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2015-12-31

Cycling Algarve - a guide for exploring the south of Portugal on a bike

The Algarve, the southernmost region of continental Portugal, is a destination renowned for its beaches, cliffs and sunny weather. Cycling Algarve is a great way to explore the best of this beautiful region, as well as getting to know the countryside and exploring its car-free roads and trails. Fit for beginners or expert riders, there are plenty of options to go Cycling in Algarve - here are some of them!

Why Cycling in Algarve?

The Algarve is Portugal’s southernmost region, and the most popular touristic destination in the country – almost 10 million people visit it every year, especially during peak season. The Algarve extends just south of the Tagus valley to the southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Its highest point is Fóia, at 902 metres, in the mountain range of Monchique. It is also the home of the Ria Formosa lagoon, a nature reserve of over 170 square kilometres and a stopping place for hundreds of different birds. The length of the south-facing coastline is approximately 155 kilometres. The coastline is notable for picturesque limestone caves and grottoes, particularly around Lagos. It is also home to a big variety of beaches, from small and quiet beaches of the Vicentina Natural Park (from Aljezur to Sagres) to big, sandy extensions in Alvor ou Falésia. The temperatures fluctuate between 25 °C and 48 °C (118 °F) in the summer. There are plenty of reasons to Visit Algarve, as you can see from the video below:

 

 

The combination of these attributes makes it a great destination for cycling, especially in the off-peak season, as the weather is sunny and nice all year long. It's also a great destination in the pre-season for road cyclists that flee their colder and wetter countries to join Algarve Cycling Camps from January to May, where they explore the inner roads of the Algarve, climbing to the top of the “Monchique mountain range”, “Barranco do Velho”, etc.

Another popular route for bike touring and intermediate cyclists is the Via Algarviana, “a pedestrian long distance path (300km long), perfect for hiking and biking, that runs from Alcoutim, in the Eastern Algarve, all the way across the region to the western tip at Cape St. Vincent, near Sagres and crossing the Costa Vicentina Natural Park. It follows a meandering, rural route through the Serra do Caldeirão and Serra de Monchique”, according to Mydestination.com. The Eurovelo Algarve route also makes up for a soft riding experience, by the coast line from East to West (Vila Real de Santo António to Sagres), fit for beginner cyclists or for bike touring, you can ride the whole route or just a parts, depending on where you are staying.

Mountain bikers and bike touring enthusiasts can also explore the Vicentina Natural Park, following the Rota Vicentina from Aljezur towards Sagres, exploring the untouched beaches of Arrifana, Bordeira, Carrapateira, the less touristic side to this region. Mountain bikers will love to explore the Monchique mountain range and its trails, perfect for cross country, freeride or even downhill.

Cycling Algarve is a great option for visiting the region as it is an alternative that will allow you to explore the culture and history of the region, deeply – cycling tourism provides an immersive way to get to know the people, food and culture. You also choose to join a bike tour in Algarve  and join a group or private tour to explore the region with local guides.

 cycling algarve map

Section 2: When and where to go

When is the best time to go?

Cycling Algarve, you’ll find a better experience in off peak season – July and August can be too hot for cycling, and the Algarve will be packed with tourists during these months. You can ride the Algarve during the winter, the earliest months of the year, from January to March and enjoy the mild temperature, with an average of 17ºC to 19ºC, making it a great option for road cyclists and cycling groups who wish to improve their skills for the upcoming season. In April, May and June, you’ll benefit from the Spring time and early summer weather, making it a great season for cycling Algarve. September, October and even November are great for cycling as well, as the summer transitions into autumn for a great ending of the year.

Where to go? And how to explore?

To reach the Algarve, the best way is to fly to the regional capital, Faro. If there are no flights available from your local airport to Faro airport, you can fly to Lisbon and take a plane, train, car, bus, transfer or car rental from Lisbon. The region has great transport infrastructure, provided by the A22 highway that crosses the coastline from West to East, as well as the national road, N125.

