The Alentejo has some of the prettiest old towns in Portugal – and some of the gentlest cycling. It’s not flat but it’s certainly nothing like as rugged as other parts of the country.
***The updated 2019 edition of the Alentejo Circuit guidebook is now out in both print and ebook formats – see below for more details.***
This six-day route starts and finishes in the historic city of Évora with its World Heritage centre and takes a loop through some of the region’s most scenic countryside.
There’s also the option of a two-day extension taking you out to the best bit of the Alentejo coast.
Along the way, you’ll see castles, rivers, reservoirs, old towns and small villages – plus cows, cork oaks and more birds than people. Storks’ nests seem to occupy most telegraph poles and – if you’re lucky – you might also see more exotic species like the colourful bee-eater.
This route is mainly on quiet roads, although there are some sections on more major roads in areas where these are the only logical option.
Distance & difficulty
Total distance is up to 438km (274 miles)*. There are no major ranges of hills. Much of the route involves long straights where your biggest obstacles will be the heat (see below) and the wind if it’s in the wrong direction. The coastal extension (see below) is the hilliest section.
Also note that although parts of this route are on designated N (National) roads, the sections used don’t generally have high volumes of traffic. The busiest roads you are likely to meet are in and around Évora and Beja.
*Or 623km (389 miles) if you do the coastal extension as well.
One thing to bear in mind, is that the Alentejo can get very hot – well above 30C/90F even in the spring and autumn and 40C/100F-plus in the summer.
Personally, unless you’re used to extreme heat, I wouldn’t recommend cycling in this part of Portugal between June and mid-September (even in other months it can be baking here). Go north instead!
I would suggest this route as six days – Évora to Monsaraz 62km (39 miles), Monsaraz to Serpa 81km (51 miles), Serpa to Mértola 55km (36 miles), Mértola to Castro Verde 48km (30 miles), Castro Verde to Beja 61km (38 miles) and Beja to Évora 98km (61 miles).
If you want to cut a day off – and set a tougher pace – then one logical solution would be to do Serpa to Castro Verde in one 99km (61m) day.
One alternative option is to go from Mértola to Almodôvar 55km (34 miles) and then north to Beja via Castro Verde. For an easier, longer tour, it would be easy to split the journey to Serpa with a night in Moura, which is 49km (31 miles) from Monsaraz. The last day could also be split into two with a stop in Alvito, which is 41km (26 miles) from Beja.
If you’ve got time and want to see the full range of Alentejo landscapes – including some sandy beaches and spectacular cliffs – then you might want to consider going further west.
The map below shows a three-day, 231km extension to the route that replaces the Castro Verde to Beja section. Instead, you go west to Odemira (71km) then out to the coast and up to Vila Nova de Milfontes (54km) before coming back inland to Beja (106km).
There are a few more hills out towards the coast but nothing too extreme and the scenery will be well worth the sweat involved. The ride to Beja is also a fairly long day but once away from the coast the countryside is rolling and the day shouldn’t be too taxing.
For anyone with a bit more time, you could also add my Cork & Carpets day ride, a 54km (33m) loop north of Évora to the town of Arraiolos or the Alentejo Panorama, a 72km (45m) loop starting from Estremoz, north east of Évora.
There’s a wide choice of places to stay for most budgets in Évora, Beja and Vila Nova de Milfontes, from camping to hotels. There are also good municipal campsites in Serpa and Castro Verde.
Guesthouses in Monsaraz are generally pricey but if you can afford them it’s a truly magical place for an overnight stop. You may find cheaper accommodation in nearby Reguengos de Monsaraz or in Mourão on the other side of the lake.
Serpa, Mertôla, Castro Verde and Odemira are all big enough to offer several accommodation options.
There are larger supermarkets in Castro Verde, Évora, Moura, Serpa and Viana do Alentejo (north of Alvito). Along the way, you’ll also find shops for provisions – plus cafes – in Mertôla, Mourão, Aljustrel and Ferreira do Alentejo.
The only place with limited options for buying food is Monsaraz as it’s only a very small village. There are a few cafes and some pricier options but no actual shops.
Click on Listings to search for accommodation, bike hire, weather forecasts etc…
The revised second edition (September 2019) of the guidebook for this route is now available in both print and ebook versions. This contains:
- options for five to 11 days of riding
- detailed directions for each day in numbered sections
- distances for each section and 21 town/village maps
- notes on places to visit and things to see along the way
- ideas for side trips and alternative routes
- information on accommodation options
- where to find supermarkets and bike shops
- a three-day extension out to the Alentejo coast
The Alentejo Circuit costs £7.99 or US $10.59 in ebook format or £9.99 / US $11.99 for the print edition.
