Trails of the authentic Algarve
Activity: Self guided mtb holiday
Bike type: Mountain bike (optional e-bike)
Duration: 7 nights, 5 days cycling, 1 rest day
Activity Level: Intermediate
Accommodation: 3 and 4 star hotels/guesthouses
Daily Average: 45km
Price: From €760
This is a scenic Trans Algarve Mountain Bike tour across the back hills of the Algarve, exploring some of the best tracks, many of which are seldom ridden. It will give you a taste of the authentic countryside life whilst testing your fitness on some fabulous natural trails.
Guided Group Holiday
I knew I was challenging myself when I joined the group to do the cycling trip as I was not an experienced cyclist, but I’m glad that I did. It was tough at times, but I felt supported by my own team and also the guides who were there to encourage and offer technical tips, which I now use regularly. The trip was well organised from start to finish, despite difficulties brought on by the emerging Covid19 pandemic. As a result of this trip I now cycle more regularly and confidently and I would definitely be interested in joining another trip with this company. Katrina Mullen (March 2020)
Day 1 Arrival
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 Santa Catarina de Fonte do Bispo: (51km/842m elevation gain)
It’s a nice easy start to the day as you leave by the ferry terminal and trace the outskirts of VRSA. Almost immediately you are amidst aromatic pine forests, cycling along sandy tracks, where you won’t expect to meet many others apart from the odd jogger or fellow cyclist. Before long you will find yourself heading North in unspoilt, open countryside. The gravel tracks offer the odd challenge but you are inevitably rewarded with far-reaching views and, as you pass through tiny hamlets and cross river beds you can’t help but feel like you are already at the heart of the real Algarve.
Gradually turning south again, your 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 you 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 you will head West to your 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, your scenic route passes right in front of these old-fashioned factories. There is a final climb up to your hotel, but you 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 3 Cycle to Salir: (54km/936m elevation)
After a hearty breakfast (including fresh orange juice from the hotel’s very own trees), you 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!) you will traverse rocky tracks that appear to be untouched and it’s hard to believe you are actually still not far from civilization. These gradually make way to a wider, dusty road that takes you 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. You can make a diversion to into town where there is a pleasant town centre square. But if you can hold out a little longer, you 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 you 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 you will join a shaded track that cuts across a little gorge towards the main road (from here, you may take a slight detour to the hill-top village of Querença, with it’s beautiful church square and friendly café).
Alternatively continue on your 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 your 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 you should arrive here in plenty of time to freshen up before venturing into town to sample some of the tasty local food.
Day 4 Cycle to São Bartolomeu de Messines : (46km/767m elevation)
You are in the hills proper, now. It’s a far cry from the bustling tourist destinations on the coast. Your 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), you 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 you 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, 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! Your 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 you encounter further glimpses of “civilization” as you pass under the Algarve-Lisbon Motorway bridge…quite a structure in itself. Making your way through a small Eucalyptus forest and across farmland your final leg will take you alongside the Lisbon railway line and into São Bartolomeu de Messines, a small, yet busy market town, where you can mix with the locals and enjoy some fine food and wine at very reasonable prices.
Day 5 Rest day in SB Messines
After 3 days of enjoyable riding, it’s a perfect time to have a day out of the saddle, here in Messines . This 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 cafes 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 and run by locals who are only too happy to suggest activities and places of interest for you during your day off. Plus, for those not wanting to rest all day there are some excellent opportunities for a ride just outside town, with some of the most scenic reservoirs (barragem) that you can circumnavigate at a gentle pace to keep those legs moving. We’ve included an optional loop circuit of around 32 km and just over 500m of elevation. The circuit follows the contours of the hill around Barragem do Funcho, passes over the dam on the Barragem do Arade and then circles back towards SB Messines. It makes for a beautifully scenic half day ride.
Day 6 Cycle to Nave de Redonda: (43km/708m elevation)
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 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 your 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 you will make a steady climb to the hillside town of São Marco de Serra, one of the few café stops available today, as you gradually head further inland.
Leaving Northwest out of São Marcos da Serra, initially following the railway line, your route continues through quiet rolling countryside. Here you 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. You approach your 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 you are cycling. It is an impressive end to a varied day’s cycling. Your 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 7 Cycle to Odeceixe: (47km/689m elevation)
Your final day takes you towards the dramatic West coast of Portugal. It’s a great day to finish on, as you 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 you an opportunity to really soak up the region’s natural beauty and serenity as you amble along authentic, hidden trails.
As you approach the coast you 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 you are getting closer to the seaside as the tracks become sandy and you can start to feel the freshness of the sea air. There are some fabulous trails leading you up and over the hills towards the coast and you can enjoy a good pace as you navigate your way down towards the final stretch.
Today is not just the end of your trip; it also marks a significant landmark in your 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 you will find 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 your holiday.
Day 8 Departure
We will transfer you from your accommodation for your journey home.
- GPS hire, GPS tracks and detailed maps
- Quality accommodation
- Route assistance where necessary
- Luggage Transfer
- Transfers to hotel or train/coach station
- Quality bike hire. Options for upgrade to E-Bike.
- Holiday insurance – recommended.
- Prices are per person, based upon two people sharing a twin/double bedded room on a B&B basis.
- 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.
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)
- Guiding service by experienced mtb guide €POA
- Extra overnight stays in Odeceixe (price tbc)