Turtle, Ecuador

Reviews

Your Words - We tell it like it is! Holiday Reviews by previous Exodus travellers  

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  • Reviewed July 2019
    Elaine Yip

    Great trip - each day was different

    The trip was very well put together going from the mountains to the sea. Each day was different in terms of terrain, scenery and for our trip, the weather too - we had all sorts but luckily, not real rain, only drizzle, but that added to the atmosphere. The trip notes could be improved as in places they were vague e.g. stop for lunch at the quaint cafe (what's the name of it?); you must visit the Our Mother's Church (where is it? which town?). Also on one of the days, on reading the trip notes, it recommended a transfer to a certain location but with no reason or details of how to arrange it. What actually would be great for all self-guided trips is for an online blog of some kind where other travellers can put in their experiences, their recommendations and tips. On this trip, one of the bridges we have to cross is closed and looks like it's closed for a long time, so it would be good to warn future travellers of this...we were helped by a kind Portuguese cycler who also needed to cross the bridge, and we followed him to find another route.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Finding a detour from the trip to an amazing, deserted castle in the forest...Castelo Faria near Barcelos. The smell of the Atlantic Ocean - it was amazing the first time we hit the Atlantic and then cycling along the coast on boardwalks and being able to stop off at the beaches.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    It was self-guided. But Francisco who briefed us on the bikes and trip was great. Half way through the trip my friend wanted to change her saddle from the hard one to a padded one and he was very accommodating.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Check out Castelo Faria near Barcelos, if you don't mind a detour that goes uphill.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    It was the first time using an electric bike. Literally changed my life...as a leisure bike rider rather than serious one, it means I can choose more challenging cycling holidays with more hills and longer days. As it is, I'm pretty sure I would not have been able to do this holiday without an electric bike, despite the holiday being categorised as "Leisurely".
  • Reviewed October 2018
    Cath Marsh

    An epic adventure!

    An adventure around every corner, beautiful scenery, amazing food and a real feeling of getting away from it all. Met so many people walking their pilgrimage to Santiago which was amazing and made us feel part of something bigger than just a cycle trip. Some long days in the saddle and a good variation of surfaces to mix things up. The variation in landscape was also great. One day would be zipping down mountain roads listening to cow bells, the next mile would be in vineyards, another day you could cover plenty of miles along smooth cycle paths alongside the mighty Minho river looking across at Spain, the next bumping along cobbles and tracks in fragrant eucalyptus woodland or dodging joggers along the boardwalks next to the Atlantic. Awesome trip!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    * Cycling along the boardwalks trying to concentrate where you're going an not just stare at the Atlantic. * Saying Bom Dia to every pilgrim we passed. * The lovely welcome we got at our accommodation in Ponte de Lima * Adjusting to the hustle and bustle of Porto after the quiet countryside * Totally gorgeous food everywhere we went even if it was bread and cheese at lunchtime normally sitting in the shade of a stunning church. And most inspirational moment was the whole experience of staying at Solar de Serrade. Such a beautiful place - I didn't want to leave.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Self guided trip.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Yes! The bikes were top notch but I forgot to bring my own comfy saddle so was pretty sore for a few days. Make sure you do some training. There's some relentless hills to climb and if you go when it's hot you can run out of energy mid afternoon. Buy bread, cheese and drinks in the morning incase you don't find anywhere for lunch. Oh and make sure you eat plenty of Portuguese egg tarts, they're delicious!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Book the wine and dine package. We had a fabulous, intimate meal at Solar de Serrade washed down with their own Vinho Verde wine. Relaxing in the garden sipping wine after a long day in the saddle was just perfect. The meal in Porto at LSD restaurant was awesome also and thoroughly recommended. Both meals we were treated as extra special guests which made the whole experience even more special. We stayed an extra day at the end of the holiday in Porto to explore the city. The route notes were accurate and helped identify places of interest and the GPS was a bonus. We used both.
  • Reviewed July 2018
    Colin Rugg

