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In 2015 the car rental company AVIS crowned the top 25 driving roads in the world. Their number one pick is located in Portugal (along with numbers 14 and 16). That poses one big question, of course: How great are these drives really? Well, this year, it’s time I find out for myself!
In the last post, I outlined some plans for trips in 2017, among them driving some of the best roads in the world. Here’s the plan in more detail: Book a cheap flight to Porto, rent a decent, somewhat sporty car, tackle three of the best driver’s roads in the world (according to an American company), enjoy an additional sunny day or two in the Algarve, return the car and fly home from Faro. How hard can that be?
Well, there might be some compromises to be made. First and foremost, said compromises entail the choice of car — B-roads in Portugal, that actually calls for a roadster. However, finding a one-way rental in that category seems to be well-nigh impossible. So, let’s settle for something semi-sporty and affordable as a one-way rental: how about a BMW 1-series diesel? Yeah, right, exciting, isn’t it? Well, as long as it’s not a Peugeot, I should be able to manage.
It’s also a bit of a distance to drive in between the three purportedly excellent drives. That means, a lot of liaison to get to the party pieces of this tour. But then, hey, it’s Portugal. I’m sure there’s a few things to see. This might turn out to be a proper vacation! We’ll see.
The Roads of Dreams (Supposedly)
Flying into Porto, the plan is to pick up the car at the Airport, spend the day in town to enjoy the sights (such as the the Dom Luis Bridge by Eiffel, Palaces, the harbour and the riverfront — you have it), and then head out the next day to Peso da Régua, a measly 100km east. And breaking with the old adage that one should save the best for last, I am planning to start with the number one pick, the piece-de-resistance.
N-222: A Dash along the Douro (Ranked #1)
AVIS touts the N-222 from Peso da Régua to Pinhão as the ultimate driver’s road in the world. Now, that’s quite a claim to make. As you can see in the following, the route apparently combines great driving with great wine — a combination that any police officer would obviously approve of!
“The road takes drivers along a glorious road that hugs the River Douro, enjoys spectacular views over the vineyards near the river, and finishes in the picturesque wine town of Pinhão. The stretch of 27km mapped includes 93 bends keeping drivers on their toes and allowing them to experience the car’s handling power, whilst offering frequently changing viewpoints. The Douro Valley is the home of Porto wine, and this region became the world’s first wine region to have a formal demarcation. The Douro winemaking region was declared a World Heritage Site in 2001, by UNESCO.” — a direct quote from AVIS.
Is this all hyperbole? If it is, there’s at least going to be enough Port Wine to be had at the end of the road to drown all my disappointment. But maybe the drive really is that enjoyable! In that case, cheers!
ADR-Score: 11.3:1 (that means 11.3 seconds of straight road for every one second spent in a bend — AVIS believes a ratio of 10:1 to be perfect, according to some cutting edge methodology based on an arcane thing called math).
Liaison: Pinhão to Sintra
From Pinhão to the start of the next stage it’s a 420km southwesterly liaison. The intention is to hit Coimbra on the way and enjoy its riverfront sights, before continuing on to Peniche with its scenic harbour, white windmills, chapels and long sandy beaches on the shores of the Atlantic. Here, I will pick up the N-247, leisurely cruising down the coast to the start of the next special stage at Sintra. Depending on the season, I might even venture a dip in the ocean. Also, I have heard that the region boast some of the best surfing spots in Europe — so, why not give that a try?
N-247/Avenida do Atlântico: A Trip to the Beach (Ranked #14)
This drive through the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park from Sintra down to the sandy beach at Praia das Maças promises a mix of tight corner and sweeping curves. More than that, actually, as the scenery is said to be beautiful, with lush mountain valleys and wooded hillsides that roll by as you enjoy yourself on the road. Following the tram line, I hope to rewarded with a beautiful seaside view at the end of this 12km drive. A neat seafood dinner could be a perfect cap for this leg!
ADR-Score: 2.6:1 (that means 2.6 seconds of straight road for every one second spent in a bend).
Liaison: Praia das Maças to São Marcos da Serra
The liaison from Praia das Maças to São Marcos da Serra is some 280km. The road along the Rio Tajo will take you to Lisbon, another fine city to spend a day or two in (if time permits). Crossing the Tajo on the magnificent Vasco Da Gama bridge, I will travel south towards the Algarve, where the last of the recommended drives awaits — along with plenty of warm, soothing sunshine!.
N-267: Ahhh…lgarve (Ranked #16)
The final (and lowest ranked) road in Portugal on the AVIS list runs from São Marcos da Serra to Monchique. The small winding country road passing through small traditional villages is purported to sport some challenging curves and exceptional sceneries. A quick stop in the small town of Alferce to explore the picturesque church and overgrown ruins of ancient farm buildings scattered around the outskirts should make for a nice mid-day break. The summit at Fóia is said to provide a spectacular view across the Algarve coast, so I will try not to miss it on a sunny day.
ADR-Score: 2.1:1 (that means 2.1 seconds of straight road for every one second spent in a bend).
Once you are in the Algarve, you might as well spend a rest day there. At least, that’s what I intend to do before flying home from either Faro or Lisbon. All of this should be doable in 5-7 days without too much of a rush, tentatively planned for early September.
So, this is it for this trip planning session. A few other trips are in the planning stages as well, and I will keep you update on that. If you also feel the urge for a (Portuguese) road trip, feel free to share your plans! I will let you know if the best road in the world really is to be found in Portugal.