Southern Explorer

TEN DAYS CYCLING – from  €1,385 

This guided tour explores the hills, plains and historic towns of the southern Alentejo before crossing into the Algarve and ending at the ancient port of Lagos.

Following 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 first wildflowers but ahead of most other tourists – and in late autumn when the days are still generally sunny and warm.

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 this and other 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

“We finished the Southern Explorer a few days ago and our experience was as wonderful as last year’s Border Castle tour. Fabulous scenery, excellent accommodations, delicious food, great fellow riders and exceptional guides.” Barb Jarvis, Canada. 

Dates

The next available dates for this tour are:

  • March 2019: Sunday 10th – Thursday 21st
  • October 2019: Sunday 20th – Thursday 31st October

Why this tour?

This tour offers an opportunity to explore some of the highlights of southern Portugal.

We run the tour in early spring and late autumn.

We can’t guarantee sunshine and dry weather but you’re more likely to enjoy pleasant riding conditions here than anywhere else in Europe or North America at these times of 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. There are no big mountains but a mix of hills and rolling countryside.

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 and a number of small villages and towns 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 there is a reasonable amount of climbing on most days.

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) and late autumn (October onwards) are the best times for biking in the region.

Some wet days are likely in March but there is also a high chance of sunshine and warm days. (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 to follow the 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 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 and meet your fellow riders 
  • Day Two: cycle through the countryside to the south-west of Évora, passing through a couple of small historic towns on our way towards the village of Odivelas. 68km 
  • Day Three: we ride roughly east, visiting the small town of Cuba and the Roman ruins of São Cucufate before arriving in the small town of Vidigueira. 62km
  • Day Four: we ride through low hills and quiet countryside and visit the Alqueva dam (holding back one of the largest reservoirs in Europe) before reaching the pretty provincial town of Moura. 50km
  • Day Five: take an optional rest day in Moura with its castle and a picturesque Moorish quarter, or enjoy a morning ride out into the surrounding countryside
  • Day Six: ride south through a quiet rural landscape to the attractive small town of Serpa before turning west to the regional capital of Beja65km
  • Day Seven: we continue roughly south, entering the Guadiana Valley natural park on our way to the ancient river port of Mértola. 70km
  • 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 a rural hotel near Almodôvar, a sleepy little town once famous for its shoemakers. 62km
  • Day Ten: we turn south, climbing 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 a country hotel near the town of Messines, dropping around 400m during the second half of the ride as we descend into the Algarve. 60km
  • Day Eleven: we work 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. 57km
  • 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.

“I just finished this tour and can honestly say it exceeded my expectations!…

We cycled perfectly planned routes…ate outstanding local cuisine, and there was always that little extra – like when we were serenaded by three locals who blew us away with Alentejo folk songs.” John Adomonis, Canada.

How much?

The tour costs €1,385 (2018 price) or €1,420 (2019 price) per rider* – which works out at about £1,268 or $1,750 US for the 2019 price  at current exchange rates (February 2018).
 
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 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: Vegetarian and other special diets are possible but need to be arranged in advance – and menu choices may be less varied. Please let us know about any dietary requirements and seek advice when 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 will book train travel from Lisbon to Évora on Day One and to Faro on Day Twelve if required. We can also advise on bus and/or rail travel for any riders travelling on other days or from/to different destinations.

*****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 based near Lisbon which can deliver anywhere in Portugal.

Hiring a road touring or suspension touring bike for this tour will cost €185 (2018 price), including delivery and collection (not including any accessories). Prices of any other bicycle models will be confirmed at the time of booking. For more details, see bike hire page.

Single rooms should also be possible but this will involve an additional supplement of around €240. 

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