The scenery was so beautiful that I kept saying “Gorgeous” aloud, even though I was riding solo. The grin-inducing views just kept coming, throughout my ride, contributing to a wonderful day of riding. Getting out on a motorcycle is a great way to see and enjoy the beauty that Portugal has to offer.
On this particular day, I was riding my BMW F800GS, as I planned to incorporate a bit of off-road riding into the day’s route. The final destination was the small town of Barca D’Alva, located on the Douro River, not far from the border with Spain. I like to ride on the smaller national roads when possible, but the distances involved in this route meant that I needed to utilise the motorways for part of the journey, so that I could fit the ride into eight hours.
An hour along the A4 motorway allowed me to cover a lot of distance before getting onto the smaller roads and amongst the scenery. After Vila Real, I took the IC5 and IP2 roads, and both offered up plenty of beautiful scenery along the way.
Towards the end of the IP2, it runs parallel with the Douro River, offering some lovely views of the river and the vineyard terraces that decorate the hillsides. After being in the saddle for about 90 minutes, a photo-stop next to the river provided a welcome bit of relief.
The next stop was the village of Castelo Melhor, as it was the closest place to the turn-off towards the off-road segment that I planned to ride. As I approached the village, along the N222 road, it was impossible to miss the stone walls of the old castle, encircling the top of a hill above the village. The village and the protective castle date back to the end of the 12th century. There is no fee to walk about the ruins of the old castle and it provides a nice panorama of the surrounding countryside.
After a brief visit to the old castle, I set out on a route between Castelo Melhor and Barca D’Alva, that would take me on some narrow, roughly-paved roads and also on some gravel track. It was an easy and pleasant track to ride, offering nice scenery along the way. Without doubt, the jewel of this track is the view over a bend in the Douro River, that can’t be seen from a proper paved road. A stunning vista that I had all to myself.
I was enjoying riding the dirt/gravel track but it soon came to an end, kicking me back onto a paved road – the N221. But I was soon greeted by the delightful river vista at Barca D’Alva, the last stop on the Douro before entering Spain and the end of the navigable section of the river. This town was once an important way-point for the (now abandoned) railway that ran from Porto to Spain. Tourists arrive at the town via riverboat and tour-bus. There were two boats docked and several buses in the parking area when I arrived yet, interestingly, I mostly had the waterfront to myself. The tourists seemed to be congregated at the cafes and restaurants, or elsewhere in the town. I parked my bike next to the river and took out the sandes de leitão (piglet sandwiches) that I had packed for my lunch. My lunch was enjoyed whilst resting on a park bench, admiring the view. It was a moment that was worth the four hours of riding that it took to get there!
It was time to start heading back home but my TomTom had a surprise in store for me. I initially asked it to take me home by avoiding motorways and toll-roads, but that would have taken 3-hours longer than the motorway option. I decided to let the device take me along some local roads initially, and I would change the settings later.
The TomTom’s route took me across the bridge at Barca D’Alva and along the N221 and then left onto the N325. I was pleasantly surprised when the road branched off and took me through a somewhat barren and mountainous region, where the single lane road skirted the side of a hill/mountain. The surroundings were a stark comparison to the gorgeous river views but it was an interesting and scenic location, nonetheless. I was the only vehicle on that stretch of road, although I did see some hikers on the trails.
The TomTom’s route took me back to the IP2, so I changed the settings at that point to include the motorway and toll-roads, and followed the IP2, IC5 and A4 back to Porto. The entire 455km ride took 8 hours. It was a thoroughly enjoyable ride with some memorable scenery. I expect that I’ll repeat this route again – perhaps to share the views with family or friends.