Trails of the authentic Algarve
Activity: Self guided mtb holiday
Bike type: Mountain 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 €610
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.
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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: (50km/876m elevation gain)
Leaving by the ferry terminal in VRSA your route takes you initially through a nature park and past salt flats on the way to the ancient settlement of Castro Marim. From here you will head North towards the Quinta do Vale golf course and it won’t be long before you will find yourself in unspoilt, open countryside. 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 continue towards traditional old villages, climbing some gentle hills to a waterfall and natural pool “Pego do Inferno”. Popular with locals and tourists alike, it is an ideal spot to linger over a picnic lunch and wash off the dust of the morning’s ride. From here you will head West along a scenic route that skirts old factories and remote homesteads, to your destination for tonight. You can look forward to a home cooked meal in this beautifully restored rural boutique hotel, set in 18 hectares of farmland. The hotel is located 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.
Day 3 Cycle to Salir: (50km/859m elevation)
After a hearty breakfast 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 cycle through a beautiful valley along a wide dirt track, towards the traditional old Roman town of São Bras, home to one of the best preserved Roman roads in the area; a slight detour enables interested riders to traverse the ancient cobbles. São Bras town offers a pleasant town centre square, an ideal setting for a well-earned first coffee and cake of the day. Riding North out of town towards Alportel, a typical and charming village, your route takes you past a working farm and onto single tracks. These then lead through a beautiful valley with old oak trees and farm animals grazing lazily in the Algarvian sunshine. Passing by Fonte Felipe (an old working well and water pump) and along a shaded valley, you may want to take a quick detour to the hill-top village of Querença, with it’s beautiful church square and friendly café. From here you will cycle 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. This is a steady climb, 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 : (44km/615m 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 incredible 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: (40km/500m 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 heading 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 the long 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, your route continues through the quiet rolling countryside that is so typical of the ‘real’ Algarve and this makes for a pleasant and relaxing end to your day’s cycling.
Day 7 Cycle to Odeceixe: (46km/577m 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 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 tranquility and natural beauty as you amble along authentic, hidden trails.
As you approach the outskirts of São Teotonio, it’s worth a quick detour, to visit one of the cafés in the pretty town centre square. Suitably refreshed you can continue along a short section of the famous Rota Vicentina (a historical trail that forms the backbone of another of our popular MTB tours). 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 really is a fascinating place, where the river turns into the Atlantic and the meadows pave way to the rugged coastline. A few kms further along the road stands a bar that overlooks the spectacular beach of Odeceixe below and the Atlantic ocean; with the fresh sea air to blow away the dust of the day’s cycling it’s a fitting 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
- Transfers to hotel or train/coach station
- Luggage Transfer €250 per group
- Bike hire
- 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)