This blog post was written by our guide Luís Lopes, who is very familiar with riding from Lisbon to Sagres and Lagos on our Bike Tour in the Portuguese Southwest Coast. Below, Luís shares what it's like to ride by Vicentina coast, using some identified "Rota Vicentina" tracks and variations for a better experience while riding from North to South on a bike.
The Southwest coast of Portugal is famous for it’s beautiful secluded beaches, unique cliff views, mild Mediterranean weather, friendly people and ocean based gastronomy. One of the best ways to explore the Vicentina Coast is to ride it, from North to South ( to take advantage of the wind, as it blows mostly from the North by the Atlantic Coast). This route, from Sines to Sagres - the southernmost point of Portugal - and then Lagos makes up is a 7 day journey along 250 kilometres of extension and an experience you must add to your bucket list!
Located in the two southwestern most regions of continental territory (Alentejo and Algarve), the “Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina” Natural Park extends from up north in Ribeira da Junqueira, in São Torpes (Alentejo region) to Burgau beach (Algarve Region) in the south. It covers three municipalities: Sines, Odemira, Aljezur and Vila do Bispo. The "South West Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park" is the finest preserved stretch of European coastline, and includes various unique species of animal and plant life. The landscape is marked by steep cliffs, represented in the Park's logo, that have been given various forms and colouring by centuries of erosion and the beaches are highly popular amongst surfers - some of the finest in the country. There is a tremendous variety of beaches, including long stretches of sand and small beaches nestled between the cliffs and rocks, like Porto Covo, Malhão, Vila Nova de Milfontes, Almograve, Monte Clérigo, Arrifana and Praia do Amado. If you have the energy and desire to stray from the beaten track, albeit with difficult access, it’s possible to discover many other beaches that have been preserved in a virtually unspoilt state.
Pretty famous for biking, surfing, hiking, birdwatching, we prefer to explore this region on a bike, from Sines to Lagos. Below is a daily description of the daily rides you'd be experiencing while cycling Rota Vicentina.
Start your ride in São Torpes, just outside of Sines, on a long flat coastal extension and it’s white sand beaches. This area is a summer spot for many Portuguese families and a surfing reference for locals, where you will be able to do a beach-to-beach ride. It’s a 7 kilometres extension until you reach Porto Covo, an ancient fisherman’s village where this activity is still predominant and also where most of it’s white and blue/yellow houses are now converted into vacation retreats for many Portuguese families. Here you have several restaurants, souvenir and gelato options.
The route will take you outside off the village trough a river crossing where a small fishing harbour is located, and then you will have to do a short climb to the cliffs. The view from up here is amazing and you can have a glimpse on the further south coastal area that you will reach in the next days. Once up there you will spot a little island just a few hundred meters away from the coast, that is the biggest landmark in this region, and you will also be able to take a closer look at it in the next beach stop. This beach is named “Ilha do Pessegueiro”, that means “Peach tree island” and is actually the name of the amazing island you are spotting right in front of you. It’s name was given because the island was settled by fishermen around 200b.c., and the similarity of the latin word “piscarium”(fishing) and the Portuguese “Pessegueiro”(Peach tree) was the way to adapt the name to one that made sense in Portuguese.
Back on track, after 18 kilometres, you will then reach Vila Nova de Milfontes, your final stop for the day. The hotel you are staying is located right by the Mira river, and is also a sports centre where you can rent a kayak or a Stand Up Paddle if you wish. Also in town you have one of the best restaurants in the area, that we truly recommend you to go for dinner, “Tasca do Celso”.
Take a walk by the river and first go to your right until the end of the road, where Farol beach is located. There you will the Mira river flowing to the Atlantic ocean. Back to the hotel location keep walking straight ahead and in 200 meters you will see on your right the 13th century São Clemente fortress. Also on the back of it, if you take the stairs down on the right side, you have a wooden path that gives you beautiful perspective of the fortress and it’s proximity with the river. Take some time to walk around the little streets of the village where you will find a variety of shops just a few hundred meters away from your hotel.
Your ride today will take you from Vila Nova de Milfontes towards Brejão. Leaving town you will get on the the national road and cross the bridge over the Mira river and it’s unique view over Vila Nova de Milfontes. After a few kilometres, you will leave the national road and enjoy the quiet trails and roads until getting into Almograve. This little village has a beach just a few meters further with the same name, and here you will spot some rock formations by the water that look like small “lakes”. Very popular for families during the summer.
Leaving Almograve the road will take you on a long flat section, surrounded with diverse kinds of plantations, until you reach one of the highlights of the day, the Sardão cape and lighthouse. Arriving there you will start spotting the lighthouse and the track will take you to the trails right by the cliffs. Don’t worry, it’s all marked and it’s totally safe. Once by the cliffs it is impossible not to get involved with this magic place, with it’s huge cliffs, rock formations, storks and a variety of birds setting theirs nests by the cliffs. The 1915 lighthouse is still active and an important reference for boats navigating by the coast. Take some time here and enjoy this amazing location.
