The Algarve is Portugal’s southernmost region. It gets the most sunshine, has the best beaches – and attracts large (sometimes huge) numbers of tourists and ex-pat residents. It’s also a great winter cycling destination!
Read on for more general information or scroll down for details of rides and routes in the Algarve.
Apart from temporary visitors, it’s also the most densely populated region in the southern half of Portugal – although compared to most European countries that’s not actually saying much.
The Algarve as a whole has a population of around 450,000 in an area of 4,960 km2 (1,915 sq miles). It contains two cities that are fairly large by Portuguese standards – Faro has a population of about 44,000 (21st in the list of Portuguese cities), Portimão is one higher up the list with a population of about 45,500.
Although sprawling villa developments and tower blocks dominate some of the older beach resorts, there are large parts of the Algarve, mainly inland, where you can go for miles and see few other people.
From the Tavira in the east to Lagos in the west, it can be hard to escape the holiday resorts along the coast. Roads are busy too. But go 10km inland or out to the west beyond Lagos and open space is much easier to find.
The main issue with the Algarve is probably when to visit. It can get very hot here for much of the year – and intensely bright.
Summer temperatures (for northern Europeans) often begin in May and continue through into September – and sometimes October. Any rain generally tails off to practically nothing from June onwards and average temperatures are in the high 20s (°C) until well into October.
But don’t be misled by the average figures. During July and August afternoon shade temperatures rarely fall below 30°C (86ºF) and it can reach 40°C or more (that’s 104ºF) in the sun – although coastal breezes generally stop it getting as hot as the Alentejo to the north.
The Algarve is much more pleasant from October through to April and, in many ways, the winter is the best time to visit – although the level of tourism has started to increase in what was formerly a very quiet time of year.
During winter, some tourist resorts can be very quiet but the roads have much less traffic, prices are low, daytime temperatures are still regularly in the low 20s – and from January onwards the almond trees are in blossom and the whole countryside looks lush.
To read more about cycling in the Algarve, Portuguese cycling firm Live Love Ride have an informative post on their blog. This includes advice on the region’s different areas, tips on good cycling areas/routes for both road and mountain bikes, plus links to a couple of local cycling clubs. To read the post, click here.
Rides are listed under the name of the nearest main town. Click on the title for further information on each ride. Maps are included with the detailed profile.
See Tavira below.
Aljezur & The Beaches: A short but fairly tough circuit out to some spectacular cliffs and extremely popular surfing beaches.
Algarve Hills: A longer ride up into the hills behind Boliqueime and Loulé, taking you almost to the Alentejo border. Beautiful scenery and could be split into two days.
Lagos Back Roads: A mostly easy 56km tour through some quiet country lanes that also takes in a couple of gorgeous beaches.
Monchique Explorer: A tough one-day circuit – or two days with an overnight stop – going up into the Serra da Monchique behind Lagos and Portimão.
See Boliqueime above.
Tavira & The Guadiana: A reasonably tough two or three-day circuit from Tavira inland to Alcoutim, back downriver to Vila Real de Santo Antonio and then an inland route west again back to Tavira.
VILA REAL DE SANTO ANTONIO
See Tavira above.
As well as day rides, the maps for touring routes that go through the region might also provide ideas and opportunities for further rides. For the Algarve these include:
Alentejo to Algarve: Connecting Evora in the Alentejo with Loulé, just to the north-west of Faro.
S2N Algarve to Lisbon: – Ideas for a route along the south coast from the Spanish border to the west coast and then north towards Lisbon.