Portugal’s National Road N222 has been called the best driving road in the world, following a study by the Avis car rental company. In 2015, a Daily Mail article lauded the N222 as having ’17 miles, 93 bends and breathtaking views of the Douro Valley’. The section of road being referred to runs between Régua and Pinhao. It seems that the ‘best road’ designation is primarily for the beautiful surroundings on that 27km stretch.
Whilst many articles will claim that the N222 is only 27 km long, it is actually much longer. It runs from Vila Nova de Gaia (on the opposite bank of the river from Porto) and heads east, loosely following the Douro River. After the now-famous stretch between Peso da Régua and Pinhao, the road continues further east, until it becomes the N332 beyond Castelo Melhor.
I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and decided to ride the famous 27km stretch of the N222. We’re currently enjoying some beautiful weather in Porto, so it was a great day for some motorcycling. Only a week ago, I was using the heated grips on my bike to counter the cold temperatures. Not any more! The warm weather caused me to switch over to my summer-weight mesh jacket and riding pants.
Ideally, I would have liked to ride the entire route of the N222. But my TomTom was suggesting that it would take about 4.5 hours, one way. Perhaps another day. Today, I used the A4 motorway (toll-road) to knock out the first half of the journey, meaning that I could reach Peso da Régua in about 90 minutes. I left the A4 motorway to join the N101 near to Amarante, and followed the N101 to Peso da Régua.
The stretch of N101 was quite enjoyable, with plenty of curves, tight bends and its own shares of views over the Douro Valley.
Upon reaching Régua, the river widens and tourist cruise boats were present. It was an opportunity for a quick leg-stretch and some photos. At Régua, I crossed the bridge and picked up the N222 for the famous 27km to Pinhao.
So is it worth the hype? Is the N222 the ‘best driving road in the world’?
It is certainly a beautiful stretch of road, which runs along the southern shore of the Douro River, through the Douro Valley wine-growing region. There are wine terraces climbing above both sides of the river, creating a very scenic drive. So, for beautiful scenery, it certainly earns high marks.
And the small town of Pinhao is quite attractive. I pulled off the N222 and into the town for some lunch. Tourists were buzzing around the streets. Tour-buses were off-loading groups in front of tour boats. An old diesel train was waiting for passengers. For a small town that is a fair distance from any city, it was quite busy.
After lunch, I began the return journey, following the same route back. This gave me another run along the 27km stretch of the N222, with some more photo stops, when I spotted suitable lay-bys.
So, definitely a very beautiful, scenic drive. But the best driving road in the world? Based on that 27km stretch, I don’t think so. That segment is actually quite straight. There are some bends, but not that many. As much as I enjoyed riding this road, I can’t rate it higher than some of the wonderful roads that I have driven, such as the Transfagarasan Highway in Romania, or the Blue Ridge Parkway in the United States.
So, perhaps not the ‘best in the world’, but still very much worth a drive. Perhaps, when I’ve had the opportunity to ride the entire length of the N222, I might change my mind.