Villages are miles apart, stores are the living rooms of people’s houses, vegetable carts are hauled by burros, and a cup of the local wine is a fractionof a euro. Grape vines cover everything that isn’t forest, including most of the houses, and some of the people. The ride comes out to the Atlantic at the twin fortress towns of Tuy and Valença, on opposite sides of the Spanish / Portuguese border. We end the cycle with two beautiful days along the Atlantic ocean. An optional stop is suggested in the pearl of Galicia, Santiago de Compostela, one of Europe’s most beautiful cities
Day 0: If you are arriving from the Basque Country, you will catch a morning train in Bilbao, with a lunch time stop in Burgos, on the plains of Castille. If you are meeting the trip in Monforte, you will likely take a daylight train from Madrid or Barcelona. Or, you may choose to travel to Monforte from either by overnight sleeper train, arriving on Monday morning. Details of access possibilities are offered in our Access Package description.
Day 1: Stock up on gummy bears, and set out in the morning, passing through the city, huddled in the protective shadow of its castle. Admire the attendant bustle... you will see nothing like it for the rest of the day. Our route crosses a plain, and gradually climbs through sleepy villages to a perch high above the river Sil. Then we plunge into the gorge carved out by the swift water course, hopefully on our bikes. We reach the river bed in San Esteban, whose station café serves a mean grilled octopus. Something of a curiosity, in that the San Esteban station sees one train a day.
Now follow the Sil's banks to its confluence with the Miño, and the Miño's to Ourense. Ourense is one of Galicia's most important cities, but in many ways it seems as if time has left it aside. Celebrate your arrival with tapas in the old town. If you have elected to join your trip in Ourense, you will instead travel to Ourense on Monday (included in one of the Access Package options). If you choose to travel in daylight (or by overnight train on Sunday night, for a day in Ourense), you will meet with the group for dinner on Monday evening. If you prefer to travel via overnight sleeper train on Monday night, you will arrive early Tuesday morning. (60km Optional)
Day 2: A lazy morning to explore Ourense. Recover from from yesterday’s exertions, last night’s tapas, the flight, grad school, or whatever else you have to recover from. Sip fresh orange juice in the park café, fiddle with your new bike, explore the fortified cathedral and the granite town surrounding it. Visit Ourense's Roman baths, and compare them favorably with your hotel's plumming. That's a joke. We hope. In the afternoon, we glide down the river road, Ourense's pretty Roman bridge at our backs, and leave town along the Miño's south bank. The ride is a short one, to allow us to reach Ribadavia in plenty of time for an evening paseo. The terraced vineyards of Galicia's best known wines appear on the banks soon after Ourense, and will stay with us tomorrow, as well. Ribadavia is another pretty granite town... check out the wine bars on the central square, or the touching old synagogue, which dates from back before Spain went off the deep end, religiously speaking. (35km)
Day 3: A challenging day, despite the modest distance. We pedal along the river, past picturesque towns and trellised vineyards. The valley is wilder than it was yesterday, and the villages more isolated. You'll have ample opportunity to appreciate it from all angles, as the road climbs in and out. After a time, the river becomes the border between Spain and Portugal, and we cross into the latter to arrive at the spa town of Melgaço and our inn in the neighboring village of Peso. This is the epicenter of the Alvarinho grape's growing district (as it is spelled in Portuguese). Visit the Solar, a cooperative showroom where you can taste the produce of the surrounding vineyards. Or climb the signature castle tower for a view over all you have cycled. (40km)
Day 4: The first part of today is spent on the Portuguese side of the river. The Minho is revered by the Portuguese in tale and song for its lush beauty. Also for its vinho verde (“green wine”). This slightly sparkling, low alcohol elixir is the region's most important agricultural product, and the valley has the unmistakable cosseted quality of good vineyards the world over. In the pretty spa town of Monção, admire the church, whose Manueline architecture and gorgeous tile work rival for your attention. Other distractions are the river views, grilled chicken, and old people on the town square who editorialize on the topic of your helmets.
Cross to Spain, and into Tui, whose fortified cathedral is famous across Europe. Check out the jamoneria (ham shop) across the way, and sample the elusive pato negro (black-footed pig). Finally, across the river once more, back to Portugal, and to the town of Valença. We are particularly fond of the architectural contrast between the fortress towns of Valença and Tui, which face each other across this border. Valença’s old town is a giant linen market, which is helpful, if you need to buy new towels, or something. (40km)
Day 5: Out to the Atlantic at last: we reach the beach at the Portuguese town of Caminha. This part of the world was colonized by the Romans, and the villages which line our route are dotted with reminders of their long-ago occupation. Sangria by the beach before a little ferry boat takes us back to Spain, and to the tip of Cabo Santa Tecla. This final outpost of Galicia, facing the Atlantic, has a satisfyingly wind-swept feel to it (and is home to a bunch of tasty crustaceans). Night in A Guarda, with dinner down on the port. (45km)
Day 6: A last beautiful riding day along the rocky Altantic coast. Stop for a shellfish extravaganza in any of the myriad restaurants that look out on the water. Bayona was the first “old Europe” town to hear of the “new World,” when one of Columbus’ ships arrived there at the end of its odyssey. Finally, into Vigo via some of Spain’s most beautiful beaches. Trade your bike for a train ticket, and prepare to enter a new phase in life. A dramatic day of ocean-front cycling. Beautiful isolated beaches allow us to take a dip in the Atlantic whenever cycling becomes hot. We complete our Galician cycle today with a ride into Vigo. Too much traffic, but more beautiful beaches abound. Baiona, half way along, was the first town to hear of Columbus‘ probe of the “New World”. (55km)
- Trip price includes the bike!
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