the zero kilometre milestone, which is near the public park in Chaves. [2. Is this where the A2Z route starts?]
Ride the mountain roads of the Trás-os-Montes region and into the stunning Douro Valley. This historic Alto Douro wine region is classed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, with over 2,000 years of history and twisted, contoured landscape.
Cross the Douro River and into the city of Peso da Régua for a stop at the Douro Museum, before conquering the Mézio summit at 1,000 metres of elevation.
Day 3: Cycling Régua to Tondela (108 kilometres)
Ride south to discover the historical town of Viseu, steeped in sacred art and religious architecture.
Stop at the cathedral and sample the delights of famous local sweets before leaving the vineyards behind and heading to Tondela, an ancient city in the Dão wine region. It would be rude not to sample the delicious wine as a reward for your efforts so far!
Day 4: Cycling Tondela to Pedrógäo Pequeno (122 kilometres)
Follow the Mondego River through the spectacular Lousā mountain range and be rewarded for two of the hardest climbs along the N2, with panoramic mountain views and rich biodiversity.
Spot deer and wild boar before passing through Pedrógāo Grande to the great lake of the Cabril Dam, one of the biggest dams in the country.
Day 5: Cycling Pedrogao Pequeno to Montargil (130 kilometres)
Follow the Zêzere River to leave the northern and central mountains of Portugal behind and enter the flatter Alentejo landscapes.
Discover the Gothic churches and former holiday place of the Portuguese Royal Family in Vila Real, before tracing the Tejo River to Montargil amongst tranquil countryside and whitewashed villages.
Day 6: Cycling Montargil to Odivelas (Alentejo) (122 kilometres)
After a few days of mountains and undulations, now enjoy the flattest section of the N2 route, with kilometres of inviting, straight roads and flat terrains ahead.
Pay a visit to discover the wartime history of Montemor-o-Novo, with its ancient castle and several historical monuments.
Day 7: Cycling Odivelas to Almodovar (70 kilometres)
Ride endless tranquil roads, with owls, red kites, common buzzards and storks for company. After passing through the mining village of Aljustrel you’ll reach the gorgeous plains of Castro Verde, with its natural grasslands and endangered ancient bird species, including the Iberian Imperial Eagle.
Day 8: Cycling Almodovar to Faro (80 kilometres)
Take in the ever-changing landscape en route to the Algarve, with mountains to challenge you for one last time.
Climb the Caldeirāo range amongst signs of ancestral rural lifestyle. Pass the iconic mountain pass of Barranco do Velho and lap up the kilometres and kilometres of pure beauty, rich heritage and gastronomic delights as you sail into Faro and its historic marina.
3. What's the best time of year to attempt Portugal’s end to end cycle ride?
The best time to ride the N2 route is probably early autumn and spring, with milder conditions more suited to long days in the saddle.
In the summer the southern regions can be especially hot, and the Portuguese winter can be cold and wet.
4. How fit do you have to be to cycle the N2?
The total length of the N2 route is 739 kilometres, with some big mountain climbs in the north. A good level of fitness will make it much more enjoyable.
Whether you’re joining for one of our bike tours in Portugal, or doing a self guided trip, we always recommend physically preparing for the challenge beforehand so you can enjoy it to the fullest over a number of days or weeks.
On the N2, you’ll have to be able to endure some steep climbs, especially in the north, so our advice is to split your N2 experience by elevation gain instead of distance. Try to spend a few more days climbing in the north, then enjoy the flatter southern region as a reward. [3. Do you also offer 10 or 14 day versions of the N2 trip in order to allow guests to spend longer in the north?]
5. What are the best cycling climbs of the N2?
The best cycling climbs of the N2 route in Portugal can be found in the mountain ranges of the north, especially Montemuro after about 120 kilometres and the maximum altitude of the entire route. [4. Please provide more detail here. What are the names of the climbs and their length/gradient? How hard are they? How many kilometres are mountainous?]
6. Where are the flatter areas along the N2?
The flatter areas are found in the Alentejo region, for about 80km. [5. Please provide more detail here. Where is the Alentejo region? On which days? How many kilometres into the route does the flat section start?]
