Alentejo Circuit

ACirc Monsaraz

Monsaraz – first night’s stop.

Overview: 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.

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 very quiet roads – surfaces are variable but the views are well worth coping with the odd pothole or 10!

Note: A guidebook for this route is now available.. Scroll to the bottom of the page for more information.

The Alentejo Circuit

The Alentejo Circuit – click on the map to see details and download as .gpx etc

Distance & difficulty: Total distance is 384km (240 miles)*. There are no major hills – maximum grade is 9.5%. 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.

*Or 547km (342 miles) if you do the coastal extension as well.

The sections between Serpa and Castro Verde aren’t as straight as the rest and you should probably listen out for traffic – particularly HGVs – on the bends. The roads are not dangerous or particularly busy but drivers – although generally courteous – won’t be used to seeing cyclists.

Also note that although parts of this route are on designated N (National) roads, they are generally extremely quiet and the heaviest traffic you are likely to meet is in and around Évora.

Typical Alentejo road - and scenery.

Typical Alentejo road – and scenery.

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 May and September (even in other months it can be baking here). Go north instead!

Church in Serpa.

Church in Serpa.

Stages: I would suggest this route as six mostly easy days – Evora to Monsaraz 65km (40m), Monsaraz to Serpa 89km (52m), Serpa to Mertola 55km (34m), Mertola to Castro Verde 44km (27m), Castro Verde to Beja 56km (35m) and Beja to Evora 85km (53m).

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.

Extension: 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.

The coastal extension - click on the map for details and to download as .gpx etc

The coastal extension – click on the map for details and to download as .gpx etc

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 Panoramaa 77km (47m) loop starting from Estremoz, north east of Évora.

Accommodation & Provisions: 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 fairly 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 Mourao on the other side of the lake.

Serpa has several guesthouses – I can recommend the Residencial Beatriz as a good choice. Mertola, Castro Verde and Odemira are also big enough to offer several accommodation options.

You can find supermarkets in Évora, Serpa and Viana do Alentejo (north of Alvito). Along the way, you’ll also find shops for provisions – plus cafes – in Mertola, Mourao, Moura, Castro Verde, Aljustrel, Ferreira do Alentejo and Viana 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 Directory & Links to find more detailed listings for accommodation, bike hire, weather forecasts etc…

Guidebook: A guidebook to this route is available in both print and Kindle format. This contains: 

  • options for five to 11 days of riding
  • detailed directions for each day in numbered sections
  • distances for each section and 22 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 print edition costs £4.99 or US $7.99 from Amazon. (You can also order from any book shop with the ISBN number: 978-0957584129).

If you want a digital copy, the ebook version costs £4.28 or US $5.99 on Kindle. (Also works with iPads and other devices.)

13 thoughts on “Alentejo Circuit

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  4. 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. pedalportugal@gmail.com

  5. Hi Huw,

    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,

  6. Hi,
    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 pedalportugal@gmail.com

  7. Hi Huw,

    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!

    Thanks
    Don

    • 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.

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