Cycling Algarve, you can choose from staying at a given hotel (a base, like a cycling camp) and explore the region on daily rides, go on a bike tour in the Algarve (from West to East, for example)  or even have it both ways, choosing two hotels and riding between both of them. East, west, countryside or coastline? Read on and choose the region that best suits your riding profile:

Best areas for cycling the coastline, from West to East:

The Costa Vicentina area, in the West Coast, is a Natural Park that starts in São Torpes (Alentejo) and extends towards the south, entering the Algarve region in Aljezur, continuing  all the way to Sagres. It's best explored riding towards the south, on a tour, from Aljezur to Sagres, passing by the unspoilt beaches that characterize this area – you can follow the Rota Vicentina route if you are riding a hybrid or mountain bike, or follow the main roads on a road bike. There are several charm hotels and guest houses available in the area.

In the area between Sagres and Alvor, you’ll encounter great roads and trails by the beaches of “Furnas”, “Figueira”, “Burgau” – avoid the N125 road and stick to the beaches for a better experience in quiet roads, riding by piscatorial villages. After Lagos and Portimão, the biggest cities in this area of the Algarve, the coast line becomes populated with this kind of scenario again – in the area between Ferragudo, Carvoeiro, until Armação de Pêra, there are several trails and quiet roads in the area. You can also follow the Via Algarviana or the Eurovelo in this area.

Between Armação and Quarteira, the area becomes too urbanized, making it less appropriate for cycling – you should consider riding inland, through the countryside, towards Silves, to skip this part of the Coast, enjoying one of the most historical destinations in the region and the Silves Castle. By “Vale do Lobo”, the landscape turns idyllic and amazing, this time entering  the “Ria Formosa”, “a system of barrier islands that communicates with the sea through six inlets”. It is a designated Natural Park of over 170 km² and a stopping place for hundreds of different birds during the spring and autumn migratory periods. Take the Ecopista by the ria, riding on this peaceful experience between Olhão and Vila Real de Santo António, passing by Fuzeta ( see ciclovia paths here )

cycling algarve beaches

Best areas for cycling the countryside, from East to West:

The countryside is hillier and a better option for more experienced cyclists, especially for bike touring and road cycling . Cycling Algarve from East to west by the countryside, the best option is to go from Aljezur towards the Monchique mountain range, via “Marmelete” – once in Monchique, you can tackle the Fóia, the highest peak in the Algarve, for a tough 8km ascent. From Monchique, you can ride towards Silves, the historical center of the Algarve, visit the castle and explore the Moorish influence of this region, opt to go down to the coast, towards Portimão and Lagos or ride towards the Odelouca and Funcho dams, towards São Bartolomeu de Messines – whichever way you choose to explore the Monchique area, there are plenty car-free roads and trails, all of which provide great descents and ascents.

“Alte” “Rocha da Pena” and “Fonte Benémona” are great regions for mountain biking (the “Maratona de Alte”, a famous cross-country event, occurs in the area) and provide a great way to link Portimão to Faro through the countryside instead of the more populated coastline. The Barranco do velho climb, after “Querença”, is also very popular in the area, and a repeting stage in the Volta ao Algarve. Towards the west, “Portela”, “Garcia”, “Altamora”, “Odeleite”, provide great cycling destinations before reaching the Guadiana river and entering Spain.

cycling algarve - fóia

 

Section 3: BikeTours, Routes and experiences

There are several options to prepare your Algarve cycling holidays, fit for different kind of riders. Listed below are several bike tours and routes separated by rider type. If you want to contribute, just drop us an e-mail at ridewithus(@)portugalbiketours.com !

- Book a Bike tour in Algarve, from west to east.
Fit for beginner and intermediate cyclists, either on road, hybrid or mountain bike.

A bike tour from East to West will take you by the coastline and some of the countryside of the region in a 7 day experience, so that you’ll get to know all of the Algarve. You can choose to ride this as a self-guided or guided experience, on an assisted cycling holidays, with bike rental, accommodation and local guides aiding on your tour.

