Start by the Ferry terminal on the river
Vila Real marks the start of the Portuguese leg of the official cycleway that runs along the south cost of Spain all the way to Sagres in the South West corner of Portugal. The route described here follows this route in part, but not entirely, for the two simple reasons that we could not always find the route on the ground and we did not always fancy it as it got very rough at points. So the route described here combines sections of track with sections of road riding: having ridden the route a couple of times in both directions, this is our favourite combination of track and road.
We leave Vila Real on the N125. This sounds grim, but from the centre of the city to the outskirts to the North West there is an excellent cycle track on the pavement, separated from the traffic. Don’t be tempted to take the road or cycle track to Monte Gordo – it’s a dead end.
The missing bridge
At the fifth roundabout leave the N125 to your left (South) and follow the ring road around Altura and Lagoa (Av. 24 de Junho). Once riding North again, back towards the N125, look out for a smooth gravelled straight path leading off to the East. At this point you are rejoining the cycleway. This is a good, smooth or paved (tarred) path, but for one difficult moment where a bridge has been swept way, necessitating getting off the bikes and carrying them through to the other side. Don’t let this put you off: its a tiny problem and when we were there in March 2013 workmen appeared to be about to replace the bridge.
The track then takes you onto a surfaced road passed Cacela Velha and Fábrica (both are worth the tiny detour to see). You then continue by some golf courses before you join another section of rough track that leads you near to the N125, but you do not have to join it – unless you want to. Either way you will make your way to Conceição where, again you have a choice. If you are in a hurry, you can take the N125 all the way into Tavira. It has a decent hard shoulder for bikes and is not too busy around here in our experience. Better, if you have the time, is to follow signs to Cabanas beach and leave along the seafront to the South West. This will take you back onto a network of smooth, gravelled paths that wend their way around the salt extraction beds and finally into Tavira by the big shopping complex on the outskirts of town. The roads here are busy, but it is an official ‘blue painted line’ cycle route.
The salt flats cycle route
A note on signage and routes: much of this route has benefited from official signs for cyclists like these:
The trouble with these (and the matching yellow and blue posts) is that they have been erected in all the wrong places: where and when you need them, they are nowhere to be seen! Luckily, when travelling West to East someone has added hundreds of informal yellow painted arrows showing route choices. These work great when going in either direction. At other points cycle routes are indicated by a continuous blue painted line – often now faded. These are very useful, but watch that they are going in the direction you need to go!
Tavira is a great town to visit. One of our favourites in the Algarve. It has lots of hotels and hostels and even more great places to eat.
English: Tavira (Algarve, Portugal): church of Santa Maria do Castelo Nederlands: Tavira (Algarve, Portugal): Santa Maria do Castelo kerk Français : Tavira (Algarve, Portugal): église Santa Maria do Castelo Português: Tavira (Algarve, Portugal): Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)