Portugal may be a small country but its diversity of landscapes, pleasant year-round climate with plenty of sunshine, and cultural richness make it the ideal cycling destination. Whether you want to pedal with the ocean as your constant companion, roll through the rural and traditional countryside, or ride to the southwesternmost point in Europe, our Portugal trips cover the best country has to offer on two wheels. We currently run three different leisure cycling holidays – Historic Villages, Azure Ocean Ride, and Alentejo and the Algarve.
We checked in with Wendy Malvar, our local partner in Portugal responsible for running all our trips in the region, to gain some more insight into the variety of tours. “While each of the trips has their own unique character, as a whole they cover the absolute best of cycling in Portugal.”
On our Historic Villages holiday, you get to see the unspoilt rural and traditional countryside of Portugal. “I love the peacefulness and genuineness of the places the route goes through,” says Wendy. “You are riding in complete isolation on empty, pristinely-paved roads.”
It’s hard to beat the feeling of riding on the roads above the amazing ocean cliffs of Nazare and along the rugged Atlantic shoreline during our Azure Ocean Ride holiday. “You really feel the omnipresence of the ocean and its influence on the surroundings along the route.”
During our Alentejo and the Algarve trip, we cycle to the end of the known world in ancient times – Sagres – once considered Land’s End. ”In addition to the accomplishment of reaching the southwestern-most tip of continental Europe, I really enjoy the everyday change of scenery and the diversity of the cycling,” Wendy tells us.
While we strive to make each and every moment of our holidays as exciting as the next, there are certain days, spots, or elements of a trip that stand out for our guides as highlights. For the Historic Villages trip, Wendy loves the wide range of historical sights, from prehistoric to Roman ruins, that you pass by as you roll through the hilly granite landscapes and forest scenery of more rural Portugal.
During our Azure Ocean Ride, we ride through two of the most visited villages of Portugal – the medieval town of Obidos and the romantic village of Sintra – while taking in the wildlife in the coastal lagoons and the many surfing beaches in between.
Wendy has a harder time picking a single highlight on the Alentejo and the Algarve trip. “I love the amazing views from the top of the Arrabida Mountains on the first day, the rice fields on Day 2, and the amazing winding road in the cork tree forest on Day 3,” she tells us. “Oh and the unspoilt coast of Alentejo on Days 4 and 5. Also, don’t forget the breathtaking views over the cliffs as we approach the end in Sagres.” So that’s pretty much the whole trip then….
Ancient History: Both Real And Fantasy
Portugal is one of the oldest nations in Europe and its territory has been continuously settled, invaded, and fought over since prehistoric times. This means that there is a plethora of amazing historic sites to visit.
At the end of Day 6 on the Azure Ocean Ride, we stop at the small bay of Porto Novo. This was the place where in 1808 the Duke of Wellington met his troops arriving by sea to later, together with the Portuguese troops, defeat the French Invasion army. In the following years, he went on to win several battles before putting an end to the Napoleonic Wars on the Iberian Peninsula.
The Alentejo and the Algarve trip ends in the historic town of Sagres. Better known as “The Promontorium Sacrum,” the city was once considered to be the resting place of the gods, and for that reason, no human soul was allowed there after sunset. “Long gone are those days and that’s where we’ll stay overnight on our last day – for gods we are,” Wendy laughs.
During the Historic Villages tour, we spend a night in the somewhat peculiar city of Monsanto where houses are tucked between, on, and underneath giant boulders. “For all you Game of Thrones fans, Monsanto is where the latest trailer for the upcoming TV series was shot,” notes Wendy.
Seafood As Fresh As It Gets
Portugal is a gastronomic destination in its own right and given the country’s position along the Atlantic Ocean, it’s no wonder that freshly caught local seafood features prominently on the menu. Wendy shares some of her favourite regional specialities that you will have the chance to sample while on holiday.
Our Historic Villages tour visits two provinces – first the Alentejo and later Beira. In Alentejo, one of its gastronomic specialities is Alhada de Cacão—chunks of dogfish cooked in a garlic cream sauce with lots of coriander. Once we enter Beira, one of the most known dishes is Ensopado de Cabrito – bread or boiled potatoes soaked in a mountain goat seasoned stew.
As expected on the Azure Ocean Ride, fresh-caught grilled sea bass and shellfish abound. But don’t forget dessert. “In Obidos you must try the local drink Ginjinha served in a small chocolate cup, while in Sintra, be sure not to miss the signature dessert, Travesseiro—a crispy, sweet treat that is made from a combination of puff pastry and a rich cream that consists of almonds and egg yolks.”
During our Alentejo and the Algarve trip, we pass through the village of Setubal, which is known for its locally caught fish. Fried cuttlefish or choco is considered a Setubal speciality. “Make sure you don’t miss a meal of grilled sea bass on your last night in Sagres,” Wendy implores us. “You won’t have another chance to get fish this fresh. And, while you are at it, ask for Delicia Algarvia for dessert, a tart made of carob and figs topped with a creamed almonds layer.” Salivating, yet?
So Which Holiday To Choose?
With three great options to choose from – we asked Wendy for some tips on which trip might be best for you.
With the Azure Ocean Ride, the clue is in the title. “This trip is filled with relaxed coastal cycling in great accommodation, with lots of coffee stops along the way.”
The Historic Villages trip is more physically demanding than the Azure Ocean Ride (thanks to those cheeky hills!) but it’s an achievable challenge. “This is a great trip for more experienced riders who like quiet roads, relaxation, unspoilt landscapes, and wild vegetation,” Wendy tells us.
And finally, the Alentejo and the Algarve holiday is perfect for those that want to discover the lesser-known parts of the country. “The unspoilt and protected Atlantic coast south of Lisbon provides some remarkable rides in nature.”