Best of the Algarve – Gravel Bike

Activity: Self guided gravel bike holiday
Bike type: Gravel bike (optional e-bike)
Duration: 7 nights, 6 days cycling
Activity Level: Reasonably experienced
Accommodation: 3 to 5 star hotels
Daily Average: 55km
Price: From €1075

See the Best of the Algarve in just six days of cycling. This tour is designed to show you the highlights of this beautiful region, from the dramatic coastline to the picturesque countryside and lots more besides!


Algarve 6-day Gravel Bike Tour Review

We selected the self-guided ‘Gravel Bike Tour’, riding 350 km from East to West through the Algarve. Transport to the start and for luggage between the hotels was excellent. Willem, who brought us to the starting point, gave us a good briefing on the details on the rides on the tour. Accommodation varied between basic B&B and 4-star, while the provided breakfast was always good. In all cases we were able to find nice local restaurants for lunch and diner nearby.
The provided GPS maps for the tour were faultless and made following the route a breeze. Traffic was minimal and when encountered, always very considerate towards cyclists. This tour showed us the amazing variety of landscapes and types of roads, which the Algarve gives you.
We used our personal gravel bikes with larger diameter tires, to cope with the different types of surface. A large part of the tour is over rolling gravel and road sections. Although the daily routes are not long in distance, we recommend you should have reasonable skills and fitness and be prepared each day to cover some short stiff climbs and soft sandy/gravel paths. Don’t be disappointed, when in one or two cases, you will have to push your bike up a steep section !

In summary, we loved the routes, great service, amazing scenery, clean hotels, nice local food, …. a great gravel-bike tour. We’ll be back exploring different parts of Portugal. Jan and Jacqui Brinkhorst (May 2024)


Day 1 Arrival at Vila Real de Santo António

Upon your arrival in the Algarve, we will collect you and take you to Vila Real de Santo António (VRSA), an interesting old town on the banks of the Guadiana River, which forms a natural border between Portugal and Spain. Largely redeveloped after the great earthquake of 1755, VRSA was recreated on a grid system, yet still retains a character of its own. It has a relaxed atmosphere and the central square, edged with orange trees and host to an array of shops and cafes, is an ideal place to spend your first evening; enjoy a spot of people watching as you tuck into some fresh local food and wine. This should get you in the mood before you set off on your trip across the Algarve.

Day 2 Cycle to Tavira: (41km/458m elevation gain)

Follow the river downstream towards the ocean before leaving town under cover of fragrant pine trees. Before long you will reach Monte Gordo, a resort that has been popular since the 70s. There’s a wide promenade where you will meet cyclists of all description, and a vast, flat sandy beach that is the town’s main attraction. In the hotter months you may be relieved to reach the dappled shade of one of the largest forests in the Algarve, the Mata Nacional da Dunas Litorais.  Cycling along sandy trails, with the aromas of pine, eucalyptus and other wild flora it will seem like you are already a long way from the Coast. You may like an early café stop in the small town of Vila Nova de Cacela. You are on holiday, after all! Through more forest you will come to a riverbed, and then make your way up into the hills, cycling along vegetation-lined gravel tracks and enjoying excellent views down to the Coast. Eventually you will be rewarded with a downhill stretch along the river Gilão, into the historic town of Tavira. Home to a castle, an old Roman bridge and a wealth of traditional architectural styles, Tavira is built either side of the river which creates two distinct halves to the town. Several cafés and many restaurants make the town an easy place to stay and have a relaxing wander around. The hotel overlooks the river and all that the town has to offer is within easy walking distance.

Day 3 Cycle to Loulé: (48km/700m elevation gain)

Your route leaves Tavira along the opposite side of the river Gilão and gradually climbs uphill through farms and old settlements. This is an authentic view of countryside living that not many people get the chance to experience, so there’s no rush! After a while you will turn off onto a gravel track that heads West past several old tile factories, for which this area is renowned. In fact Santa Catarina, a somewhat unassuming little town, has gained notoriety as a result of these famous terracotta tiles, still traditionally manufactured using local, colourful claylike soils. A short sharp climb will bring you into the town itself, where several cafés can be found for an early morning break. Continuing on from Santa Caterina you will soon be off-road again on a wide, dusty road that leads up towards the historical town of São Bras de Alportel, home to one of the best preserved Roman roads in the area. You can make a diversion into town where there is a pleasant square, perfect for a refreshment stop as you are over half way to tonight’s destination. Suitably refuelled you will head West out of town into a beautiful valley, locally known as Pig Valley. It is a scenic route with old oak trees and farm animals grazing lazily in the Algarvian sunshine. You will pass Fonte Felipe (an old working well and water pump) and eventually join the main road towards Loulé. A short diversion will bring you into the hilltops just outside town, from where you can enjoy a gradual descent filled with breathtaking views. Loulé is a thriving, traditional market town that is becoming increasingly popular as a place to live and enjoy the quieter pace of life. There is a good selection of bars and restaurants that don’t feature the same touristic prices as can be found in the nearby coastal resorts.

