On the first day of this tour, we'll transfer you from Lisbon to Marvão, in Alto Alentejo - a 2h30m drive from the capital's airport or hotel into inland Portugal. This scenic drive will lead you to Marvão, that stands a few kilometres from the Spanish border - a unique and peaceful walled town, on the high crest of São Mamede Sierra. This 9th century fortress was once a strategic military location is the perfect starting point for this tour. After check-in at a charm hotel with beautiful views over the landscape and located within the fortified walls, take your time to walk inside the fortress and discover it's castle - the construction of which was attributed to 9th century Islamic knight, Ibn Marwan, later conquered by the Christian forces in the 12th century.
Start your ride with a long refreshing downhill from the top of Marvão towards Santo António das Areias and Beirã, from here you will find a rugged landscape characterised by huge rock formations and the constant presence of cattle, very common in this northern part of Alentejo region. You will also have the chance to spot again Marvão on the top of the hill, and realize how far you came in the first downhill of the day. The next location you will ride by is the village of Castelo de Vide and it’s unique Jewish quarter (Portuguese: Judiaria), one of the most important examples of Jewish presence in Portugal, dating back from the 13th century. This well-preserved walled city is characterised by the medieval castle at the top, the village fountain, a synagogue, the Church of Santa Maria da Devessa and it’s narrow Streets that will take you back in time - Castelo de Vide is a great location for a quick coffee stop. Leaving the village, the route will lead you downhill again, until you reach a flatter section. Here you will have the first contact with the catachrestical rolling hills of Alentejo where the landscape tents to get dryer with much less rock formations. The next location for the day is Flôr de Rosa, nearby Crato. This small quiet village is know for hosting the Flôr de Rosa monastery as a landmark, that was built in the 14th century to become part of the Order of Malta, which nowadays was converted into a charm Hotel but one that you can still visit ( and get to sleep in, if you choose an upgrade to our "premium" hotels on our Bike tour in Alentejo). Back on quiet roads, you will get to today’s final destination, Alter do Chão, where your hotel is located. This place is a 16thcentury reconverted convent where you have the chance to visit the originally preserved chapel and a enjoy some snacks by the swimming pool. Also in Alter do Chão we suggest you to walk around town and spot the Alter do Chão Castle, located a few meters away from your hotel, and discover the local restaurants for dinner.
In this second riding day, you will explore the rolling hills surrounded with the typical landscape of the region. The first stop of the day is the village of Fronteira, one of the largest villages in the area. Getting there you will cross a narrow roman bridge over the Vide river and start ascending towards the centre of the village. Here you have a few options for a coffee stop or groceries. You also will spot many friendly locals hanging around wearing their caps (Portuguese: Bóina), very typical from the Alentejo region. Back on the road you will keep riding by secondary roads with very low traffic. The countryside landscape and pure air will be everywhere and the vineyards and olive trees will be predominant. The next village you will pass through is Sousel and then Estremoz. Once in Estremoz you will realize how historically involved the city is, with the 12th century castle and old jail, an important primary defence back in time. The wine production is the biggest industry here and there are several winemakers producing their finnest wines here. The marble is predominant all-around due to the abundance in the region and you will see it in sidewalks, ornaments and also in the castle and jail façades. Take some time to visit the city centre and you find several options for a snack or lunch - Estremoz has a thriving gastronomy scene, with restaurants like Mercearia Gadanha or Cadeia Quinhentista as some of the best options available. If you have chosen our "premium" pack of hotels, stay at Pousada de Estremoz and walk up to the "Ivory Tower" to overlook this magical city. The last section of the day is the longest climb you will face in the whole tour, a 7-kilometre climb in the heart of D’Ossa Sierra. It will be a challenge but the feeling of overtaking it is amazing and the reward by the end is your Hotel for the night. Today you will be staying in an old 12th century building, the São Paulo convent, where the rooms are the old monk cells and every corridor has as beautiful tile work. Cloisters and chapels, all side by side with your room. The experience of staying one night like the monks use to do but with a lot of comfort, surrounding with nothing but nature and harmony. A place you will never forget!
Leaving the beautiful São Paulo Convent ( or Estermoz) , the ride will start with a long and quiet downhill towards Redondo, the nearest village. From here the route will take you to a national road where the rolling hills are predominant, until you get to Alandroal, a beautiful village pretty well preserved and it´s castle as a landmark. Here we suggest you to take a coffee break and try some of the local pastry. From Alandroal then, the ride will be practically with zero traffic, warm due to the sun exposition and olive trees, vineyards and a-corn trees will be all around. There is no way you can not enjoy this atmosphere! Along this stretch you will cross a lake, located “in the middle of nowhere”, it is just a little parcel of the Alqueva artificial lake, the biggest lake of it’s kind in the Iberic peninsula as you will have the chance to see how big it is when you get to the final destination of the day. Passed the lake, you will get into a big plantation of olive trees and further the ride will be back on rolling hills until the last kilometres of the ride.
