Headwater - Self-Guided Cycling in the Douro Valley

7 days
from
£1,089
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Trip code: 
C06DV
Way to Travel:
Self-Guided
Activity:
Cycling
Min age:
14

An indulgent week of cycling, wine & delightful cuisine

This cycling holiday in the Douro will acquaint you with fascinating and magical surroundings, delicious cuisine and some of the world's finest wines (including, of course Port Wine, for which the region is famous). The ride begins in Castelo Rodrigo, a medieval village close to where Portugal borders Spain, and home to an ancient castle and arched palace gates. Your cycling heads across the highland plain to the Spanish border and on through historical villages to the River Douro. You'll cycle through uniquely terraced vineyards and take in the typical towns and villages of the region, including Pinhao, where many of the famous Port wine estates are located. The accommodation is all chosen with the greatest care and you'll stay in different types, from delightful rural houses to 3 and 4 star hotels.

Highlights

  • World-class wines of the Douro Valley
  • Guided visit and wine tasting (3 wines) at Quinta do Tedo
  • Delicious cuisine, prepared with local and seasonal produce
  • Cycle terraced vineyards
  • Unique, handpicked accommodation

Key information

  • 6 nights spent in unique, sometimes rural accommodation
  • 5 days cycling with luggage transfers
  • 85% paved, 15% unpaved
  • Undulating terrain
  • Self-guided holiday. Min age 14 yrs
  • Countries visited: Portugal

What's included

  • All breakfasts and 1 dinners
  • 5 nights in hotels, guesthouses and rural tourism houses (see accommodation section)
  • Luggage transfers
  • Local bike hire

What's not included

  • Electric bikes (available at a supplement)
  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation (compulsory supplement applicable)
  • Visas or vaccinations
  • Flights from London (available on request)
Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

5

Days of Cycling
Terrain:

Undulating terrain on a variety of paved and unpaved (including cobbled) roads

Day by day breakdown
Day 253.0km/33.0miles
Day 330.0km/19.0miles
Day 439.0km/24.0miles
Day 540.0km/25.0miles
Day 640.5km/25.0miles

Responsible Travel

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Itinerary

Castelo Rodrigo
to
Porto
  • Day 1

    Start Porto airport; transfer approx. 3 hours to Castelo Rodrigo, not far from the Spanish border

    Pick up a shared transfer from Porto airport (included) to the easternmost point of your holiday; Castelo Rodrigo. Enjoy the beautiful landscape and scenery that unfolds along the way, entering the fascinating landscape of the Douro River Canyon and its 200 metre high cliffs. The historical village of Castelo Rodrigo deserves an exploratory walk, with its cobbled streets, palace ruins, old walls and ogival arched gates, 16th century pillory and medieval church. Your hotel is located in Castelo Rodrigo with great views over the surrounding plains, mountains and all the way to the border with Spain.

  • Day 2

    Cycle across high plains to Almeida and Escarigo on the Spanish border

    The first day of cycling takes you across high plains to the historical village of Almeida, one of the most important strongholds in Portugal's history. Although it had been occupied by humans since the Palaeolithic era, it was only during the Arabic period that the name of the village came about - Al Meda meaning "the table". There is an ancient tale that a sumptuous table embedded with precious stones once stood in this spot. However, Almeida's military importance was yet to come...taken and re-taken many times during battles between the Portuguese and the Castilians, in 1296 a new castle was built by the Portuguese, then in 1640 an enormous star-shaped fortress was built around the town to defend against Spanish and French attacks. Eventually falling to Napoleon's armies it was later used by the Portuguese as a political prison. Also visit the village of Vilar Torpim, with it's chapel and manor house, and Escarigo, right on the Spanish border. Return to Castelo Rodrigo for your overnight.

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 3

    Cycle to Aldeia do Juízo along backroads with beautiful landscapes

    At the beginning of the day, cycle around the Serra da Marofa mountain range. Experience stunning views over the Iberian Plateau and from the top you can also see the Douro river system (which, beyond this river, includes Côa and Águeda rivers), to the East. Continue on to Aldeia do Juizo, a rural village with 2 chapels, several wineries and a community oven that is surrounded by vineyards, olive groves and almond orchards. On the banks of the river, there are vegetable-gardens, where the locals produce a wide variety of agricultural products. Stay in a delightful village house, part of a rural tourism complex of restored houses, all with private bathroom facilities.

