Alentejo/Algarve: Cycling, Culture and Cuisine
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Portugal is Europe’s wild child: on the edge of things, a bit untamed, unselfconscious and authentic. It boasts gorgeous medieval villages, vineyards, olive groves, fields of wild flowers, endless surf beaches below soaring cliffs, and tucked away restaurants where the meal goes on for hours and the bill is scribbled on your paper tablecloth.
What better way to appreciate the slow and lovely pace of Portugal than by bike? We’ve created a fabulous route, on quiet roads and easy terrain, taking you though diverse landscapes, a world-class wine growing area and the longest, most spectacular coastal national park in Europe.
Of course we start in Lisbon – named by Condé Naste Traveler as ‘Europe’s coolest city right now.’ We stay in a historic hotel, explore the fascinating nooks and crannies of the old quarter, and take in some Fado, the emotional and stirring music of the region. Lisbon is a cultural hotspot: lots to do if you want to add a day at the beginning or end of the trip.
Next we head to sleepy, sunbaked Alentejo, where life moves oh so slowly. Cycling quiet lanes through cork forests, we wheel into the labyrinthine streets of ancient villages including Vila Viçosa (elegant and marbled), Évora (a fabulous UNESCO World Heritage site) and Monsaraz (the oldest settlement in Portugal, and ah the views!).
Along the way there are vineyards to visit, wines to taste, olive oils to sample – someone has to do it and it might as well be us!
And then we reach Algarve, and the mind-bogglingly beautiful Costa Vicentina National Park. Here our cycling goes off the stunning-scale, with endless vistas of pristine surf-pounded beaches, jagged cliffs, caves and arches. We have time along the way to stop for a swim, book a surf lesson, or simply to stroll across yellow sands and dip our toes in the Atlantic.
As a grand finale, we cycle into historic Sagres, the southernmost tip of Portugal. At the rugged Cape St Vincent, we pay our respects to Henry the Navigator, who set off from here on his voyages of world discovery. And we high five to celebrate our adventure through this amazing country!
Add into the mix our lovely accommodations, ranging from restored historic buildings to herdades – quiet country estates – and we can safely say you will have wonderful days and rest happily each night.
Day 1 – Arrival in Lisbon
Transfer from the airport to a historic hotel in the old quarter. Head out for a welcome dinner and atmospheric music.
Day 2 – Lisbon to Vila Viçosa
Take in the sights of Lisbon on a walking tour. Lunch with locals in one of our favourite tucked away eateries, then transfer to Alenjeto and the elegant old town of Vila Viçosa, famous for its marble.
Day 3 – Vila Viçosa to Monsaraz – 53 km cycling
Get acquainted with your bike and start riding! Roll along quiet lanes through cork forests to Alqueva Lake. In the late afternoon, hike to the picturesque hilltop settlement of Monsaraz for a tour of its ancient streets and castle, followed by dinner in a very special local restaurant where the views are stunning and ‘you eat what she cooks!’
Day 4 –Monsaraz to Évora – 62 km cycling
Cycle the backroads of Alentejo, past miles of vineyards and the imposing Valongo Castle. Wheel into the walled town of Évora, an astonishing UNESCO world heritage site.
Day 5 – Évora – optional cycling – 35 km loop
Follow a history guide through the cobbled streets of Évora to see some of its amazing ruins, including a Roman temple and the eerie Chapel of Bones. In the afternoon take an optional spin into the countryside around Évora, stopping at some historic sites, and wind up at a very special winery for some divine tastings.
Day 6 – São Torpes – Vila Nova de Milfontes – 30 km cycling
Say farewell to wine country and head to the coast. Get your neck muscles ready, because the views are truly head twisting! End the day in a peaceful lodge inside the park, with horses grazing in the neighboring field.
Day 7 –Vila Nova de Milfontes – Zambujeira do Mar – 30km cycling
Ride along the coast to the sleepy cliff-top village of Zambujeira. Take time to wander through its winding streets and hike down to the stunning beach. After lunch head to the tranquility of our home for the night, a lovely family run herdade.