On the last stretch of the ride you will start spotting a higher land where a walled town is located. This place is Monsaraz, one of the Portuguese 7 wonders and also the place you will be staying for the night. Finalizing the ride, you will face the steepest climb of the day, it won’t take too long, but will be a challenge for your legs and a treat to your soul. As you keep climbing, the views around the area and over the lake will start getting better and better. Getting closer to the walled area you will arrive into a roundabout where, on the left, is located a viewpoint. Make a stop there and enjoy the astonishing views over the Alqueva lake. This lake is the biggest of it’s kind in western Europe and was artificaily created in 2002 after the construction of a dam to retain water for suplying the population and irrigation necessary for the area. Nowadays it is perfectly integrated in the landscape of the region what doesn’t make it look artificial at all.
Finishing the ride, you are just a few meters away from your hotel located on the right side of the main entrance to the walled village of Monsaraz. It is a small and comfy hotel where you can enjoy it’s swimming pool and have a quiet and relaxing night of sleep.Visiting the walled village of Monsaraz and it’s castle is a mandatory activity to do. This one of a kind location was conquered to the moors in the 12th century and was an important defence against the Spanish invaders. Mostly built with lime and shale, it´s church is a highlight and the well preserved streets are a unique place to visit, and a perfect spot for watching the sunset drinking a glass of local wine. Also the castle, mostly in ruins is the highest point you can go and the views over the Alqueva lake are unforgettable. For dinner we suggest you a restaurant called “Sabores de Monsaraz”, it’s right in front of your hotel and a “sui generis” place with the best food you can find in Alentejo. Don’t worry about what you want for dinner, the owner, Dna. Isabel will treat you well!
Start today’s ride going downhill from Monsaraz overlooking the beautiful Alqueva lake, then you will get to a flat section for the next 15 kilometres towards Reguengo de Monsaraz. Halfway on that section you will pass trough a little village, São Pedro do Corval renowned for it´s pottery. We suggest you to take a look at the shops around where the potters will be doing their job. Back on track, the ride will take you to Reguengos de Monsaraz where the largest winery in Portugal is located, the Herdade do Esporão with its 700 acres of vineyards, olive trees a museum and Castle for wine aging. Leaving Reguengos de Monsaraz the ride will be on a very quiet road that will take you from village to village always surrounded with the purest landscape and people that characterises the Alentejo region. In Montoito you can make a coffe break or keep riding until you spot a castle in the middle of nowhere surrounded with vineyards, the Valongo Castle. Once a military structure and manor palace, was built around 1280a.c. and is now days one of the best preserved examples of medieval architecture in Portugal.
The next village you will pass by is Nossa Senhora do Machede that is also an option for a coffee break. From there you will be soon arriving at your final destination for the day, Évora. Finishing the ride you will arrive in UNESCO World Heritage city of Évora. It is the biggest city in the Alentejo region where many important landmarks are located. You’re hotel for the next two nights will be right inside the city walls, the perfect location for further exploration of the historical centre. There are some important monuments for you to visit in Évora; the monumental Gothic Évora Cathedral from the 12th century; The São Francisco Church and Bones chapel, with it’s name given because the interior walls are covered with human bones and skulls; the 1st century Diana temple from the period of Roman presence in Portugal; the Giraldo square, built in the 16th century and where the city centre is located. The university in town takes many young people to live and study in Évora and it gives a refreshing atmosphere surrounded with history, culture, good gastronomy and warm people. Will take some time to visit it all, but don´t worry, on the next day you will have some time again to visit this amazing city.
For your last riding day you will face a shorter and easy loop ride from Évora to Arraiolos, to give you plenty of time to explore Évora in the afternoon. Leaving your hotel inside the walled town, start riding north by the national road at the beginning, then the route will take you to the rural backroads where the alentejo landscape and quietness involves you. On the way you will pass trough some of the best wineries and vineyards of the region like Cartucha or Fita Preta where you may consider doing a wine tasting after finishing the ride.
Getting to Arraiolos you already did half of the total distance today. There you will find the only climb challenge of the day up to the castle winding by the cobblestoned streets and the region typical white and blue/yellow houses. Once up there, take time to walk around the walls of this partly ruined structure from the 13th century, and enjoy the 360º views over the region, where you will be able to spot Évora further south, and East D’Ossa sierra - the challenging climb conquered three days ago. At the highest point you will see the well preserved Nossa Senhora do Castelo church, a still active church all painted in white and blue. Down hilling from the castle, you will pass right in the centre of Arraiolos where we suggest you to make a coffee break or visit one of the local tapestry shops. Arraiolos is pretty famous for artisanal production of wool and jute tapestry, known as “Tapetes de Arraiolos”. This tapestry art is made in the area officially since the 17th century, but some influences of this sewing stitch (Ponto de Arraiolos) where applied centuries before. Getting out of Arraiolos, you will get on backroads by the flattest section of the day, towards Igrejinha, where the little Divor dam is located. The further section will be by rolling hills where many cork oak trees and vineyards are located, the perfect end for this cycling week journey. Back at the hotel, you have now more free time to enjoy the city of Évora, or if you already did it we suggest you to make a wine tasting at one of the previously suggest wineries.
For this last day, we suggest either a quick morning ride to the megalithic Cromlechs complex of the Almendres, an imposing man made structure dated from back to the 6th millennium b.c., or simply enjoying your final hour in Évora with a city walk to soak in the atmosphere. At the designated hour, we'll transfer you back to Lisbon for the end of your experience.
Hope you enjoyed reading our words on cycling Alentejo! If you want to take part in this experience with us, make sure to check out our Bike Tour in Alentejo, that you can experience as a self-guided or guided cycling holiday!