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 4

    Cycle through the historical villages of Marialva, Meda and on to Penedono

    On the ride today you cycle through two historical villages, Marialva and Meda before your approach to Penedono, with views of its almost hexagon castle, perched on an outcrop. After the first 10 km you will be able to see the Castle of Marialva. When you reach the village, explore the streets, lined with buildings that have stood the test of time and which lead to the citadel surrounded by ancient walls. The next highlight is Meda - in medieval times this village was essentially a border town and the setting for hard-fought skirmishes between Christians and Muslims. The watchtower was one of the most important strategic defence points in the region and combined with the castles of Marialva and Longroiva. Today the village is quiet and the main activity is farming and wine-making. Continue on to Penedono and its medieval castle, a unique example of military architecture that dominates the surrounding countryside.

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 5

    Ride to the UNESCO World Heritage listed vineyards of the Douro Valley

    The Alto Douro winemaking region is most famous for its Port wine, but the region also produces world-famous wines from the Touriga grape. The terraced vineyards are so typical of the region that they are listed a UNESCO World Heritage site and are a delight to behold. The neatly-kept wine estates rise proudly amidst the vineyards, their names clearly visible to everyone who passes. In the afternoon enjoy a boat trip on a 'Rabelo', a traditional 'gondola-shaped' boat that in earlier days transported up to 50 barrels of wine at a time, downriver, to Porto. The Port wine town of Pinhao is your next stop, with it's exquisite train station, the ceiling covered in azulejos (traditional Protuguese blue ceramic tiles). You spend the night in Pinhao.

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 6

    Pinhao Loop cycling along the Douro River

    The route today takes you along the magnificent and enchanting Douro Valley. The views are nothing less than breathtaking, as if the Douro Valley is ensuring that you will never forget its magical beauty! Head along the riverside and enjoy a guided visit of an 18th century wine estate, at the confluence of the Douro and Tedo rivers, and a wine tasting at Quinta do Tedo. At the end of today's cycle you will arrive back in Pinhao.

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 7

    Transfer back to the airport, or choose to spend extra time in the cosmopolitan city of Porto

    This morning you check out from your hotel and are transferred back to Porto; here you can choose to spend some time in this cosmopolitan city, or go straight back to the airport for your flight home. Extra nights in Porto can be requested at the time of booking.

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info

Visas

Vaccinations

Portugal

There are no specific health risks.

Eating and Drinking

A typical hotel breakfast consists of: cake, toast/bread with jam,or honey, cheese and ham, served with coffee, tea, milk, orange juice, fruit, cake and yoghurt.

The Douro region is well-known for an endless number of meat dishes, which include the famous roasted baby goat with rice and potatoes, wild boar stew, posta mirandesa (veal steak), cozido à portuguesa (boiled meat, sausages and cabbages), partridge on a skewer, arroz de cabidela (chicken or rabbit with rice) and feijoada à trasmontana (bean stew).

The region’s fish is caught in the Douro river and its tributaries, and is served fried or marinated. The codfish is also a famous alternative to meat dishes. The typical desserts include traditional pastries such as the peixinhos de chila or the biscoito da Teixeira are famous in the region. The region is also known for the delicious pão-de-ló (sponge cake) and the bolo-rei (fruit cake), manly eaten during local celebrations. The rice pudding and the aletria (vermicelli with cinnamon) are also some of the region’s specialties.

Most of the time, meals in Portugal are served with bread. If you visit the Douro region, you must try the traditional breads made with meat or olive oil. Normal bread can be savoured with regional honey or home-made jams. Regional cheeses and smoked sausages can also be eaten at any time of the day, either by themselves or with a piece of bread.

There is also a wide variety of fruit in the region, which are picked in different seasons. Cherries, almonds and apples are the most abundant fruits. Roasted chestnuts, nuts, diospyros kaki (persimmon) and tangerines are typical of the colder months. Olives and grapes are the main fruits in the region, even though they are used more to make olive oil and wine than for direct consumption.
Olive oil is used in most dishes, whether to cook the dish or as seasoning. Every dish is seasoned with salt, or it can be replaced by herbs, which are plentiful in the region. Rosemary, parsley and bay leaves are some of the most commonly used herbs, mainly to cook meat.

