In mid-October 2018 Simon went on a short cycling break in Portugal to find out more about the eastern Algarve region and to see how it fares as a warm weather cycling destination:
My short break cycling along the eastern Algarve, October 2018 by Simon Rutherford
Having already tested out some of the cycling holidays we offer in Italy, Germany and Switzerland, I was looking forward to exploring a more traditional side of Portugal in the eastern Algarve.
Although, Portugal was no mystery to me; I had cycled there with friends and family previously.
But this time I decided to stick to flatter terrain using a good quality hybrid bike. A much smoother ride…
Day 1: Loule – Sao Bras – Estoi - Tavira (Approx. 58 km)
After a quick transfer from Faro airport, I arrived in the evening at the small town of Loule and spent the night at the 3* Loule Jardim hotel.
The following morning I was eager to start riding, but still managed to fit in a hearty breakfast before my hybrid bike arrived.
Then I was off into the glare of glorious morning sunshine!
Passing the imposing Castle of Loule which was surprisingly well-preserved, I headed for the small unspoilt town of Sao Bras de Alportel - Famous for its narrow cobbled streets and colourful buildings.
The nearby church had fantastic views of the luscious, green countryside and the central square offered the chance to sample delicious local cakes and coffee.
I could easily have spent hours here! But then I would have missed out on the Roman ruins of Estoi and the magnificent Pousada Palacio; a luxury hotel built on the foundations of an 18th century palace.
After a spell along some quieter, rural scenery I joined the River Gilao which led me to the town of Tavira.
A traditional Portuguese town with a rich history dating back to the Bronze Age, its medieval bridge and winding cobbled streets are contrasted by an abundance of modern tapas bars and restaurants.
The perfect place to put your feet up and unwind after a long day of cycling!
Day 2: Tavira - Vila Real San Antonio – Olhao (Approx. 64 km)
After a relaxing night at the 4* Vila Gale Marina hotel, I collected my bike and rode a few hundred metres towards the riverside to take a few photos from the bridge before following signs for the Spanish border.
After passing through Villa Real San Antonio (a town modelled after the reconstruction of Lisbon) I cycled along the picturesque Ecovia Coastal route to reach the historic fishing port of Olhao.
This part of the Algarve offers a truly authentic experience.
The towns in this region are largely unspoilt, featuring original architecture that’s remained unchanged for hundreds of years.
Cycling routes around here are as tranquil as they are beautiful, with deserted roads and agricultural countryside greeting you at every turn.
Nearby places that shouldn’t be missed include Castro Marim on the banks of the Guadiana River with its 17th century fortress and 18th century church – or the tiny village of Cacela Vela, perched high on a hillside with spectacular views of the coastline and Ria Formosa nature reserve.
En route to Olhao I made a quick pit stop at the fabulous sands of Monetgordo beach to breathe in the spectacular view.
Sadly, I didn’t have time for a swim! Time was against me, so I made my way back to Tavira and took the train to Olhao instead.
This was a bit of a kick in the teeth as I missed out on visiting the quaint fishing villages of Santa Luiza and Fuzeta. Maybe next time!
Finally, I arrived in Olhao where I had just enough time to enjoy the historical centre before dinner at a tiny bohemian tapas bar which served fabulous local seafood – a staple of Portuguese cuisine.
Walking along the marina seafront you’ll undoubtedly find fishing boats aplenty.
Or if you’d prefer to take in some more local culture, the town’s markets are tremendously popular amongst tourists and locals. Just look out for the distinctive red brick buildings – you can’t miss them.
It was with a heavy heart that I boarded my flight back to Manchester the following morning.
Thankfully though, the take-off treated me to a bird’s eye view of the Isles of Tavira, the Ria Formosa and the stunning Algarve coastline.
A fitting farewell to the cycling routes I had been following for the past two days.
Overall, this was a wonderful trip at an easy-to-moderate difficulty level and is perfect for those looking for a warm and sunny autumn/winter break.
See our full choice of our cycling holidays in Portugal here >>