Day 4 Cycle to São Bartolomeu de Messines: (52km/760m elevation gain)

This is a more challenging day of riding as you navigate your way through the rolling hills to the north of Loulé, but worth the effort for the tremendous scenery. Heading West out of town it’s a steady climb onto some pleasant tracks that lead towards the Ribeira Algibre river valley. Passing by the new Ombria golf resort, you are in the hills proper, now. It’s a far cry from the bustling tourist destinations on the coast. With sweeping country scenes to your left and right, this road leads you past the traditional working town of Salir. There are more hills to climb but the outstanding landscape provides a natural distraction. Once you reach the summit there is a 7km ride along the ridge, offering splendid 360 degree views. Descending from the ridge you will follow the valley until you arrive at the charming village of Alte, famous for its white painted houses and fresh water springs. There is a beautiful church in the centre of the village, surrounded by cafés and craft shops, selling locally produced goods. You are around 38km into the ride by now, so Alte is an ideal stop for lunch. There are several local establishments offering down-to-earth homecooked dishes. Plus if you have a sweet tooth, make a beeline for Germano BiciArte café where you can have coffee and cake amongst a host of cycling memorabilia…they have spares and tools, too. A short stroll around the village will reveal some lovingly restored houses and lots of little surprises, including a village donkey! A short, steep hill leads out of the village to pick up some rolling tracks and quiet roads that will bring you to today’s destination, São Bartolomeu de Messines.It is a traditional Algarvian rural market town that plays a pivotal role within the farming community; it really isn’t aimed at tourists, which is its principal charm. There are several cafés and restaurants where the regional produce can be sampled as well as a traditional market building in use virtually every day. Your accommodation is located right in the middle of town. They offer some fabulous local dishes, including cataplana (fish stew), so you may even choose to have a night in!

Day 5 Cycle to Lagos: (79km/830m elevation gain)

This is by far the longest day in the saddle, but the good news is that, after some initial climbs in the hills to the west of Messines, the route descends to the coast where the terrain is much flatter. Crossing the main Algarve to Lisbon railway line you are almost immediately pedalling along a quiet road through undulating countryside for a couple of kms. From here you will cross over a bridge and head along dirt tracks that hug the edge of the Barragem do Funcho (a reservoir that provides the local water supply for farmers and a peaceful location for freshwater fishing). Evidence of the manmade nature of the reservoir soon manifests itself as your route passes a partly submerged school, no doubt once the hub of this diminishing community. There’s a little climbing involved here, but you get to cycle across the huge dam and then freewheel down afterwards, so you’re well rewarded. Following some fabulous dirt tracks you will then skirt the Barragem do Arade (another huge reservoir that is one of a few providing much needed water to the region) where you can expect to be overwhelmed by the totally unspoilt surroundings and dramatic views. Before long you will join a quiet road that leads towards Silves. Steeped with history, it was once the Moorish capital and is home to the best-preserved castle, in the Algarve. The views from the castle over the town and the surrounding countryside justify the rather steep ascent along narrow cobbled streets. Host to an annual Medieval Festival, one of the biggest in the region, Silves is ordinarily a sleepy town, where you get the real feeling of taking a step back in time as you wander through the myriad of back streets. At around 30km in to your ride, you might take the opportunity for a quick break and a snack or an early lunch. Before you leave town, it’s worth stopping for a moment as you cross the Roman bridge; the view of the town and castle from the other side of the river is one of the best, so have your camera ready. From here, you can follow a much frequented track alongside the Rio Arade, which eventually leads you up and over the hills to Estombar, another very typical Portuguese village, virtually untouched by the development of mass tourism in the region. From here you will head to the coast and to Ferragudo, a pretty village overlooking the estuary. This is your last haven of peace and tranquility before you head over the bridge into Portimão, the Western Algarve’s biggest town. You may be struck by the sudden increase in activity as you cross the river, but you can easily wend your way along the waterfront, avoiding the centre of town, around to the beautiful seaside resort of Praia da Rocha. With one of the largest beaches in the Algarve and some scenic cliffs to the West, it is easy to see why Praia da Rocha has developed into a major holiday resort. The route heads out of town to the West and leads towards Alvor, formerly a small fishing village on the edge of the Ribeira de Odiaxere. Alvor’s buildings are still mainly low-rise and the charm of the old town still remains, with the narrow cobbled streets leading down to the riverfront, where you can enjoy a leisurely coffee and watch the fishing boats. From here you will need to head inland briefly (unless you can find a friendly boatman!) to negotiate around the estuary and back down through country lanes to the 4km long Meia Praia beach and on towards Lagos. It’s a bustling town with lots to offer; from the modern marina and waterfront restaurants, to the lively town square and the maze of cobbled streets within the old city walls, there is plenty to explore.