There is nothing better than starting a meal by drinking a glass of Port wine to open your appetite. The Favaios wine is also served as an aperitif, while the Douro wines are served with the main course. The liqueurs produced in the region, which are the result of the mixture of spirits and fruits, such as the arbutus, blackberries or cherries, are served as digestifs, replacing the international scotch. For those who do not appreciate alcoholic beverages, fruit juices and herbal teas are always a treat, especially because these juices and teas are made with fresh and crystalline water from the several springs in the Douro region.

Weather

Porto has a temperate maritime climate with a strong Mediterranean influence. The climate here is long, warm summers and mild winters, with most rain falling in the winter months, but possible in all other months. Seasons are marked, with pleasant temperatures in the spring, in the summer and in the autumn. Heat waves can push up temperatures occasionally. Summers are warmer and drier in the interior and moderated by the sea, as winters are cooler inland and mild by the sea. Generally the temperatures in July and August can exceed 30 degrees Celcius, so we strongly recommend avoiding these months unless you are happy cycling in very hot weather. May and October have an average midday temperatures of 20 Celsius, and even April and November have an average midday temperatures around 17 and 18 Celsius.

Is this trip for you?

Cycling conditions
This is a self-guided cycling trip for those who like to cycle independently, but with back up to take out the hard work and planning. We arrange your accommodations and provide you with route notes so that you can cycle at your own pace, while your bags are transported from one hotel to the next.

Activity Level: 3 (Moderate) 
Please see the introductory pages of the cycling holidays brochure or our website for more important information on classification and grading.
Average daily ride: 41km (25 miles).
No. of days cycling: 5
Terrain & route: Mostly on cycle paths or roads. Whilst the majority of the cycling is on paved roads there will also be times you are cycling on cycle paths - these can be of mixed terrain and are sometimes affected by adverse weather conditions (i.e. they can get muddy). You will be warned at the introductory briefing if there are any sections of the route where you need to take extra care because of this. The route is mainly undulating. Please bear in mind that towns and cities in Portugal frequently have cobbled surfaces and you will encounter these at times on this route.
Vehicle Support: A representative will be there to meet you, make sure the bikes are all set up and will be on call throughout the trip should you need. You are also provided with a GPS device loaded with the tracks.

It is important that you are happy reading maps and following route notes, we make these as accurate as possible and they are regularly checked. Where possible we stick to cycle tracks and quiet roads to make the journeys as pleasant as possible, however, on occasion we have to use busier routes.

As this is a self-guided holiday there is no group and no leader. There may be others on the same departure date as you, but you will not be organised together. The route notes contain an emergency assistance telephone number should you need it and in emergencies, the local representative is normally able to dispatch a taxi or pick you up themselves. They may wish to charge for this service.

Families
Self-guided cycling holidays are a perfect option for families as they offer the freedom for you to take your holiday at your own pace. You can stop as and when you want and need, at the cafes and restaurants that suit your family and the sites that interest you. As a guide we have suggested that 14 years is the minimum age for this trip, but as it is self-guided and you will be leading your own family we will ultimately leave this decision up to you. The daily distances are all published in the trip notes along with a description of each days cycling so you have a good idea of what to expect. On this trip, children should be expected to ride on roads with traffic. If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact one of our experts. The principle idea is that these holidays can be as flexible as you like, with logistical support but no group or leader to dictate the daily activities.

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotels & Guesthouses

The accommodation on this trip is chosen with the greatest care and varies from one stop to the next. You stay in guesthouses, rural village houses, giving you a feel for the local community and 3 and 4 star hotels. Some of the properties have swimming pools for you to relax in after a day of cycling.

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

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Be the first to post your review! If you have recently returned from an Exodus adventure and want to help other travellers with your feedback then simply use the link below to post your holiday review.

Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.

 

What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.

 

2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
 
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.

 

3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.

 

 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 

 

Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

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Call us on 020 8772 3936