7. What's your favourite part of the N2 cycling route - and why?
There are so many fascinating parts along this historic and beautiful road, it’s difficult to choose! But one place that always stands out with riders is the Douro Valley, which we ride through on Day two of our seven day N2 cycling tour.
The winding Douro River, the verdant slopes of its valley, with small villages and vineyards in the twisted contours of the Alto Douro Wine Region with its UNESCO World Heritage status make it a really spectacular place to ride.
Plus, the delicious local cuisine in this region is one of the most important treasures, with all of the typical dishes made with locally cultivated products.
Another favourite part of the N2 route is in the centre region, between Viseu and Santa Comba Dão (which also includes the district of Aveiro), where you’ll cycle two stunning greenways built on disused railways [6. Are these greenways suitable for road bikes? Are they the two Ecopistas I’ve mentioned in green in square brackets below?].
[[The Ecopista do Dão is 49 kilometres long and runs along the banks of the River Dão before leaving the river to take in views of the mountains and neighbouring vineyards.
The Ecopista do Vouga, also traffic free, is [please confirm] kilometres long and also enjoys panoramic mountain views. ]]
These are both very easy sections of the ride as they are flat with no climbs, and are completely traffic free, so you can sit back and enjoy the views.
You can also take the train from Aveiro to Santa Comba Dão to explore. [7. Presumably this would add time to your standard 7 days itinerary? Do you offer any itinerary that includes time to take the train? What is in Santa Comba Dao?]
8. What is there to see along the N2 route?
You’ll experience the diversity, history and cultural heritage of an entire country when riding Portugal’s N2 route.
Discover the thermal baths and Roman bridge of Trajan in Chaves, the 2,000-year-old Douro Valley wine making region and its Museum, vineyards and fantastic food. There’s also the Cabril Dam in Pedrógão Grande, one of Portugal’s biggest dams, gothic churches and ancient castles.
Wildlife enthusiasts will also appreciate the chance to see endangered wildlife such as the Iberian Imperial eagle, in the gorgeous plains of Castro Verde, with its UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
You’ll also discover the kindness from local communities who live and work along the N2 as they welcome you into their world.
It’s an unforgettable journey of discovery into the heartland of Portugal and you can never see everything at once, so we see many riders returning for more on our Portugal cycle tours.
9. Self-supported v supported N2 trip?
After you’ve decided when to do your N2 cycling trip in Portugal (more on that above), the next question is how quickly you want to ride it (versus spend more time and really explore it).
After that, it’s time to consider whether a self-guided, guided or a supported tour is best for you.
Self-guided cycling in Portugal is ideal if you’re looking to be flexible and customise your N2 experience.
Our self-guided N2 cycling tour can be completed over six to eight days and features a loose daily itinerary with an N2 route map and destination accommodation for you to reach however you choose.
On a self-guided tour you manage your own time and can be flexible on your journey, choosing which places you’ll visit along the way.
Guided cycling tours in Portugal include a more structured daily itinerary, with guided activities discovering the ancient traditions, local myths, and unique stories that the N2 route has to offer.
A local guide with both professional training and exciting personal experiences will take you to some of must-see attractions on the route. As well as taking the pressure off the travel and planning process, guided cycling tours are also a great opportunity to meet other travellers and locals.
On our guided cycling tours, all equipment and meals are taken care of by the travel company team, so you can just ride your bike and enjoy the experience without any responsibilities.
[8. Do you have an N2 guided trip we can link to here? I couldn’t see one?]
Supported cycling tours are a hybrid of the self-guided and guided options.
You get the flexibility and customisation in planning your trip, but with support along the route from the travel company [9. Is this a service A2Z offers?], with all the equipment and meals you need.
A perfect option for those looking for freedom to plan your own awesome trip, but the security of knowing all the logistics are taken care of.
Find out which tour is right for you on www.portugal-a2z.com
10. Are there any good cafés/restaurants while cycling the N2 road?
There are plenty of cycling friendly cafes and restaurants along the N2 route, and if you’re staying overnight along the route, many hotels have safe cycle storage.
[10. Please could you give us some examples of cafes/restaurants and hotels, together with some photographs? It will be useful to give cyclists an idea of the kind of places they can expect to eat and stay.]
