Bicycles are a great way of seeing in Portugal

Bicycles are a great way of seeing the country, though anywhere away from the coast – especially north of Lisbon and inland from the Algarve’s beaches – is hilly, and you’ll also find pedalling hard work across the burned plains of southern Alentejo. Several specialist outlets, plus hotels, campsites and youth hostels, rent bikes from e10–15 a day; the major ones are listed in the text.

Portugal’s woeful road accident statistics mean that defensive riding is essential. Fitting a rear-view mirror to the handlebars is a definite advantage, as is reflective and fluorescent clothing (or sashes) at night. In general, it’s best to assume that drivers will not obey road signs or regulations – just be prepared. Obviously, minor country roads have far less traffic to contend with, but locals know them backwards and so speeding – even around blind corners – is the norm.

Collapsible bikes can be taken for free on regional and interregional trains (ie, the slow ones), so long as they’re dismantled and stowed in a bag or other cover. Otherwise, bikes can be taken on the Lisbon and Porto urban lines and regional trains from Coimbra – there’s usually a small charge during the week, free at weekends.