Activity: Self guided touring holiday
Bike type: Touring bike (optional e-bike)
Duration: 7 nights, 5 days cycling
Activity Level: Intermediate
Accommodation: 3 star and 4 star hotels
Daily Average: 30km
Price: From €965
This is designed to be a gentle and relaxing holiday with a rest day roughly halfway through the week. Cycling an average of 33km a day gives you plenty of time to explore this beautiful region as you make your way from the border of Spain to one of the Algarve’s most historic towns. Your route takes you mainly on quiet tarmac roads and occasionally dirt tracks, weaving through an array of interesting towns and villages, where you can soak up the calming atmosphere of the Eastern Algarve.
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: (31km/214m elevation gain)
Your first day’s cycling takes you through a number of seaside towns, all with their own special characteristics. The first of these is Monte Gordo, a resort that has been popular since the 70s. There’s a wide promenade that’s popular with cyclists of all description, and a vast, flat sandy beach that is the town’s main attraction. It’s a pleasant start to your ride, though in the hotter months you may be relieved to reach the 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 and other wild flora will give you a real zest for the day ahead.
Next comes a pleasantly sleepy town, Manta Rota. It’s worth a quick stop to look at the unspoilt beach, but if you can hold out a little longer continue to Caçela Velha, a tiny whitewashed village set on a hill overlooking the lagoon with a little church and the remains of an 18th century fort. You will certainly want to linger here to take in the view. It’s neighbour, Fabrica, is also a worthwhile diversion; sipping coffee by the water’s edge, you can take in the boats dipping in the gently ebbing water and watch locals collecting shellfish.
From here you’ll enjoy a relaxing ride along dirt tracks and quiet roads, through the picturesque fishing village of Cabanas, before passing by the salt flats into Tavira. Home to a castle, an old Roman bridge and a wealth of traditional architectural styles, Tavira is built either side of the River Gilão, 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 Olhão: (31km/182m elevation gain)
After a fairly gentle route along the coast, through the quaint seaside village of Santa Luzia, famous for octopus fishing, you will continue to Pedras del Rei, where you may spot the little train that takes sunbathers to the beach of Barril and the old tuna fishing village.
Your next stop is Fuseta, where several fish restaurants with outdoor charcoal grills and excellent views across the water will make this a tempting place to stop for lunch. From here you join the Ecovia Litoral (a dedicated cycling path that spans across the Algarve from East to West). You are now in the Ria Formosa Natural Park, a UNESCO heritage site situated on low-lying coastline amidst a maze of lagoons, channels, salt marshes and islands. The views across the salt flats, (where salt is still cultivated using traditional methods), are simply breathtaking. It is a gentle, flat ride along the coast and you can enjoy the cooling sea breeze coming from the Atlantic ocean.
Your final destination is Olhão, still the hub of the fishing industry, but with a charming old town, renowned for its Moorish style architecture. It’s the perfect place to sample local specialities at local prices! If time allows you can take a ferry to one of the small islands, just a short hop, where deserted beaches and more great fish restaurants can be found.
Day 4 Cycle to Loulé: (32km/418m elevation gain)
Today’s ride heads into the hills, through quiet villages, small hamlets and working farmland, where you will begin to see a different side to this region. It’s a genuine opportunity to soak up the relaxed atmosphere that is the cornerstone of life in the real Algarve. Here, in one of the many roadside cafés, you can experience the soul of the community. Plus, you will no doubt pick up some of the best tasting coffee and homemade cakes for a fraction of the price you pay on the coast!
After a meandering ride through the countryside you will approach the outskirts of Almancil, a busy working town and the furthest point north of what is known as the Golden Triangle (where luxury accommodation and golf courses are in abundance). More interestingly, on the edge of town is São Lourenço Church, with some fine examples of the intricately painted tiles for which Portugal is famous, as well as an impressive golden altar. This Baroque style church is open to visitors, so it’s a good idea to try and time your ride so you can take a quick peek.
Your destination for the night is Loulé, a thriving old market town, where your hotel is conveniently situated right in the centre, making it easy to navigate your way around.
Day 5 Rest Day in Loulé
Today you will have an opportunity to take a short break from the saddle and get to know Loulé. It’s an explorer’s haven, with narrow cobbled streets leading off the central Avenida, tiny shops and hidden away bars and restaurants. You could easily spend the morning strolling through the fascinating old town with its quaint old buildings, visiting the town’s art galleries, museums and chapels, picking up souvenirs at the indoor market. You can lunch at one of the many cafes or restaurants that serve fresh local produce and are frequented as much by locals as visitors, leaving the afternoon to relax by the roof top swimming pool at your hotel.
Day 6 Cycle to Alte: (38km/684m 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. Leaving town it won’t be long before you notice the levels of traffic decrease as you cycle towards the hill-top village of Querença. It’s a short hop up to the beautiful church square, where you can enjoy some local biscuits with your morning coffee. Querença is well known for its agricultural products, just as the rather strong “medronho” (a sort of fruit brandy) and the famous “chouriço” (smoked sausage). In fact they even hold an annual sausage festival, which draws visitors from far and wide.
But it’s sitting outside the authentic and welcoming cafe, taking in the tranquil setting and beautiful backdrop of the small church that we think is the real attraction here. You will need to tear yourself away from this but there is a lot more to see as you cross the valley to join a surprisingly traffic-free main road that is punctuated by small towns and villages. With sweeping country scenes to your left and right, this road leads you past the traditional working town of Salir, where you can add a quick loop that takes in Rocha de Pena, a natural rock that offers 360 degree views if you are energetic enough to climb to the top.
Finally, you will reach 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 cafes and craft shops, selling locally produced goods. A coffee and pastel de nata (custard tart) on the back terrace of the pasteleria, Agua Mel, is a must. A short stroll around the village will reveal some lovingly restored houses and lots of little surprises, including a village donkey!
Day 7 Cycle to Silves: (34km/240m elevation gain)
Leaving the village on the West side, just past the cemetery, you will cycle quiet, undulating roads to Messines – a typical agricultural town, with narrow streets and yet another church as the centre piece. On the other side of town you will enter lush green valleys, with tiny hamlets and farmsteads amidst an abundance of thick vegetation. Following some fabulous dirt tracks you will then skirt the Barragem do Arade (a huge reservoir that is one of a few providing much needed water to the region) where, again, you can expect to be overwhelmed by the totally unspoilt surroundings and dramatic views. There’s a little climbing involved, but you get to cycle across the huge dam and then freewheel down afterwards, so you’re well rewarded.
You will most certainly want to make the most of your stay in Silves, an enchanting town on the banks of the Rio Arade. Steeped with history, Silves 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. There’s a café just by the entrance to the castle where they play live music, a great spot to wile away an hour or two, 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.
Day 8 Departure
We will transfer you from your accommodation for your journey home.
- Quality bike and equipment hire. Options for upgrade to E-Bike.
- Detailed maps and route suggestions
- Good quality hotels/apartments along the route
- Route assistance where necessary
- Airport Transfers
- Luggage Transfer.
- Holiday insurance – recommended.
- Prices are per person, based upon two people sharing a twin/double bedded room.
- 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.