17 thoughts on “Alentejo Circuit”
My sister and I have just completed the Alentejo Circuit and had a truly wonderful trip. I had your route details on my kindle and the information was detailed and accurate. We didn’t get lost once – this is a first for us! I live in Cascais and my sister flew over from the UK to join me. We drove to Évora and left the car at the campsite. We had amazing weather – mid-high 20s the whole time and the landscape was truly beautiful. I had been looking into biking holidays for a while, but have been dismayed with the price of organised tours (out of reach on my Portuguese salary). Your website is perfect – thank you. I note you now have a route planning service, which I may be using in the future. Congratulations on your work – I will certainly spread the word where I can.
Thanks so much for taking the time to get in touch. I’m delighted the advice and information worked so well and that you had such an excellent trip.
All the best, Huw
Hi Jackie, thanks for the info, I’m planning a tour around the same time next year (end of March / beginning of April) and I was happy to read about your experience. What was your impression of the safety on the road? Would you consider this route safe for beginners? Do the road generally have safety margins that allow relaxed cycling?
Huw – thanks for a great site, I can’t wait to see these places! I’d be grateful for your opinion too 🙂
Hi Huw – we are planning on riding in Portugal in mid September and are considering the Alentejo Circuit. What’s your thought on that route as far as the temperature goes. Or is there another route for about a week, you’d recommend? Thanks so much. Love your website!
Hi Laurie. Mid-September anywhere in Portugal will still be hot – although the further south you go, the higher the temperature.
In the Alentejo, you can definitely expect temperatures of 30C+ but it’s generally quite a dry heat. If you try and do most of your riding in the morning it’s probably bearable (depends on your heat tolerance!)
The north of Portugal will be a bit cooler but it’s a lot more rugged and also not as easy to get to.
Hope this helps – email me with more details of your plans if you have more questions. email@example.com
We’re really enjoying this site and your book. I’m looking to load up my GPS before I head to Portugal to ride from Evora to Vila Nova de Milfontes. The map for the coastal extension links to an image instead of Ride with GPS. Do you have the link so I could download the .gpx files.
Thanks for all your work,
Sorry about the link – I’ll get it changed.
In the meantime, here’s the link for the main circuit: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/7273536
And for the coastal extension:
We are going to do the Alentejo Circuit in April 2015 and have purchased your wonderful book. You mention that there are two ways to cycle to Evora from the airport but don’t elaborate much on the difference of the two routes. We are hoping you can help us decide which way is more conducive to cycling and which is more scenic. We fly into Lisbon in the late afternoon and are a bit concerned about riding in rush hour traffic. Thanks so much for your help! Philip & Meilani
Hi Philip and Meilani
I didn’t give much detail on the two routes out of Lisbon as I don’t think there’s a huge difference.
I would not recommend cycling in Lisbon in rush hour – either take a taxi if possible or use the metro.
Leaving Lisbon, options are:
Ferry to Barreiro, urban train to Pinhal Novo and then cycle to Evora. This route is more direct and shorter. The roads are probably less busy but surfaces may be quiet a lot rougher. http://ridewithgps.com/routes/7397847
The other alternative is urban/regional train to Vila Franca de Xira and then cycle to Evora. The road is probably a lot smoother but will be busier – more trucks as well as cars. The other advantage of this route is it’s an easy metro journey from the airport to the Oriente station, where you can get the train to Vila Franca.
Scenically there’s probably not that much difference – if anything I’d go for the first option.
Hope this helps! Any more questions, email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Your website is a godsend. There is not as much info on cycling in Portugal as there is for Spain or Corsica, where I have gone previously. Between 2 and 4 of my cycling friends from Canada are planning on going to Portugal in May or June of this year, and Évora sounds like a great place to use as our base. I have two questions now:
1) Would June be too hot for riding? We are used to temperatures up to 30C but 35-40C would melt us!
2) Do you have any suggestions on accommodation in Évora? I think we would do out-and-back rides and therefore come back every afternoon to Évora. We’d like somewhere that we could keep the bikes securely. lounge around after the rides, be close enough to the centre to have a choice of restaurants. A pool would be nice!
Hi Don – happy the website is doing it’s job!
I can’t predict the weather but early June shouldn’t be too bad – particularly if you try to do most cycling in the morning (and dive in that pool in the afternoon). By late June you might be okay in the mornings but could be getting uncomfortable.
Difficult to make suggestions for accommodation without knowing your budget (and I’ve only ever camped or stayed budget guesthouse in Evora). I’ve used booking.com a lot to find accommodation – gives you a chance to see prices, facilities and reviews. Otherwise, Tripadvisor etc. Keeping bikes safe shouldn’t be a problem – most places will find somewhere to store them and there isn’t a huge amount of petty theft in Portugal.