Cycling & Walking on the Silver Coast
– trails through the Costa de Prata countryside
The Silver Coast offers great opportunities for heading out on foot or on two wheels to get up close and personal with the countryside. Leave the car behind and take your pick from trails that wind through forests, across coastal cliff tops, up into the mountains and around the shoreline of lakes and lagoons. The Costa de Prata region is mostly empty and unspoiled so getting away from it all is never a problem.
Portugal has an ongoing initiative to create a nationwide network of pedestrian and cycle paths. Three hundred trails have been completed so far, creating almost 1,800,000 kilometres of traffic-free routes through some of the most picturesque parts of the country, and many more are planned or in construction. There are three types of route. Ecopistas are laid out along abandoned railway lines and are level, offering an easy walk or ride for the whole family; Ecovias provide a traffic-free route between areas of environmental interest; and Ciclovias are safe cycle routes which often run beside a road, separated by a physical barrier such as a concrete kerb.
The Ciclovia web site lists them all. It is written in Portuguese but has very useful google earth and GPS downloads for many of the routes. Locations of all the routes can also be found on the map below. Below is a sample of just some of the trails in the region (click on the links to see the maps) but with a good map and a sense of adventure you’ll find there are hundreds of other uncharted routes to be explored.
Cycling and walking routes on the Silver Coast. Zoom and click for details.
The Ecopista do Vale do Vouga is a 10 km trail along the route of an old railway line following the Rio Vouga from Foz to Fontela. The trail passes through five tunnels and between them offers magnificent views of the Vouga river valley. There are also several Ciclovias around the northern edge of Aveiro Lagoon.
Figueira da Foz
A number of interlinking Ciclovias make it possible to walk or cycle along the city’s seafront and then turn inland for a short distance along the quayside of the marina to the station. About 10 kilometres south of the city is the first stage of a series of Ciclovias which run along the Estrada Atlântica all the way to Nazaré, passing through pine forests along the way and offering sweeping views of the ocean in the breaks between the trees.
Caldas da Rainha
There is another section of the Estrada Atlântica Ciclovia linking São Martinho do Porto with Foz do Arelho at the mouth of the Óbidos lagoon. Catch a quick cup of coffee at one of the beachfront cafés and then head off along the Ciclovia that runs along the shores of the lagoon four kilometres inland to the sailing club.
Two long and rewarding trails start in Óbidos. The lagoon route begins at the tourist information centre located near the main gateway in the town walls and ends at Bom Sucesso where the Óbidos lagoon meets the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a great ride with stunning views along the way. The inland trail starts just behind the town’s sports complex and heads through the hills to the shores of a dam on the Rio Arnóia.
On the coast a Ciclovia will take you from the resort town of Porto Novo to the sweeping sands of the Santa Cruz beaches. Or you could go one better and cycle from Torres Vedras to the coast along the 34 kilometre Sizandro Ecopista, a great ride through the Silver Coast countryside with some rewarding ocean views at the end of it all.
Into the wilds
The rural nature of the Costa de Prata countryside means you don’t have to follow designated paths at all. There are thousands of forested acres covering the hills and a maze of winding tracks running through them. Inland there is the mighty Montejunto and its foothills offering challenges and thrills for serious mountain bikers and further north in the forests and valleys of central Portugal there are rides and walks at every level of difficulty. There are more hiking and cycle routes in the hills of the Parque Natural das Serras de Aire e Candeeiros which run from Rio Maior north towards Batalha. It’s a rewarding countryside to explore, with views of the ocean, vineyards and hillsides dotted with windmills and white houses.
If you don’t want to bring your own bike with you there is a choice of bike rental in most centres. Some of the bigger Silver Coast centres have urban bike schemes offering street bikes for very low rental prices. Cycling Rentals is based in Sintra but will deliver rental bikes to anywhere in the country. Bike Iberia offers a similar rental service along with guided and tailor-made tours. BukaBike delivers rental bikes throughout the central Silver Coast region, from Nazaré and Alcobaça in the north to Peniche in the south. Other towns with rental outlets include:
Coimbra: Rent a Bike
Figueira da Foz: Santiago Bikes
Óbidos: Tourist Information Office
Óbidos lagoon: Silver Coast Tours
Peniche: Peniche Surf Lodge
Ericeira: Board Culture Surf Centre
For some serious off-road riding contact Explore Silver Coast who have a number of specialised mountain bikes for rent.