Our Blue Coast bike tour explores the beautiful and rugged Atlantic west coast of Portugal, cycling through white washed villages and cork forests along the way. This classic tour has you coasting along quiet back roads from Lisbon to Lagos and the brilliant beaches of the Algarve.
You'll experience a memorable montage on this seaside bike tour of Portugal: magnificent coastal seascapes, pastoral farmlands, working windmills, tiny fishing villages and historical monuments such as Henry the Navigator's Navigational School perched on a wild headland over the blue waters of the Algarve.
It's a wonderful trip with a warm & sunny holiday feel. It's not flat but more of a gently rolling landscape and the accumulated elevation gain for the whole trip is minimal.
Day One — Vila Nova de Azeitão
AM transfer from Lisbon hotels / airport to the start of our trip in the historic old village of Azeitão -famous for its lovely, centuries-old, wine estates and, of course, their wines - especially the delicious moscatel dessert wine. However, it’ll be a little too early to check in so we'll go by van to the picturesque old fishing village of Sesimbra for some lunch. There are many fine restaurants on the waterfront well known for their delicious fresh fish dishes, in particular, espadarte grelhado (grilled swordfish). After lunch, we'll all pile into the van and drive up to the 13thC Sesimbra Castle with its spectacular view and little cemetery. Originally, a Moorish castle existed there but when the Moors were defeated by the Christians in the 12thC, they pulled the castle down rather then let it fall into Christian hands. Eventually rebuilt, it belonged to the warrior monk order of Santiago de Espada (St. James of the Sword). The symbol of St. James, a scallop shell & a cross with a pointed bottom, can be seen above the door of the church.
Our next stop will be to one of the finest wine estates in the country, Quinta da Bacalhoa. It is a happy combination of the beautiful palace built in 1480, exquisite formal gardens, its enormous variety of antique azulejos (tiles) and the stunning collection of art belonging to the owner / art collector, José Berardo. All of this leading us to the winery itself which produces some of the best wines in Portugal! Talk about an embarrassment of riches! After our wine sampling, we visit a small tile factory where they still hand-make the azulejos (tiles) for which Portugal is famous. Most of the tiles, made in this incredibly labor-intensive manner, are copies of old tiles. Returning to the hotel we will begin the bike fittings through out the afternoon. Tonight's accommodation: Hotel Club d'Azeitão
Day Two — Azeitão to Setúbal (27km / 17miles)
Today we'll saddle up and ride southeast to the large seaport town of Setúbal. This ride will be one of the most scenically beautiful of the tour. Hilly but short, we'll be riding through the Serra da Arrabida, hugging the edge of the spectacular coastline. This natural park is noted for its unusual flora. Only here can you find the remains of many of the original Mediterranean plants and flowers. A botanist’s paradise! We'll reach Setúbal by lunchtime where they’ll be lots of restaurants and bars where you can grab a snack. Our accommodations will be in the center of Setubal within walking distance to all the main sights. 2.00pm – Meet in the hotel lobby and we’ll walk over to the harbor on the Sado estuary where we’ll then take a catamaran along the stunning Arrabida coastline to seek out some of the very rare river dolphins that inhabit these waters. This should leave you with some time to explore the old quarter, said to have been founded by Noah's grandson! Tonight’s accommodation: Rio Art Guesthouse, lovely canary yellow hotel off Setubal's central avenue.
Day Three — Setúbal to Santiago do Cacém (64km/ 40 miles)
Today, we cross the estuary of the Sado River by ferry and head south along the Troia Peninsula. This whole area is a natural park, a wetland home to many protected species of birds such as storks (of which we'll see many) and, more rarely, flamingos. This peninsula was once the home of a thriving Roman port with an enormous fish-salting industry that was destroyed by a tidal wave in the 5thC. As you ride along, notice all the wonderful Mediterranean herbs and flowers growing along the road such as wild thyme, lavender and Scotch broom. Near the end, of this long flat stretch, there'll be a turning to the RIGHT onto a dirt road with a sign saying PRAIA DO COMPORTA. This is a lovely, long, empty beach with just a couple of shacks that serve drinks and fish dishes. As you ride through the little village of Comporta at the end of the peninsula, look out for the many stork nests on top of chimneys and houses. These storks fly back to Portugal in the early spring from their winter home in Africa, to lay their eggs in their enormous nests. Sometimes, however, if food is plentiful they’ll stay in Portugal through the winter rather than fly back to Africa. Riding on southwards, through the lower part of Portugal's largest and most rural province, the Alentejo, you'll pass many little farms that still use centuries old methods of farming. There'll be many little cafés along the way where you can always stop for a refreshing drink and give the locals something to discuss for days to come. Tonight’s accommodation: Santiago Hotel Cooking & Nature, in the center of town and easy walking distance to the castle.