Ride the Euro Velo, or parts of it, the official European ciclo route
Fit for beginner and intermediate cyclists, on hybrid or mountain bikes.
“From east to west, the Spanish border to Sagres, EuroVelo 1 crosses the Algarve in its entirety - over 200 kilometres of coastline - enough to suit everybody, from sheltered dunes to rocky coves, from tiny bays to vast stretches of open sands, from shallow lagoons to the crashing surf of the wild Atlantic”. Although not completey finished, this route is fairly easy to follow.

Ride the Ria Formosa ecopista in Tavira
Fit for beginner and intermediate cyclists, on hybrid or mountain bike.
The Formosa natural park is a great way to explore the lovely fauna and flora of the region. Renowned as a great region for birdwatching, it's also lovely to explore on a bike, for slow travelling.

- Ride the “Ecovias de Portugal” route maps 
Fit for beginner and intermediate cyclists, on hybrid or mountain bike.
The "Ecovias de Portugal" are guided routebooks that present great options for slow travelling in Portugal, and also the Algarve. You can find their routes from Aljezur to Sagres or Tavira a good option too.

- Ride the "Rota Vicentina", from Aljezur to Sagres
Fit for beginner and intermediate cyclists, on hybrid or mountain bike.
Check their website for planning your cycling experience in the Vicentina Coast Natural park, from Aljezur to Sagres or, if you want to explore the Alentejo coastline, going all the way to São Torpes as well.

- Join an Algarve Cycling Camp
Fit for road cyclists, cycling groups and teams.
Explore the Algarve on daily guided rides, adapted to your cycling experience. This is also a good option for cycling clubs and groups, as you will have a better prepared experience to enjoy the best the Algarve has to offer.

- Ride the Via Algarviana
Fit for intermediate cyclists, on hybrid or mountain bikes.
Via Algarviana is a pedestrian long distance path (300km), classified as a GR13. It starts in Alcoutim, near the Guadiana River and ends at the Cape of St.Vicente, in Vila do Bispo, going through the mountains of “Serra do Caldeirão” and “Serra de Monchique”. It is implanted, mostly, on forest ground, with interesting natural values, and passes by several small rural villages." - it is also a great alternative for bike touring for intermediate riders:

- Aljezur to Silves, by Monchique (Fóia)
Fit for road cyclists, bike touring, from intermediate to advanced riders
Excellent paved and car-free roads in Monchique mountain range. Start by riding from Aljezur towards “Marmelete”, for a tough 20km uphill in beautifull roads. Enjoy the slight descent and rolling hills up to Monchique and then tackle the Fóia, the top of the Algarve at 900m of altitude – 8km from Monchique to the top, with 400 accumulated meters. Enjoy the beautiful view and then descend back to Monchique, pedalling all the way to Alferce and then taking a secondary road towards “ribeira de Odelouca” and then turning left towards Silves, where you can visit the castle and the most historically relevant city in the region. 90km ride, hilly. Contact us to download the track.

- Ride the Aljezur coast and beaches to Sagres
Fit for hybrid and mountain bikes, road cyclists and bike touring
Start your ride in Aljezur, riding to the beautiful beaches of Vale Judeu, Arrifana, before continuing your ride down south in the Costa Vicentina. Ride by the EN268 if you’re in a road bike or, if you’re on a mountain or hybrid bike, take the trails of the Rota Vicentina down south, riding by the beaches of Carrapateira towards Farol de São Vicente and ending your ride in Sagres, the southernmost point of the region. Contact us to download the track.

