Stage 2: Lagos to Vila Nova

Cabo Sao Vincente near Sagres
Cabo Sao Vincente near Sagres

Overview: This next stage of the route takes you away from the worst of the tourist development, heading towards to the most south-westerly point of Portugal before turning north up the wild Atlantic coast.

There’s no real coast road but plenty of opportunities to detour to spectacular – and often wild – beaches (although this sometimes involves taking rough, dirt roads). Highlights include:

  • Sagres & Cabo Sao Vicente – a real ‘end of the world’ setting with beautiful beaches and towering cliffs
  • Zambujeira do Mar – one of the prettiest coastal villages in Portugal with a gorgeous beach
  • Cabo Sardao – this is where storks nest on pinnacles poised far above crashing waves
  • Unspoilt countryside – after some of the built-up areas along the Algarve this section will feel like a real escape to the country
Click on the map for more details or to downloads as a .gpx file etc
Click on the map for more details or to downloads as a .gpx file etc

Distance & Difficulty: Total distance of 164km (103 miles). Moderate. Following the coast west to Sagres involves a few hills but none that are that long. It’s generally fairly rolling as you head north – a few sharp ups and downs but nothing severe.

Details: The route shown takes you out of Lagos on some minor roads via the former seaside villages of Luz, Burgau and Salema. These are all quite developed (but nothing compared to further east in the Algarve) and can get very busy. However, none of them are that big and they can be quite pleasant out of season. They’ve all got beautiful settings and Salema and Burgau still retain quite a lot of their original charm.

The good thing about this route it that it takes you off the main road, the disadvantage is that you’ve got a few more hills to contend with. It would probably be quiet safe – and a more gentle option – to take the main N125 as the road is quite wide, with good visibility and has a decent shoulder. It does, however, get most of the traffic – although that can still be fairly sparse out of the holiday season.

You have to go via Vila do Bispo to get to Sagres, which isn’t much more than a village with a large and picturesque fishing harbour, a couple of beaches – and a reasonable selection of places to stay – ranging from a smart hotel to a campsite – and various eating options.

One reason to visit Sagres is the beautiful Cabo de Sao Vicente, about 5km around the bay. This windswept cape was home to the 15th century school of navigation founded by Prince Henry the Navigator. Those who studied here included the great explorers Magellan and Vasco Da Gama and the revolutionary Portuguese boats known as caravels were designed and launched from here.

Beach near Carrapateira
Beach to the south of Carrapateira

To head north from Sagres you have to backtrack to Vila do Bispo. It’s then another 15km along the N268 to Carrapateira, where the road brings you almost back to the coast. It’s possible to detour out to the beach – take the turning on the left just before the village. From here, you can follow a rough but rideable track that takes you out around a jagged little headland near the beautiful beach at Praia da Bordeira.

It’s then back inland to Aljezur, one of the larger stops along this part of the route. Aljezur would make another possible overnight – and there’s a day ride circuit that goes out from here to some spectacular surfing beaches.

The road’s quite rolling but also scenic, taking you on up and over eucalyptus-covered hills. Last stop in the Algarve is at Odeceixe. It’s busy here in the summer but can be very quiet in the winter months. The village is about 4km from the beach but it’s a pretty and almost flat ride and the beach is one of the most sheltered on this coast. (There are also a few places advertising rooms down by the beach).

Odeceixe is the last stop in the Algarve. Cross the river and you’re into the Alentejo.

Small cove near Zambujeira
Small cove near Zambujeira

Again, there’s no coast road as such as you continue north and your next opportunity to see the sea is at the pretty little village of Zambujeira do Mar, set up on the cliffs about a couple of lovely beaches.

Zambujeira is a bit touristy but not spoilt and quite low-key most of the year. From here, some minor roads follow the coast and then take you out to Cabo Sardao, a wonderful spot with dramatic views of jagged cliffs and – in season – storks nesting on rocky pinnacles way above crashing waves.

There’s another day ride that takes the cliffs and a gentle circuit through the farmland around here.

From the cape, you have to head back inland until you get to the Vila Nova de Mil Fontes, a pleasant small town set just back from the mouth of the Rio Mira. 

Accommodation & Provisions:As you head away from Lagos – particularly closer to Sagres and heading north – there will be longer stretches without any villages. Having said that, you’ll never be that far from provisions.

There are supermarkets in Lagos, Vila do Bispo, Sagres, Aljezur, and Vila Nova, plus plenty of places to eat, drink and sleep, including both hotels, hostels and campsites. Zambujeira and Odeceixe also offer smaller shops, cafes and accommodation options.

Click on Information & Listings to find detailed listings for accommodation, bike hire, weather forecasts etc…

6 thoughts on “Stage 2: Lagos to Vila Nova”

  1. Hi Hue, Your website has been our primary source of information for planning our bike trip to Portugal. Our tentative plan is to ride between Evora and the Algarve coast. The question is when making this a loop, is it better to ride against prevailing winds going North along the the Atlantic coast or tackle the challenging uphill climb going from Loule to Castro Verde. Is the route along the coast far enough in that the winds aren’t an issue? Appreciate you advice.

    1. Hi.
      Prevailing winds are not 100%. You are more likely to have a headwind going north… but it could be from the side or even behind you.
      Winds could also be worse when you’re up on top of the hills between the Algarve and Alentejo.
      And, unless you really like climbing, it’s MUCH better going south when crossing the hills!
      So, my advice would be a clockwise circuit, even if you may be against the wind on the coastal section.
      Hope that helps!

  2. Hi Huw. As others have said, fantastic website! Two questions for you (I’m headed Lisbon to Lagos via Cabo San Vincente:

    1. Considering riding the Historical Way – to what degree is a mountain bike required versus some hybrid? I’d prefer something a little quicker on the hardtop sections but don’t know if it would be adequate on the trail. Also any comment on how nice of a ride the Historical was would be compared to sticking with the route you have above?

    2. It appears the Fisherman’s way is for hiking only. Is this true of all trails within the Natural Park or only narrow walking paths? Google Maps shows many trails on which it is clear off-road vehicles drive. Any thoughts? Perhaps these other trails are on private land?


    1. Hi Isaac
      Always happy to hear that the site is helping fellow riders find their way.
      In answer to your question, I don’t know the Historical Way well. But what I’ve seen is just dirt track so you could probably survive even on a road touring bike with decent tires. (Although there may be rougher sections I don’t know.) I sometimes ride a hybrid but I tend to think the suspension is just extra weight! Unless you’re going across something really potholed and rocky the dirt tracks are often no worse (or better) than some sections of hard top. Particularly the villages that are all cobbles.
      Regarding the Fisherman’s Way, there are definitely sections where you would struggle with any kind of bike. It’s deep sand in places and out towards the cape I remember crossing one really rocky gully that was a scramble on foot.
      There are lots of dirt tracks. Many are on private land but unless it is signposted private then it’s not an issue. I’ve walked various unofficial trails and never had anyone object.
      Not exactly an answer but hope that helps. Best of luck!

  3. Hi Huw. I rode the route from Lagos to Sagres today. The GPX provided follows the 125 all the way. In my case it was a blessing or I would have never made it here before dark! It’s pretty good to ride on but not exactly scenic! One positive about being on the 125 is the supermarket at Budens. There are always lots of other travellers there and it’s a great place for a chat.

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