Leaving the Sardão cape, you will follow off road further south, all the way by the cliffs, surrounded with local flora and astonishing views over the ocean.
The next point of reference is Zambujeira do Mar, once just a fishing village, is now a beautifull summer spot. The Zambujeira beach is the major reference here, and you are able to spot it dug in the cliffs right from the top of the village. In this town you will also find the little Nossa Senhora do Mar chapel and it's inside wall covered with tiles, and a main street where the majority of shops, restaurants are located.
Leaving the village you will pass the beaches of Alteirinhos and Carvalhal, and then reach the village of Brejão. Is just a small village with not much interesting things to see, but in four yellow walls you will see some paintings referencing a famous portuguese Fado singer, Amália Rodrigues. This village was once her summer retreat and her house was right by the Amália beach, for that reason.
Just a few kilometres further you will arrive at your hotel for tonight, a beautiful country house with it’s beautiful and quiet rooms and it’s private swimming pool, here you will feel like at home. For dinner we suggest you to book it at the hotel, the food is delicious and made by the resident cook.
In this third day you will start your ride by the water canals used for agriculture irrigation, a “landmark” in this area and an amazing way to start your riding day. After a few kilometres on the canals the route will take you to the main national road for a few minutes on a nice downhill until your reach the Odeceixe river crossing bridge. Once you passed it, you will be leaving the Alentejo region and will be already in Algarve.
The next location you will head to is Odeceixe. First you will pass trough the village of Odeceixe, a little well preserved village set in the valley of Seixe river and where most of the people from this area live in. Here you can take a walk inside town and enjoy the calm environment where most of the locals live in. Following the track again, you will then go side-by-side with the river towards the Odeceixe beach. The views along the way will be amazing and make some stops to enjoy it.
Arriving in Odeceixe beach you will spot this amazing beach, the highlight of todays ride, where the Seixe river flows to the ocean right down in the valley and we definitely suggest you to go down there and take some time to enjoy it, will worth every second. Also here, is a perfect spot for a snack or having lunch with a view over the beach.
Leaving the beach and back on your bicycle, you will take the quiet backroads of the region, where the agriculture is predominant and people leave in the countryside just a few minutes away from the ocean. The first little villag you will pass by is Maria Vinagre and then Rogil. In Rogil you will spot more people and traffic because it stands right by the national road and you also have a nice pastry shop here, named “Pão do Rogil” where you can enjoy some of the finest pastry of this region.
Back on the road through the backroads, the GPS track will take you to Amoreira beach, where you can stop and enjoy the view for a while. If is still early in the day, take some time here, your hotel location for the day is just a few kilometres away mostly flat riding.
On your way to the destination for today you will arrive in Aljezur town and your hotel will be right when you arrive there. After doing check-in and a refreshing shower, take some time to walk around town, here you will find a lot of options for eating, groceries or shopping and make your way up to the castle of Aljezur, that is mostly in ruins but you can have a wider perspective over the village from up there.
Today the ride will start with the toughest climb of the day, right in the centre of Aljezur village, you will head up towards the castle and then further up, it’s a 1.5 kilometres steep climb but where you can make it step by step and also visit the castle if you had no chance to go there on the day before. Once conquered the climb you will now be riding in ha highland and the route will take you to the first beach, Monte Clérigo and its houses located by the beach, a beautiful spot for a quick stop.
Then, by the asphalted road, the route will take you to one of the most beautiful beaches in the area, Arrifana, also a popular spot for surfers as you will see. This beach is located at the bottom of a cove, protected by high cliffs and the access is a long, steep winding downhill and same way back, so make the decision to go or just enjoy the view from the viewpoint, where you can also take a break for a snack or lunch.
Leaving this unique place, and after roughly 20 kilometres by the road and off-road, you will now head to Carrapateira. Here you will have the chance to enjoy another highland section, the “Pontal da Carrapateira” with much easier climbs and not as big as the one you followed before in Aljezur. Take it really easy and enjoy the astonishing views the area has to offer. Start passing by Bordeira beach where up in the hill you will spot a wooden path that is mandatory to “visit”. You can have a whole perspective of this beach and the views from up here are from another world. Also from here you will spot the cliffs you passed before up north on the route today, it is a unique view.
Following the track, you will make a gravel section with gorgeous views over the cliffs, many limestone formations and amazing spots to stop for photos or simply enjoying the peace transmitted by the ocean. The last beach you will reach today is Amado beach, it’s the end of the ride in this highland section and also a beautifull beach where you have a restaurant/bar that is very nice for a snack or lunch if you wish.
Leaving this beach, you will be right in the centre of Carrapateira village where you can find some groceries, a market or other options of restaurants and shops. It is the biggest village in this area and where most of the locals live in, so the atmosphere here is fresh but still calm.
