We all know that Mallorca is cycling paradise, and the French Alps are a cycling Mecca. What if you could combine the best of both and take away the traffic? Welcome to Portugal. A postcard perfect coastline and forested summit climbs that roll into rural hills dotted with cafés make for a cycling holiday to remember. It’s no wonder the Algarve is becoming a hot spot for cyclists and families wanting either challenge, a day sunbathing at the beach or both.
You know those enormous, jagged coastal cliffs that many people associate with Portugal? Cycling to the western coast of Alentejo from the Algarve means cycling on top of these magnificent formations. You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to type of riding, with dirt tracks, trails and quiet roads all stretching into the heart of the Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina National Park. Over 300 million years old and perfectly preserved, the National Park’s landscape is indeed special, and at Love Velo we recommend taking a few days to travel from Aldeia da Pedralva to Aljezur.
A day cycling in the Algarve’s 32km Serra de Monchique mountain range will be enough to have any road cyclist hooked. Once the wheels are spinning atop pristine roads to the summit of Algarve’s most famous and tallest climb, Foia, the itch to explore the surrounding expanse of mountains will be too much to ignore. Foia reaches 902m in altitude, and you can either cycle from sea level or the former Roman spa town of Monchique. Lagos offers a good starting point from sea level, and will take you up to Marmelete and Monchique before the 9km up to Foia. Treat yourself to cake and coffee in Marmelete, and maybe even Monchique and the top of Foia too…You’ll deserve it after the stretches of double digit gradients!
Ria Formosa National Park
60km of unspoilt coastline greets anyone hoping to discover a nirvana of natural lagoons, which are home to an abundance of wildlife. Ride the network of trails and bridges that connect the barrier islands and inlets whilst trying to spot the 200 bird species, including flamingos! As the routes are traffic free, and are interconnected, the Ria Formosa National Park invites you to freely explore its beauty. Alternatively, at Love Velo we can provide GPX routes that will help navigate the vast maze of lagoons.
Quinta do Lago
As a base for road cycling in Portugal, Quinta do Lago has got to be one of the best. The Campus, a brand new resort boasting training facilities for a wide range of sports including the Bike Shed, is in an ideal location for exploring the Algarve’s lesser known peaks. Bike manufacturer Cube uses Quinta do Lago as a testing ground, so rest assured the roads will be top notch. Climb the tough 105km Pastel del Nata toward Alte via Son Bras, where you’ll pass the Germano Bicicarte café. There’s a reason the ride is named ‘pastry’ in Portugese, and that’s because this café serves the tastiest pastries and cakes in the Algarve. As with all the routes in the Algarve’s mountain range, traffic is sparse, so much so that the odd car will take you by surprise.
If a leisurely ride is your calling, a day in and around Vilamoura will be perfect. The promenade extends along the stunning beaches of the south western Algarve, away from any traffic and all flat. Golden sands and crystal waters are always in reaching distance, so give in to the temptation and take a few stops to admire just how beautiful Portugal’s favourite coastline is. After your ride, the best way to spend the evening is by heading into Vilamoura resort where you’ll find chic restaurants, a wealth of golf courses and Roman relics.
When should I go cycling in Portugal?
Everyone loves Portugal. That’s why the peak summer months from July to August are packed with tourists along the Algarve’s coast. Not a great time to cycle along the coastal routes. However, the mountains will be quieter and still great for some hardcore road cycling, even if it’s hot. The best time to go cycling in Portugal is in the off-peak season, from April to June, and September to November. Warm temperatures and less tourists will make your cycling experience just that bit better. Winter cycling is also an option, although the temperature is quite mild and there’s a higher chance of rain.
Tips for cycling in Portugal
If you want to cycle into the rural areas, outside of the bustling cities and towns, you’re going to have to practice a bit of basic Portugese. Not every local will speak English, and it may be useful for you to know how to ask for directions, order food (for the many café’s you’ll encounter) and where the nearest bike shop is.
Speaking of bike shops – there aren’t many out in the sticks. Remember your puncture repair kit, and an emergency spare tube if you’re doing self-guided routes.
Exhausted from all the cycling? Museums are free on a Sunday, so head to your nearest one to learn more about Portugal’s history and culture.
Motorists are mostly respectful of cyclists in Portugal, yet they do have right of way. Bear this in mind when in busier areas such as Lagos, Faro and large towns. In rural areas we’ve found that traffic is rare, so try not to get complacent and remember to give enough space for cars to pass safely.
Dogs are man’s best friend until they’re wild. Wild dogs aren’t everywhere in rural Portugal, but it’s recommended you remain vigilant, as cyclists have experienced stray dogs taking a liking to a bike chase. The dogs haven’t been known to attack people, so you only have to worry about them hitting your bike.
Fancy cycling in Portugal? Contact our team of travel cycling specialists to find out where in Portugal suits you for your fully flexible cycling holiday.