    Beautiful Bike Rides and Fantastic Food

    This is a leisurely trip with some lovely rides in mountains, along rivers and by the coast. There are some nice little villages and quaint towns. The food and local wines were all superb everywhere I went.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Staying at the Solar do Serrade in Moncao was amazing. The people were so nice. I sat outside drinking one of their wines with the pleasure of knowing that the grapes were grown in the next field and picked by hand. The bottling was done in the building just behind me. Finding lovely little places for a drink and a snack, both on the route and at each destination. The riverside views were amazing.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    N/A, but the GPS was much easier to follow than I anticipated!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take it easy to enjoy the views and soak up the atmosphere. For my level of fitness the routes were short enough to give me plenty of time to stop and look around some of the towns and villages but I could still arrive at the next hotel early enough to explore that town too. You could get to the next place before lunch if you wanted to, but what's the rush? I found that most of the hotels didn't do an evening meal unless it had a specific attached restaurant. These hotels were Design and Wine in Caminha and Hotel Bagoeira in Barcelos both of which I found enjoyable. But in all the towns (even tiny Castro Laboreiro) there were plenty of places to eat and from my experience all good.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    You only get a short time with the local tour rep at Porto airport, so make sure everything is ok before you transfer to Castro Laboreiro, especially knowing how to use the GPS! But even if you get slightly lost its easy to find your way back to the route. Most days were easy cycling, there's just one day that has a couple of climbs of any note. Also, most of the route is away from traffic, on quiet roads and some of it on a shared path with pedestrians, but there are a couple of busy sections. I found the Portuguese drivers very considerate. Even when I was walking in town they stopped at crossings every time. If you've got time before or after the trip, take a train to Lisbon. I booked a 1st class seat in advance and got a ticket for 22 euros.
  • Reviewed September 2017
    Si Whitehead

    Cycling

    When from good roads tracks to very busy roads and poor tracks. The not so good roads /tracks out numbered the good ones ..not sure this was a exodus holiday .

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Cycling along sea
  • Reviewed April 2017
    Thidara Udomritkul

    A great way to see Portugal

    A truly fantastic trip passing through the Vinho Verde wine producing region. We started off in the mountains at 950m and ended in the colourful, historic and beautiful city of Porto at the end of our cycling holiday. The trip was a great way to see the rural life of Portugal and I would highly recommend this trip.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The most inspirational moment of the trip was staying at Solar de Serrade. It was incredible to see 18 acres of family owned vineyards with a friendly proprietor who takes pride in the wine she produces. We were able to witness a family run winery right on site, under 5 minutes away from our room. From seeing the growing grapes, to storage, to labelling the bottles and packaging them by hand - it made the experience feel very real and authentic.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    This was a self-guided trip and we found the GPS to be clear with directions. The route notes help to supplement the GPS with full written directions.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    My advice is below for any future travellers: - Rural Portugal properties all seem to have pet dogs! They barked as we cycled pass, but continue on cycling and it isn't an issue. - Quinta De Agra (lovely property) and Solar de Serrade don't provide evening meals - enjoy a night out in the historic nearby towns or opt for the Wine & Dine Package. - There are cobbled streets as you enter and exit towns and on some cycleways. This is something to bear in mind for the trip. - Bring cycling gloves due to the terrain

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I'm sure this is temporary but the city of Viana Do Castelo had major roadworks running through which affects the GPS. Cycle by the waterside, cross some roads and get to the bridge to exit the town of Viana Do Castelo (Day 4).
  • Reviewed October 2016
    Ceri Ashman

    Mountains to the sea, Potugal.

    From Castro Laboreiro to Porto. 6 days of cycling with stop overs at some wonderful Portuguese villages and towns, sampling the local cuisine and wines along the way. The scenery varied from picturesque mountains to coastal plains with cycle paths and rustic roads (cobbled surfaces so take padded shorts or saddle gel for maximum comfort). The hire bikes were excellent, Specialised Rockhopper 29s and all were fairly new. The transfers and baggage taxiing from hotel to hotel were faultless. One of the best cycling holidays we have had.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Cycling into Porto along the mouth of the Douro river. The cycle paths through the mountain woods opening out onto beautiful farmlands. Cycling along kilometers of wooden broadwalks along the Atlantic coast, watching surfers and seagulls. Vino Verde.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We self guided so my husband was the leader as he had the GPS. He was fairly average.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Just do it. This has to be one of the best ways to visit the northern region of Portugal on a more intimate level. The place was so friendly and hospitable.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The only downside was the lack of maps and minimal information in the route notes, I understand that this was a new holiday and route and I would expect that these items will be considered for 2017. Apart from this, the holiday was superb and thoroughly enjoyable.
  • Reviewed October 2016
    Norma Peace