11. Mechanical issues along the N2 – where to get help?
Along the way when passing the cities, towns and villages there are plenty of bike shops with repair services. [11. We’ve researched a few bike shops along the eight day route. Are these good recommendations? If not, please could you suggest some? It will give cyclists comfort that if their bike breaks there are places to help them.]
Bike shops in Chaves
Rua do Cruzeiro - Edifíco Jota,
loja 3 5400-213
Rua Viscondessa do Rosário Ed,
D. João, R/C 5400-567
Bike shops in Lamego
LSC ProBike Lamego
Rua do Desterro 16, 5100-196 Lamego
Bike shops in Douro Valley
Avenida Ovar edf. Barretos galerias lt 5,
5050- 276 Pêso da Régua
Bike shops in Viseu
R. Padre António Freire Lote 91
Jorbi Bike Store
Rua Nossa Sra. de Fátima 59,
Av. Dr. António José de Almeida 330, Viseu
Bike shops in Alentejo
Beja Bike Store
Largo Escritor Manuel Ribeiro 12,
Av. Dom João II 382,
Rua de Portalegre 78,
Bike shop in Odivelas
Avda. Miguel Torga Zona 2,
Bike shop in Almodovar
Rua João Vas Corte Real, 23-A
Bike shops in Faro
Poço das Canas, EN 125-km 68
Rua da Gafaria, Lote 12-Loja E
Estrada Nacional 125 Nº 42 - 46
12. What are your best tips for people cycling in Portugal/cycling the N2 for the first time?
Be prepared for different climate conditions and hot and cold weather. The ever-changing landscapes bring a host of different temperatures so being prepared will pay off in the long run (or ride)!
Research the bike shops along the route and make sure you know how to get to them if you need to take a pit stop en route.
Beyond that, it is very important to maintain a sustainable training routine, seeking out hills or varied terrain, attempting to simulate the type of riding you'll find on the N2. Build a good level of fitness to enjoy this tour to its fullest, and make sure you’re comfortable for consecutive big kilometre days.
[12. Any tips for local foods cyclists should try?]
13. What is the N2 passport and what are the advantages?
The N2 passport is a pocket guide that’s used to collect stamps along the N2 route.
It’s a fun way to add something extra to your journey, bringing a host of new experiences and interactions with local businesses and communities in each of the 35 municipalities crossed by the N2 road.
It was created by the Association of Municipalities of the National Road Route 2 (AMREN2) and you can pick up your passport from a Tourist Information Centre to begin your extra adventure along the N2. The tourist office in Chaves can be found at Terreiro da Cavalaria if you’re starting your ride there.
It’s worth pointing out that in a few cases some of the destinations are up to 30 kilometres off the main N2 route, so you’ll be adding distance onto your ride to collect a stamp. However, the warm welcome of the people you’ll meet and extra experiences you’ll have on your epic ride will make it all the more worthwhile!
14. Are there any books about cycling the N2?
You can find out more about N2 Cycling in this comprehensive travel guide, titled “Foge comigo” [13. Is this available on Amazon? Or where else people can buy it? Is it available in English?]
This book features detailed information about the N2 road and everything you can find along it.
A new, pocket-sized version for cyclists is due to be released with suggestions of quieter alternatives to some of the busier sections of the road.
15. What’s the best way for people to find out more about your Portugal cycling holidays?
A2Z Portugal was founded in 2006 and is passionate about bringing exceptional experiences to our clients. Our knowledgeable team of multilingual tour guides are committed to taking the stress out of long-distance cycle planning in Portugal.
Whether you choose one of our guided walking tours or a self-guided cycling adventure, the entire team provides all the information you need on restaurants, hotels and all the secret places only locals know about.
Because here, at Portugal A2Z, we won’t just design your perfect tour. We’ll create your dream vacation!
For more information on our trips and services visit our website: www.portugal-a2z.com and connect with us on social media.
[14. Please add information about what you do at Portugal A2Z and who the guides are that run the N2? I think it would make the article feel more authentic.
15. Please send us the GPS file for the route and any maps you have showing it.
16. Please also send photos we can use of
A big thank you to Carlos from Portugal A2Z for sharing so much valuable information about this route. Another one for our bucket list!