Day Four — Santiago do Cacém to Vila Nova do Milfontes (63km/39miles)
Today we will ride our bikes up to the roman ruins of Mirobriga almost a complete roman village and virtually unknown. We will stop to tour the site together.
Our ride will then take us out towards Sines and south until we reach an idyllic beach around lunchtime called Praia da Ilha. There's a wonderful seafood restaurant situated right on the headland – where we will have a group lunch, a good spot for lunch as there’s not much else between here and Vila Nova do Milfontes. Next to the restaurant, there are the ruins of a fort built in the 16th century to protect the coastline from marauding Algerian pirates. Just off shore there is an exquisitely pretty little island - Ilha do Pessegueiro (Peachtree Island), a bewildering name as there's not a tree on the island of any sort. However, there are a few Roman ruins on it, as well as, the ruins of another fort. After lunch we move southward to the picturesque little fishing village of Vila Nova Milfontes where we'll spend 2 nights in a lovely little hotel walking distance to the beach.
The setting of this pretty town is what sets it apart from many other fishing communities along Portugal's West Coast - right on the estuary of the Mira River whose sandy banks and gentle water eventually merge with the sea. The town is an ancient port said to have harbored Hannibal and his Carthaginians during a storm. Two night’s accommodation: Quinta do Moinho do Vento
Day Five — Loop ride to São Luís (39km / 29miles)
Today we ride off into the pastoral Alentejo countryside to the typical little hamlet of São Luís where the landscape is dotted with windmills. The Portuguese windmills are so beloved, that now they’re protected by law – if you buy one you can’t tear it down or change its basic shape. We’ll then ride on to the sleepy little farm town of Cercal before heading back to V.N. Milfontes. In the P.M, there'll be plenty of time to do some shopping, sightseeing and/or spend some time on the beach. Tonight’s accommodation: Quinta do Moinho do Vento
Day Six — V.N. Milfontes to Brejão (46.6km / 28.9miles)
We head south today on sleepy back roads with little or no traffic, through fields of lupine, wheat and oats. Meeting your guide / driver at the lighthouse at Cabo Sardão we will take our bikes on an optional dirt trail along the headlands with breathtaking views of the deep electric blue Atlantic Ocean dotted with the magnetic pink ice plants makes for a wonderful ride. You can pause for a lunch break in the seaside village of Zambujeira do Mar perched high on a bluff above the beach. There's a restaurant and a café here. Back on your bikes, we leave the Alentejo province and head into the Algarve province. From here on you'll notice some subtle changes. The houses tend to have flat roofs (a hangover from the Moors) and interestingly shaped white chimneys. You'll begin to see a lot of fig, carob and almond trees the farther south you go, as well as, the curious strawberry tree with its red fruit used to make an extremely powerful drink called Medronho. From Zambujeira do Mar it's only another 15km/9m on a fairly flat road to our destination. From the lovely Cerca do Sul you can ride another 6km to the coast and yet another stunning beach for sundowners before heading back to our hotel for dinner. Tonight’s accommodation: Cerca do Sul, lovely little farmhouse with a refreshing pool.
Day Seven — Brejão to Lagos (76.0km / 47.2 miles)
Today's long ride follows an inland road along the coast until we reach the southwestern most corner of Europe - Sagres. Here, in Sagres, we’ll visit the site of Prince Henry the Navigator’s famous navigational school set on a dramatic headland with heart-stopping views. From there we'll have a shuttle to head back in an easterly direction stopping to visit the oldest church in the Algarve before arriving in the historical old town of Lagos. One of the oldest towns along the Algarvian Coast and certainly one of its most picturesque!Our very pretty hotel is located near the center of Lagos; the wonderful pool inviting and cool after a long day’s ride. Two night’s accommodation: Hotel Tivoli Lagos
Day Eight — Lagos
Today you can enjoy a lazy morning on one of the fine beaches near Lagos or stroll through the town to collect any last minute souvenirs or gifts. Your Hotel offers a shuttle bus throughout the day to Duna Beach. A lovely beach only for hotel guests on the other side of the Lagos harbour. We will also offer a lift in the morning to one of our favourite beaches. A notice will be posted in the lobby. Tonight's accommodation: Hotel Tivoli Lagos
Day Nine — Farewell
Lift to Faro Airport or back to Lisbon by train.
* Details subject to change.
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