    A Bumpy Ride

    This trip was obviously intended to give a range of scenery and experience. In practice, the descent from mountains to sea was rapid and we spent most of our time on cobbled roads and tracks through villages and vineyards. The hotels were varied, comfortable and interesting. It would have been of considerable help to have known which did not provide evening meals. A simple added note in the destination hotels section of the booklet would have warned us to eat, or collect food on the way and saved us some late night cycling in search of an evening meal. The kit provided was comprehensive and good quality except for the GPS of which more later. However, although mentioned in the trip notes, there were no maps provided and no first aid kit. We had considerable problems with navigation. This caused our days to be considerably longer than we expected and left little, if any time, for sight-seeing. We had bought maps before we went but found them little use because we did not know the route. It was a mystery tour. The GPS was not of sufficiently good quality to give a clear display. We are older people and perhaps our vision is not as acute as that of a younger person, but we are used to GPS and use it frequently. At every junction, and there were many, we had to stop and select our route by trial and error. All too often, we were in error and had considerable distances to retrace. Only one GPS was provided! and this is a point I made before we set off; that we should both have had one. I enjoy the navigation as much as my husband and felt considerably frustrated with my role as 'follower' Two heads would definitely have been better than one. At the very least, the provision of a map would have eased our problems. We had no directions on our GPS, to our last hotel in Porto. Fortunately I had taken co-ordinates for the hotels from Google Earth before setting off and this, together with a street map acquired in another hotel in the town, got us to our destination.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    We both enjoyed the run down the coast on the last day. On a bright , sunny, clear, warm day,the views were glorious and more importantly, there were no navigation issues.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    N/A

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The hotels at Monaçao and Porto de Lima do not provide evening meals although we were allowed to use the kitchen to prepare an evening meal at Casa do Barreiro, after a visit to the nearest supermarket. Bring a good pair of reading glasses.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Perhaps a simple guide to using the GPs might be useful for people not familiar with its operation. Exodus office have responded promptly to my enquiries and the travel arrangements with Authentic Trails in Portugal, went very smoothly. In the absence of any knowledge of Portuguese, I found that French was very useful for communicating with the older generation in the rural areas.
  • Reviewed June 2016
    James Boland

    Portugal: Mountains to the Sea

    Overall this is an amazing trip with many fantastic attributes, only spoiled by a lot of unseasonal rain prior to the trip (a bit during the trip) and a number of small points that could be improved in the organisation. However, these did not really detract from the overall trip experience,Th and my partner and I would not hesitate in recommending this cycling trip to others.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    My partner was in awe of the vineyards that we went through as we dropped out of the mountains, but I was inspired by the last leg from Vila do Conde to Porto, completely along the coast at the back of the beaches, sometimes along specially constructed boardwalks. Also the sections along the Caminho de Santiago de Compostela (in the opposite directions) had a 'spiritual' feel.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    N/A as self-guided

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    One word of caution, this trip was rated as 'Easy' and whilst most of it is, there are a number of off-road sections where the track is very steep and badly worn, and from our previous experience we would rate this as moderate. Bring good quality padded gloves as many roads are granite setts and a number of the tracks are constructed from stones. Also tag a couple of days on to your trip and enjoy Porto and the Douro Valley.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This is an amazing trip that could be improved further with a few minor improvements: 1) Directions to accommodation where it doesn't coincide with the day's finish 2) Mud-guards on bike 3) Panniers should be waterproof or dry bag provided.
  • Varied and fascinating cycling from remote Portugal

    This trip combines a great variety of terrains, villages, towns and cities with fantastic accommodation, equipment and food in one of the unexplored gems of southern Europe.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were a few climbs and each one felt very rewarding to get over, but the best feeling was probably after the second day of cycling when we made it to the sea (for the first time on the trip) and it was beautiful.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Bring sandals and shorts as you may need to cross a river while the cycles can get pretty hot. The map was slightly out of date when we were there so be prepared to keep checking it to know where to go! It was very easy to go off track but also very easy to get back on track. Look up the general route before each cycle and then if you go off route you'll be able to carry on and meet back with it soon. Get the Wine Tasting package in Porto, it was superb!
  • Reviewed May 2016
    Alice Bzowska

    Self-guided Cycling in Portugal - do it!

    This trip was just incredible, beyond words! The scenery that we cycled through was so varied, from vineyards to mountainous regions to the wonderful sea, and even though some cycles were tougher than I thought, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The accommodations that we stayed in were lovely, especially the 17th century farmhouse - it was probably the most beautiful and characterful place I have ever stayed in before. You really get a sense of the 'real' Portugal on this trip, miles and miles (literally and figuratively) from the beach resorts of the Algarve.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The most inspirational moment of our trip was when we rescued a kid (baby goat!) that had been stranded! The first couple of days were really deserted but it was wonderful to be alone and surrounded by such beautiful scenery, feeling like you had just stumbled upon hidden gems yourself. The oldest village in Portugal, Pont de Lima, was a highlight as it is very pretty.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Do the dine and wine package in Porto! A 4/5 course meal with a different glass of vino with each course, set in a stunning restaurant on the river - peaceful, great food and a lovely end to the trip.
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