Southern Explorer Tour

TEN DAYS CYCLING – €1,385 

Get a head start on spring with a guided tour that explores the plains and historic towns of the southern Alentejo before crossing into the Algarve and ending at the ancient port of Lagos.

Southern Spring 02Following the success of the three routes we launched in 2016, our latest cycling tour takes in the landscapes of the two southernmost regions of Portugal.

We’ll be there in early spring – in time for the almond blossom and the first wildflowers but well ahead of most other tourists.

My wife and I will lead a small group of cyclists (maximum 10 riders) on a journey from the open expanses of the Alentejo, through the hills along the southern edge of this region and across country through the Algarve to the historic riverside port of Lagos.

Scroll down to read more about the Southern Explorer. You can also see what riders thought of previous tours on our Reviews page. For further news and other information on biking in Portugal you can also check out the Pedal Portugal Facebook page and blog

Dates

The next departure for the Southern Explorer will be:

  • March 2018: Sunday 11th – Thursday 22nd – Tour confirmed – four places available
  • April 2018: Sunday 8th – Thursday 19th – Tour confirmed – only one place left
  • October/November 2018: Sunday 28th October – Thursday 8th November

Why this tour?

Southern Spring 04This tour offers an opportunity to explore some of the highlights of southern Portugal right at the start of spring – when many parts of the northern hemisphere are still well and truly gripped by winter. We can’t guarantee sunshine and dry weather but you’re more likely to find it here than pretty much anywhere else in Europe this early in the year.

The majority of the tour is across the southern half of the Alentejo, which offers some of the best terrain for touring cycling anywhere in Portugal, with few really big hills but a rolling rural landscape that’s extremely quiet.

This is one of the least-populated parts of Portugal and you’ll stay in a selection of small provincial towns, all rich in history and sights but mostly well off the normal tourist trail. 

Agriculture is still one of the Alentejo’s few major industries and you will ride for hours past vast swathes of pasture and grain fields, plus areas of cork oaks, olive plantations and vineyards. Birdwatchers will be able to keep their eyes peeled for a wealth of avian life – from eagles to bee-eaters and storks to hoopoes.

The last two days of the tour see us cross the hills that divide the Alentejo and the Algarve, following a scenic route that takes in some quiet countryside, the region’s ancient capital of Silves and a number of small villages before arriving at the beach for our ride into Lagos.

In terms of distance, the daily rides range from 50-68km (32-42 miles). There are no major mountain ranges involved but the ride is not flat and a reasonable number of ups and downs are involved.

Note: The main riding days should present no major challenges for anyone who is reasonably fit and used to cycling. However, riders must be able to cycle the relevant distances on consecutive days. 

In terms of climate, the Alentejo sees some of the highest summer temperatures in Portugal but spring (late February-early May) is one of the best times for biking in the region.

Some wet days are likely in March but there is a high chance of plenty of sunshine and warm days too. (Statistically, the southern part of the region gets around 200 hours of sunshine and around 55mm of rain in March.)

From past experience, conditions are similar in the Algarve. Sharp showers and periods of light rain happen but on previous tours we’ve enjoyed lots of sunshine. You can expect daytime temperatures of around 15-22°C (60-70°F) in early March, often making for very pleasant riding conditions. (See pictures on the Algarve Winter Tour page to see what the scenery looks like at this time of year – all these photos were taken in January, February or early March.)

Please note: all pictures used on this page are of roads/locations on the tour and taken on previous visits to the region.

Where do we go?

The tour does a loop through the south-east of the Alentejo region, going almost to the border with Spain before turning west as we skirt the ranges of hills that separate the Alentejo from the Algarve.

After turning south, we cross the border with the Algarve and drop down towards the coast before turning west again for our final ride to Lagos. Southern Explorer overview

We will ride across rolling plains, through rugged hills and along a dramatic coastline, staying in historic towns with sights dating from Roman, Moorish and medieval times.

Although not car-free, around 90% of the route is on quiet lanes and back roads where traffic is very light. There will be two rest days (with options for additional morning rides) during the tour. The planned itinerary is as follows:

