Trails of the authentic Algarve – Guided MTB Tour
Activity: Guided MTB Tour
Date: 1st to 5th April 2020
Bike type: MTB (optional e-bike)
Duration: 4 nights 5 days cycling
Activity Level: Intermediate
Accommodation: Quality rural hotel and B&B
Daily Average: 48km
This fully guided Mountain Bike tour takes you from one side of the Algarve to the other, starting on the border with Spain in Vila Real de Santo António and navigating through the stunning, unspoilt back hills of the Algarve to the coastal town of Odeceixe.
It is designed for those who enjoy exploring, and are not afraid of the odd challenge. We average c.50kms a day, though, so there is time to take in the fabulous surroundings. It will give you a taste of the authentic countryside life whilst testing your fitness on some fabulous natural trails, many of which are seldom ridden.
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Day 1 Cycle to Santa Catarina de Fonte do Bispo: (51km/842m elevation gain)
We will meet in central Loulé, where we will be transported with our bikes and luggage to the beginning of the route in Vila Real de Santo António. After a quick coffee and briefing from our tour leader, we will leave town and almost immediately find ourselves amidst aromatic pine forests, cycling along sandy tracks. Before long we will be heading North in unspoilt, open countryside. The gravel tracks offer the odd challenge but we are inevitably rewarded with far-reaching views and, as we pass through tiny hamlets and cross river beds we can’t help but feel like we are already at the heart of the real Algarve.
Gradually turning south again, our route passes through the scenic National Forest, home to the pleasantly scented Eucalyptus tree, which provides a welcome shade in the hot summer months. Emerging from the forest we will pass close to a waterfall and natural pool “Pego do Inferno”. Popular with locals and tourists alike, it is well signposted and could make a perfect spot to rest a while and wash off the dust of the day’s ride.
From here we will head West to our destination for tonight, a beautifully restored rural boutique hotel, set in 18 hectares of farmland. The hotel is located in the hills just outside Santa Catarina, a somewhat unassuming little town, that has gained notoriety as a result of the famous terracotta tiles, still traditionally manufactured using local, colourful claylike soils. In fact, our scenic route passes right in front of these old-fashioned factories. There is a final climb up to our hotel, but we can look forward to a well-earned dip in their heated outdoor pool, or a relax in the sauna, before indulging in a delicious meal from their extensive menu.
Day 2 Cycle to Salir: (54km/936m elevation)
After a hearty breakfast (including fresh orange juice from the hotel’s very own trees), we will head South along some pleasant undulating trails, offering splendid views down to the coast, passing through farmland and the odd settlement. This is an authentic view of countryside living that not many people get the chance to experience. Passing by a somewhat unexpected feature (a well maintained bowling green!) we will traverse rocky tracks that appear to be untouched and it’s hard to believe we are actually still not far from civilization. These gradually make way to a wider, dusty road that takes us through a beautiful valley towards the traditional old town of São Bras de Alportel, home to one of the best preserved Roman roads in the area. We can make a diversion to into town where there is a pleasant town centre square. But if we can hold out a little longer, we will soon reach the neighbouring village of Alportel, a typical and charming place, home to a rather special café that sells fabulous homemade cakes. Suitably refuelled we will head out of the village and onto single tracks which then lead down to a beautiful valley, with old oak trees and farm animals grazing lazily in the Algarvian sunshine. At the end of the valley is Fonte Felipe (an old working well and water pump) and here we will join a shaded track that cuts across a little gorge towards the main road (from here, we may take a slight detour to the hill-top village of Querença, with it’s beautiful church square and friendly café).
Alternatively we will continue on our route through Fonte Benemola, a well-known local beauty spot; there is a natural spring where it is possible to see water bubbling up out of the ground all year round. Crossing over the stream and along the single track our route heads up and over the hills towards Salir, with its characteristic water tower. It’s quite a long climb at the end of the day, but worth it for the views and we should arrive here in plenty of time to freshen up before venturing into town to sample some of the tasty local food.