Day 8: Zambujeira do Mar – Arrifana – 50km cycling
A day of the most amazing ocean views! Cycle past Odeceixe, where a river meets the sea, creating one of the most beautiful beaches of the Atlantic coast. Pedal into the historic centre of Aljezur, and check out its castle. Then head along quiet trails to our home for the next two nights, tucked away in the countryside.
Day 09: Arrifana Optional biking
So many choices today! Have an optional biking trip in the area, take a cliff hike, book a surf lesson, lounge on lovely Arrifana beach, or curl up with a book by the pool of our herdade.
Day 10: Arrifana – Sagres 55km – cycling
Beach hopping by bike! Cycle from Arrifana, through the shade of some forests to Carrapateira and Bordeira beaches. And finally – roll up to the Portugal’s southernmost point – Sagres! Tip your hats to the great explorers at Cape St Vicent, then get ready for our farewell dinner – with maybe a celebratory ocean dip first?
Day 11 – Homeward
Farewells all round, before you transfer to Lisbon for your onward flights or further adventures.
Email us for a detailed itinerary.
We think of our itineraries as melodies: they have a beginning and an end, a certain arc, dramatic highlights and a few surprises. We like to improvise, to adapt to the mood of our guests or to circumstances that arise — an invitation to a traditional wedding, say, or a local ethnic festival…
Crafting beautiful, harmonious trips with delightful twists is our trade mark and passion.
What are the highlights of the trip?
Too many to mention: from exploring the old quarter of Lisbon, to wandering through medieval villages, to cycling along Europe’s most stunning coastline. Threaded through it all are great encounters with local farmers, artisans and chefs, who share their great pride in this beautiful country.
Where does the trip start and end?
It starts In Lisbon, recently voted Europe’s coolest city by Condé Naste. Lisbon can easily be reached on flights from many other European cities. We end up in Sagres from where we transfer you to Lisbon airport for your flight home or onward journey.
What are the physical activities on the trip and what level of fitness do I need?
This is a great trip for a group of mixed abilities. The cycling is relatively easy, on mainly flat terrain, with distances ranging from 30 km to 60 km a day. E-bikes are a great option, too: you keep smiling even on the uphill sections!
What are the bikes like?
Mostly we use high quality hybrid bikes. Electric-assist bikes are available for an extra fee. Before the trip we send you a questionnaire to help ascertain your level of cycling, your experience, and the type of bike and accessories that will most suit you.
What is Portuguese food like?
In Lisbon and Alentejo, the food is simple and hearty. As we head to the coast we will savour the great seafood of the Algarve. In all areas, we will have lots of salads, fruits and fresh vegetables.
I'm a vegetarian, is that a problem?
Not at all, but please let us know in advance, and advise us on your dietary preferences.
Do I need a visa?
US and Canadian citizens do not require a visa for Portugal.
Do I need any special insurance?
Medical insurance, including emergency evacuation, is mandatory on all our trips. We also strongly advise you to purchase trip cancellation insurance.
Do I need vaccinations?
Your routine vaccinations (tetanus/diphtheria, polio, etc.) should be up to date.
What does the trip price cover?
Airport transfers on the first and last days of the trip, all cultural tour guiding and entrance fees, all accommodation and meals, water throughout the trip, equipment and guide fees.
What does the trip price not cover?
International and domestic flights, airport transfers not on the first or last days of the trip, beverages except for bottled water, alcoholic drinks, personal insurance and gratuities.
How can I access cash when I'm on the trip?
ATMs are readily available through out the trip.
What clothes and equipment will I need?
No special equipment is required. When you sign up for the trip, we will provide you with a comprehensive clothes and equipment list.
I’m travelling alone, is that a problem?
Absolutely not. We have many guests who travel with us on their own. They appreciate the camaraderie of our Hidden Places groups and usually go home with new-found friends. Prices are quoted on a shared room basis. If you require a single room, a Single Supplement will apply.
From US $5450 per person
Private: Apr through Oct
10 nights / 11 days
4 and 5 star hotels, historic boutique hotels and comfortable country inns.
12 guests maximum
Easy cycling (30 to 70 km per day) with e-bike option; history and cultural tours, wine-tasting and culinary adventures.
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