Your last section of the day will take you straight to your hotel. You will be riding by a valley on a gravel section, totally flat and will be able to enjoy the rural version of Carrapateira region where many people live in houses surrounded with nothing but nature.
Still located in the valley, the hotel for tonight is also a rebuilt village, so every house in there is a “hotel room”. This village, named Pedralva, was totally rebuilt by it’s owners in between 2006 and 2008 and it’s now a beautifull hotel that still preserves the feeling of staying in a local village. Take the rest of the day to enjoy the quiet atmosphere here and also for dinner you will only have two options in there, one for pizza and pasta and the other for typical local food, Both are totally recommended.
Start the day leaving the beautiful Pedralva village with a climb that will lead you to the national road towards Vila do Bispo. You will ride by this road in a mostly flat extension and where a windfarm is located.
When getting close to Vila do Bispo, make a turn right to a gravel section that will take you to one of the most unique and beautiful views in the area, the Castelejo viewpoint. Take some time here where you can enjoy the magnificent view over two beaches, Cordoama on your right and Castelejo on your left. This spot is also famous for local glider and paragliding lovers as you may have the chance to see.
Back on the same road the track will take you straight to Vila do Bispo village, where you can take a few minutes to visit the fish and vegetables market and get some extra snacks for the remaining kilometres left. Also in the village you have some options of restaurants and supermarket if you wish.
Leaving Vila do Bispo you will now ride on a macadame trail. This section is the longest and flattest extension you will ride in the whole tour and is also a popular area for birdwatching. Done with the macadame trail you will now be spotting, on the horizon, a lighthouse where the São Vicente cape is located. It is the Southwestern most point of continental Europe and also your next stop.
Getting closer to the São Vicente cape and lighthouse, you will realize that it will be crowded for being an important landmark in the area and also in Europe. It is not every day that you have the chance to be in the southwestern most point of a continent so, take some time to enjoy the astonishing views over the clifs and the ocean, from the lighthouse balconies.
From the cape you will then head towards Sagres, your final destination for today and where your hotel & Spa is located. Sagres is the biggest town you will find in this area and is an active fishing village now days. It is also very popular for surfing and rock climbing. Enjoy the vibrant atmosphere in town with it´s cafes, restaurants and water related activities surrounded with clifs and beaches. We also suggest you to visit the 15th century Sagres fortress, one of the landmarks in town. Back in the hotel, take some time to enjoy a relaxing time at the Spa and heated pool so you can get renewed for your last riding day.
On this sixth day, the route will now take you East on a beach-to-beach ride, by the southern coast of Algarve region. Leaving your hotel, the track will take you for the first kilometres side-by-side with the national road. After this section you will make a turn right towards the ocean where you will ride on backroads that gives you a countryside feeling. The first beach on the route today is Ingrina, a small white sand beach very popular in the region where you can make your first quick-stop of the day.
Back on track, you will now follow in parallel with the ocean trough the valleys, where challenging climbs and refreshing downhills are waiting for you.
Your next stop will be Salema, a warm little village graved in the valley and it´s oceanic beach, where you may consider to take some time to enjoy. Also, here you have some options for a coffee break or lunch. Leaving this place, you will now have to climb on the asphalted road and keep following on the valleys towards Boca do Rio, the next beach where you can enjoy the view in this quiet location.
Going further east you will realize that the places tent to get more crowded but still beautiful as you will see in the next Village, Burgau. Here the beach is a little hidden and very small but also nice for a quick stop with a view. The next stop before the final destination is Luz beach, the widest beach you will get today and it’s unique cliff. Walk your bike by the boardwalk and enjoy the place where you have several options for lunch or maybe gelato.
Done with Luz, you will then get into Lagos, your final destination today. There you have many things to see and do. Arriving in this big city, make your way to Camilo beach, nominated one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Once there, enjoy the surrounding area from up in the cliff before descending It’s 200 steps stairway to this little beach and it’s crystal clear blue waters, impossible not to love.
Also just a few meters far from Camilo beach, you will get to lighthouse location, Ponta da Piedade. Here, on the left spot a stairway that will take you down in the cliffs towards the sharply contoured rock formation with it’s grottoes, an iconic view.
From this location you will then make your way by the road towards your hotel for the night and pass by Estudantes beach, Lagos fortress, Castle wall and downtown area, that we suggest you to visit in the afternoon. The resort hotel you are staying in have a perfect location near the marina with it’s decoration influenced by Algarve’s culture and a big outdoor pool, a perfect spot for relaxation. In downtown you will spot a vibrant atmosphere with many options for dinner, shops or also bar’s and pub’s if considering to celebrate the achievement of finishing this six day tour.
Hope you enjoyed reading Luís's words on this very special region for him! If you want to take part in this experience with us, make sure to check out our Bike Tour in the Portuguese Southwest Coast, to experience on a self-guided or guided cycling holiday!