Wednesday, 6 June 2012 1:00 PM
Although many people travel to Portugal's capital Lisbon for a holiday, very few explore the region to the north of the city. There is lots to be discovered here - from historic monuments to stunning beaches - and the best way to see it all is by bike.
Cycling your way from village to village will allow you to appreciate the beautiful countryside at your own pace. You can stop whenever you like, which will be particularly useful if you are travelling with children.
So, what can you expect to see as you pedal along the picturesque Portuguese roads and where will you stop along the way? Here's a brief guide to some of the top attractions you can visit as part of a cycling holiday with your family.
San Pedro de Moel
Your opening day of cycling will lead you to San Pedro de Moel, a charming seaside resort where you can enjoy your first taste of Portugal's Atlantic coastline. The ride here is a great way to see the landscape change as you leave the inland town of Batalha, passing green fields and coastal pine forests before you emerge by the ocean.
On your free day in San Pedro de Moel, you may just want to hit the beach and Praia de Sao Pedro de Moel is the perfect sandy spot to visit. There are numerous cafes along this stretch of coastline and on the sand is a beach volleyball court, in case you and your kids are feeling energetic. Surfing is a popular pastime here too, so you can hire a board and try to catch some waves if the water appeals to you.
The next stop on your itinerary will be Nazare, which you'll reach after following the coastline and enjoying some breathtaking views over the cliffs to the bays below. Nazare is a traditional fishing village that still retains much of its authentic charm. You'll spot old fishermen fixing their nets alongside surfers as you stroll along the seafront. The beach here is beautiful, but if you fancy having an extra day on your bike follow the route to Alcobaca.
In the town you will find the Monastery of Santa Maria d'Alcobaca, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and well worth exploring. Constructed in the 12th century by King Alfonso I, it is a beautiful building in the Gothic Cistercian style.
Foz de Arelho
The most striking sight on your journey between Nazare and Foz de Arelho will undoubtedly be the blue and white windmills that are dotted along a coastal ridge. Once you arrive in Foz de Arelho, you can cool off after a day's cycling with a swim in the calm lagoon at Foz de Arelho beach. This sand curves out from the land and acts as a barrier between the lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean, so you can watch big waves rolling while your children splash in the sheltered water.
Your final stop is Obidos, a wonderful walled hill town that is steeped in history. The settlement's walls date from the medieval period and are still remarkably intact. To gain entry to the town, you still have to pass through the southern gate of Santa Maria, as people would have done centuries ago.
It is a delight to wander its maze of streets on your final day before heading home, while the Museu Municipal de Obidos is a fascinating place to call in, as you can view examples of sacred art, a selection of French and English weapons dating from the time of Napoleon, Baroque furniture and archaeological finds from the Roman era.