Southern Spring Tour

Get a head start on spring with a 10-day guided tour that will take you from the rolling landscape of the Alentejo to the dramatic cliffs and beaches 0f the south-west tip of Europe.

southern-spring-02Following the success of the three routes we launched in 2016, our latest cycling tour takes in a big variety of landscapes in the two southernmost regions of Portugal.

We’ll be there in early spring (March 5th to 15th) 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) as we take you on a journey from the open expanses of the Alentejo to the hills running along the southern edge of this region. After crossing over into the Algarve we will also bike along part of the stunning Atlantic coast, through the protected landscape of the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Natural Park, ending in the historic riverside port of Lagos.

Scroll down to read more about the Southern Spring tour. 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 Spring tour will be:

  • March 2018: dates to be confirmed 

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 first half of the tour is across 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 second half of the tour takes in the western half of the Algarve, avoiding the main resorts but taking in the citrus groves, valleys, hills and spectacular coastline of the western half of the region.

In terms of distance, this is a reasonably tough tour with daily rides of up to 85km (52 miles). There are no major mountain ranges involved but a couple of significant climbs to tackle and a fair number of hills on some days.

However, the main riding days should present no major challenges for anyone who is reasonably fit and used to cycling. 

Note: Riders must be able to cycle around 60-80kms (38-50 miles) 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 reasonably likely in March but you should be able to expect plenty of sunshine and warm days too. (Statistically, Beja 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.southern-spring-03

 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 crossing the border into the Algarve we ride through an area of small farms and citrus orchards before heading up into the hills and then descending to the Atlantic coast. After a visit to Cabo São Vicente, we turn back east along the Algarve’s southern coast.

sst-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:

  • southern-spring-01Day One (Sunday): arrive in Beja, a small, historic city that’s also the regional capital of the southern Alentejo, (bus/train connections with Lisbon or Faro) and meet your fellow riders
  • Day Two: cycle through the countryside north and east of Beja, passing through several villages and towns on our way to the pretty provincial town of Moura with its castle and attractive Moorish quarter. The longer route provides an opportunity to ride across the huge Alqueva dam, which holds back one of the largest reservoirs in western Europe. 75-85km
  • Day Three: ride south-east towards the Spanish border, cycling through a very remote and quiet rural landscape on our way to Serpa, another historic small town. 63km
  • Day Four: we continue south, cycling through more rugged country as we enter the Guadiana Valley natural park on our way to Mértola, an ancient river port on this major river. 77km
  • Day Five: 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 Six: 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. 60km
  • Day Seven: 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. 65km
  • Day Eight (Sunday): a shorter but tough ride as we continue west past orange groves and small farms to Silves, the ancient capital of the Algarve, before tackling a major climb to Monchique, a picturesque hill town. 59km
  • Day Nine: enjoy a rest day in Monchique, go walking in the hills – or cycle to the summit of Foia, the highest peak in southern Portugal
  • Day Ten: we head west on a spectacular route skirting the flanks of Foia before dropping down to the old Moorish town of Aljezur and turning south as we parallel the coast. After an opportunity to visit a beautiful beach at Carrapateira, we continue to Sagres, a small fishing town and popular hangout for surfers. 75km
  • Day Eleven: we start the day by riding out to Cabo São Vicente, the south-west tip of the European mainland, before working our way east via a string of gorgeous beaches and small villages on our way to Lagos, the resort town and historic port where our tour ends. 62km
  • 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.southern-spring-05

How much?

The tour costs €1,275 per rider* – around £1,135 or $1,420 US at current exchange rates (November 2016).
 
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**
  • 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.

***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
  • lunches*, snacks, coffees etc.
  • bike hire (see below)

*We will organise a picnic lunch on most normal riding days for anyone who wants one. These cost €3.50 per person.

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 in future we’ll be donating £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