  • Day One (Sunday): arrive in Évora (morning transfers from Lisbon airport provided) and meet your fellow riders 
  • Day Two: cycle through the countryside to the south-west of Évora, passing through several villages on our way towards sleepy, traditional Alcáçovas – 59km 
  • Day Three: we ride roughly east, visiting the old town of Viana do Alentejo before continuing towards the castle at Portel – 55km
  • Day Four: we zig-zag our way through some low hills and quiet countryside before crossing the main Guadiana river and reaching the pretty provincial town of Moura with another castle and a picturesque Moorish quarter. (Optional slightly longer route via the Alqueva dam, which holds back one of the largest reservoirs in western Europe.) 64km
  • Day Five: take an optional rest day in Moura or enjoy a morning ride out into the surrounding countryside
  • Day Six: ride south-east towards the Spanish border, cycling through a very remote and quiet rural landscape on our way to the attractive small town of Serpa – 63km
  • Day Seven: we continue south, cycling through more rugged country as we enter the Guadiana Valley natural park on our way to the ancient river port of Mértola – 56km
  • Day Eight (Sunday): enjoy a morning’s ride out from Mértola – or take a rest day and explore the museums and cobbled streets of this historic town. There are also marked walking trails in the surrounding hills for anyone wanting to stretch different muscles.
  • Day Nine: we cycle west, skirting the ranges of hills that form a barrier between the Alentejo and the Algarve, to Almodôvar, a sleepy little town once famous for its shoemakers. 59km
  • Day Ten: we turn south, climbing steadily as we head for the Algarve border before descending from Malhão, used as a hill climb in Portugal’s top cycling road race. We head for the town of Messines, dropping around 400m during the second half of the ride as we descend into the Algarve. 53km
  • Day Eleven: we working our way west via country lanes and small villages, stopping at the ancient Arabic capital of Silves before reaching the resort town and historic port of Lagos where our tour ends. 68km
  • Day Twelve (Thursday): transfers to Faro for onward travel connections

Coffee and cake stops will also be an important part of the day!

*Please note: the exact itinerary may change depending on accommodation availability and other similar factors.

How much?

The tour costs €1,385 per rider* – around £1,185 or $1,500 US at current exchange rates (April 2017).
 
This includes:
  • 11 nights bed and breakfast (based on two people sharing a twin or double room) in a good hotel or guest house
  • evening meal – typically three courses with house wine or beer and coffee**
  • picnic lunch on main riding days (not provided on optional rides/rest days)
  • support vehicle to carry luggage etc (and emergency transport)***
  • transfers from Lisbon airport on Day One and to Faro on Day Twelve if required****
  • experienced guide to ride with you*****

Notes:

*Price: The price in euros will not change. However, as a UK-based operator, payment will be taken in sterling based on the exchange rate at the time the balance payment is taken.

**Food: Portugal is not a great place for vegetarians or anyone with special dietary requirements. I will try my best to make suitable arrangements but few Portuguese restaurants have vegetarian options. Please let us know about any dietary requirements and seek advice before booking.

***Support van: The support van will carry your luggage. It can also take passengers if a rider is unable to continue cycling following an accident, mechanical breakdown or other emergency. It is not suitable for using on a casual hop-on, hop-off basis and riders should be capable of riding the necessary distances on consecutive days.

****Transfers: We may be able to offer a pick-up service from Lisbon on Day One but this will depend on numbers and arrival times. If this is not practical for any reason we can book train/bus tickets to Beja. Transfers to Faro on Day Twelve can be to either the city’s airport or the mainline railway station. There are also long distance bus services available from Lagos where we end the tour.

*****Guides: My wife and I will alternate between riding with you and driving the support vehicle.

What’s not included?

The price above does not include:

  • travel to Portugal and any internal transport other than that detailed above
  • insurance – you are responsible for ensuring you have all appropriate insurance
  • snacks, coffees etc. and lunch on days other than on main route
  • bike hire (see below)

Wherever possible, if anyone is unable to ride I will try to take them in the support vehicle. However, the support vehicle is not intended for taking passengers. For any riders who chose not to cycle, I can make arrangements with a taxi or bus but any costs will be additional.

Optional extras?

Cycle hire – road or hybrid bike – can be arranged but will cost extra. We work with Cycling Rentals, a company that is based near Lisbon but can deliver anywhere in Portugal. The exact cost will vary depending on the type of bike, any accessories required and the number of people hiring. However, the cost for a road touring bike/hybrid suspension touring bike will be around €200 for the duration of the tour. This does not include any accessories but does include delivery/collection.

Single rooms should also be possible but this will involve an additional supplement of around €240 (exact price will depend on numbers/month). 

For anyone wanting additional accommodation, either before or after the tour, we can book this for you or suggest various options but this would be an extra cost.

Supporting a worthy cause

We’ve both been long-term supporters of the disaster relief organisation ShelterBox and we donate £15 to the charity for every rider who joins this or any of our other tours.

What now?

Places are limited – and I need a minimum of six riders to make the tour viable – so the sooner you sign up the better. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via pedalportugal@gmail.com

Otherwise, please read our full terms and conditions before completing the booking form

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