Day 6 Cycle to Sagres: (60km/680m elevation gain)

This morning you will cycle back inland on a quiet country road to the small village of Bensafrim, where you will pick up the Via Algarviana (the Algarve Way). This path follows what is thought to be an old religious trail frequented by pilgrims heading for the Sagres promontory, where the relics of St. Vincent were found. It is a challenging section with long stretches of very different types of gravel and sand tracks. But it also has its charms as it winds its way through unspoilt landscape where, nowadays, few people venture. Soon you will reach Barrão de São João, perfect for an early café stop if desired. Every year this village becomes host to a rather special festival that combines hiking with art. Usually in the month of November, the extensive programme of activities caters for all tastes and includes walks, workshops, activities for children and families and mountain biking; the focus being on the art of combining relaxation with nature. After refueling you are ready to progress Southwest through eucalyptus forests and more scenic countryside until you come across the small town of Raposeira, a possible lunch stop at around the 35km mark. Rejoining the Via Algarviana you will head for the quintessential Algarve town of Vila de Bispo, which serves as a kind of gateway to the Southwest Coast. Finally you will link up to another well-established trail, called the Caminho Historico (historical trail). This will transport you across dramatic, weather beaten terrain towards Sagres, with its impressive old fortress. The climate here can make for a few bracing hours on the bike, but with the totally unspoilt landscape and the sea air filling your lungs, you are likely to feel a sense of invigoration as you approach the end of your day´s journey. You will overnight in Sagres, a truly tranquil town with beautiful beaches, a picturesque harbour, a very pretty town square and stunning views. It is very popular in summer with visitors, but all year round with fishermen and surfers because of the western Atlantic waters creating such good waves for surfing. It is mostly known as the place where Henry the Navigator brought together great mariners, astronomers, ship-builders and cartographers to build and navigate great ships in the period of the Age of Discoveries. You may be ready for a rest and a good meal and there are plenty of eateries to choose from. But if you still have some energy, a bracing ride (12km round trip) along the cliffs to the southernmost tip of Portugal and Europe at Cape St Vincent, is the perfect way to end the day.

Day 7 Cycle to Arrifana Beach :- (54km/560m elevation gain)

Your last ride brings with it some of the most dramatic scenery; with the wild, rugged coastline on your left and the windswept plains on your right. In order to avoid the main road, you will retrace your steps along the Historical Trail towards Vila de Bispo before turning off along the quieter road towards Carrapateira. Just before you reach this quaint village there is a rather pleasant diversion as you cycle along the easily accessible peninsula at Pontal da Carrapateira. You can enjoy dramatic views of the cliffs and crags dropping to the Atlantic and, on a clear day, you should see the Sagres lighthouse in the distance. Whilst to the North you will see the immense Bordeira beach and sand dunes, from where you can observe the action-packed surfing, which is huge in this area. There’s a fish restaurant that is popular with locals and visitors alike, so a good idea for a somewhat picturesque lunch stop. Not far to go now and you can enjoy a leisurely pace as you travel through more impressive landscape, following a gravel road through rolling hills, valleys and trees. Your final destination is Arrifana, a popular coastal village famous for its excellent beach and great surfing waves. There is a definite relaxed ‘surf dude’ feel about the town and this is a perfect environment in which to unwind after the week’s adventures.

Day 8 Departure

We will transfer you from your accommodation for your journey home.


January €1075
June €1400


  • Detailed maps and route suggestions
  • Good quality hotels/apartments along the route
  • Route assistance where necessary
  • Airport Transfers
  • Luggage Transfer.


  • Flights
  • Holiday insurance – recommended
  • Gravel bike
  • E Gravel Bike
  • Safety helmet, (we suggest you bring your own)
  • A choice of pedals, (we suggest you bring your own)
  • Guiding service by experienced mtb guide €POA
  • Extra overnight stays in Arrifana (price tbc).

Prices are per person, based upon two people sharing a twin/double bedded room.

There is no single supplement as we do not recommend you undertake this trip unaccompanied.

  • Discounts are available for large groups, please contact us for details.
  • We also offer options for daily route extensions.

This tour is designed and priced as a “self guided” holiday as this is how we can provide the best value for money for our clients. We can also provide the services of a guide and/or a support vehicle. Please contact us for further details and prices.