Day 3 Cycle to São Bartolomeu de Messines : (46km/767m elevation)
We are in the hills proper, now. It’s a far cry from the bustling tourist destinations on the coast. Our route leads straight up a steady climb but the outstanding scenery provides a natural distraction. Past a farmhouse and an abandoned school (of which there are, sadly, many in the Algarve countryside), we will head North along dirt tracks in the direction of Malhão (renowned as a challenging climb in the annual Tour of the Algarve professional race). There is, believe it or not, a Tibetan Monastery at the summit. The intrepid bikers amongst us might decide to tackle this iconic hill, but be warned. At only 2.5km long, what it lacks in distance it makes up for in gradient, with the steepest section reaching a respectable 20%. Alternatively, we will just head West and across the somewhat less daunting valley, where a sweeping dirt track crosses several rivers and eventually leads to the remote village community of Aguas Frias de Baixo. A café and traditional store marks the centre of this sparse village, famed for its production of the Medronho (local fire water). In the Autumn months it is sometimes possible to see the local farmers collecting the wildly grown Medronho “strawberries “, that are used to make this very strong licqeur. A café stop is recommended here to experience the slow-paced local life, but best to leave sampling this local specialty until after today’s ride as there is still a way to go and a few hills! Our route follows the wide river valley for several kilometers; it’s a perfect opportunity to savour the remoteness and total tranquility of this beautiful region for a while, before we encounter further glimpses of “civilization” as we pass under the Algarve-Lisbon Motorway bridge…quite a structure in itself. Making our way through a small Eucalyptus forest and across farmland our final leg will take us alongside the Lisbon railway line and into São Bartolomeu de Messines, a small, yet busy market town, where we can mix with the locals and enjoy some fine food and wine at very reasonable prices.
Day 4 Cycle to Nave de Redonda: (43km/708m elevation)
Crossing the main Algarve to Lisbon railway line we are almost immediately pedalling along a quiet road through undulating countryside for a couple of kms. From here we will cross over a bridge and head along dirt tracks that hug the edge of the reservoir that provides the local water supply for farmers and a peaceful location for freshwater fishing. Evidence of the manmade nature of the reservoirs soon manifests itself as our route passes a partly submerged school, no doubt once the hub of this diminishing community. Eucalyptus forests and varied countryside scenery all make this an interesting ride, without many serious challenges. Eventually we will make a steady climb to the hillside town of São Marco de Serra, one of the few café stops available today, as we gradually head further inland.
Leaving Northwest out of São Marcos da Serra, initially following the railway line, our route continues through quiet rolling countryside. Here we will cycle along meandering country lanes with tiny homesteads and abandoned farms scattered on the hilltops. It is reminiscent of the land that time forgot, but the peace and tranquillity make for a pleasant and relaxing ride. We approach our stay for tonight by crossing a vast canvas of hills that stretch as far as the eye can see, connected mostly by dirt tracks similar to the ones we are cycling. It is an impressive end to a varied day’s cycling. Our hotel for the night is a rural guesthouse set on the top of a hill overlooking the village and valleys beyond. The pretty garden and outdoor pool are a perfect oasis in which to relax before heading down to the restaurant at the end of the drive.
Day 5 Cycle to Odeceixe: (47km/689m elevation)
Our final day takes us towards the dramatic West coast of Portugal. It’s a great day to finish on, as we will be cycling through yet more virtually uninhabited countryside, punctuated with the odd farm and the occasional Eucalyptus forest. As well as great cycling terrain, it gives us an opportunity to really soak up the region’s natural beauty and serenity as we amble along authentic, hidden trails.
As we approach the coast we will join a short section of the famous Rota Vicentina (a historical trail that forms the backbone of another of our popular MTB tours). From here it is evident we are getting closer to the seaside as the tracks become sandy and we can start to feel the freshness of the sea air. There are some fabulous trails leading us up and over the hills towards the coast and we can enjoy a good pace as we navigate our way down towards the final stretch.
Today is not just the end of our trip; it also marks a significant landmark in our journey, the border between the Alentejo and the Algarve, marked by the pretty, small town of Odeceixe, With its whitewashed houses leading up to an old windmill, it is a welcome sight. It is a naturally beautiful place, where the river turns into the Atlantic and the meadows pave way to the rugged coastline. A few kms further along the road is Praia de Odeceixe. Here there is a bar and a restaurant that overlook the spectacular beach below and the Atlantic ocean; with the fresh sea air to blow away the dust of the day’s cycling it’s a perfect end to our trip.
We will transfer you from here back to Central Loulé.
Price per person, based upon two people sharing a twin/double bedded room, is €425pp
Single room accommodation subject to availability, please specify if preferred .
- Transfer between the Central Algarve and Vila Real de Santo António on Day 1
- Transfer back to the Central Algarve from Odeceixe on Day 5
- 4 nights b&b stay in comfortable guesthouse or hotel based on 2 persons sharing a twin room.
- Daily luggage transfer between accommodation
- Flights to and from the Algarve
- Lunches and evening meals
- Bike rental is available on request
- Helmets and SPD pedals. You can hire at a small fee, but we suggest you bring your own
- Personal accident insurance, which we strongly recommend you take out.
Choice of good quality 29er mtbs as follows :-Aluminium Hardtail €160Aluminium full suspension €200Carbon hardtail €200
- Safety helmet, €12 euro per week (we suggest you bring your own)
- A choice of pedals, €12 euro per week (we suggest you bring your own)