- Ride from Sagres to Lagos, by the coast
Fit for hybrid and mountain bikes, road cyclists and bike touring
Starting from Sagres, ride by the N125 up to Vila do Bispo on the road, or take the unpaved roads near Farol de São Vicente up to Vila do Bispo if you’re on a hybrid/mountain bike. Then take the paved roads to Salema, Praia da Luz, in which you’ll find some uphills, but a beautiful landscape with cliffs and small, natural Algarve beaches, up to Praia da Luz. Ride from Praia da Luz to Lagos or Alvor in a more urbanized environment, to avoid these parts of the EN125 road. Contact us to download the track

- Other of our favourite rides:

- Ride from Lagos to Vila do Bispo, Aljezur and back Aljezur e Costa Vicentina
Fit for road cyclists, bike touring, from intermediate to advanced riders

- Barranco do Velho climbs;
Fit for road cyclists, bike touring, from intermediate to advanced riders

 

Section 4: Sportives, cycling events, pro races and clubs

If you’re looking to go Cycling Algarve by joining an event you’ll find Cycle Sportives, Cross country stage races and bike clubs where you can join for the occasional ride. Here are a few options for you:

Volta ao Algarve  - February

The Volta ao Algarve started in 1960 and has developed a reputation as a go to road race for pro tour and continental teams during pre season. Riders like Alberto Contador, Michal Kwjatkowski, Tony Martin and Gerraint Thomas have won here in in the past years, proving the race’s appeal to big teams like Sky, Omega-Pharma or Tinkoff. The race generally consists of 5 days, with a big time trial, two mountain stages and two rolling stages, occurring in February. During the race, the Algarve Granfondo also takes place, as do several Volta ao Algarve cycling camps, for cyclists who want to ride in the area while seeing some of the best road cyclists of the world in action.

Algarve Bike Challenge - March

The "Algarve Bike Challenge is a cross country stage race on the sunny coast of Europe, generally occuring in March. It is very popular among portuguese riders, and provides a great alternative for cross country adepts and mountain bikers, as it consists of three days in some of the best trails in the region.

Maratona de Alte - April

Regarded as one of the best cross country marathons in the country, the "Maratona de Alte" is in its 17th edition and provides great single tracks in the areas of Malhão, Rocha da Pena and Rocha dos Soídos. There are several distances you can join, from 15km to 30, 45 or even 75km.

Algarve Granfondo - February

Occurs during the Volta ao Algarve. The Algarve Granfondo is an unique chance to enjoy the beautiful landscapes of Algarve, the Europe’s most famous secret. Taking place in the early stages of cycling season, the Algarve Granfondo has two route options. You can choose to ride the Granfondo (135km) or the Mediofondo (83km)

Clube Loulé

Contact Clube BTT Vila de Loulé and join one of their planned events throughout the year, directed to cross country mountain biking and orientation.

Clube Ciclismo de Tavira

Contact Clube Ciclismo de Tavira for more information on road cycling in the Algarve.

 

 

Want to know more about Cycling Algarve?

Contact us if you want to receive more information regarding cycling Algarve. We are happy to help you plan your bespoke cycling holidays in the region, whether you are an active, intermediate or advanced rider. At Live Love Ride – Portugal Bike Tours we receive groups, families and individual cyclists willing to explore one of the most beautiful areas in Portugal. Cycling Portugal offers a more in depth way of visiting one of Europe’s best kept secrets.

This is an ongoing article – if you feel you’d like to contribute with more information regarding cycling in the Algarve and enrich it with your favourite rides, please drop us an e-mail with your suggestions at ridewitus (@) portugalbiketours.com. Meanwhile, for more information on Cycling Algarve, click on the links below, which are sources for this article:

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algarve

Pedal Portugal: http://pedalportugal.com/

Ecovias de Portugal: http://ecovias.pt

Volta ao Algarve: http://voltaaoalgarve.com/en/

Algarve Bike Challenge:http://algarvebikechallenge.com/

Algarve Granfondo: http://www.cronosport.pt/en/evento/algarve-granfondo-2016/

Visit Algarve: http://www.visitalgarve.pt/index.php?IDIOMA=ven

Faro airport: http://www.ana.pt/en-US/Aeroportos/algarve/Faro/Pages/HomeFaro.aspx

Eurovelo: http://www.eurovelo.com/en/eurovelos/eurovelo-1/countries/portugal

Rota Vicentina: http://en.rotavicentina.com/

Ciclovia: http://www.ciclovia.pt/

Via Algarviana: http://www.viaalgarviana.org/

 

 

 

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