Lisbon to Algarve Spanish Border
Cycle the Atlantic Ocean’s Portuguese coast of contrasts. Enjoy the bright lights and heady heights of Lisbon, then set off south on a warm coastal adventure down ‘Al Gharb’, the western side of the Iberian peninsular. Cycle along quiet roads and promenades towards the Costa da Caparica. Follow more rural tracks into the rocky Arrábida hills for magnificent views of rugged cliffscapes. Explore historic settlements such as Sesimbra or Setúbal and keep an eye out for dolphins along the Costa Vicentina. The sky almost catches fire in the most dramatic of sunsets over the western world’s very tip at Cabo São Vicente, then pedal east, with the Atlantic breeze behind you, round pirate coves and fertile river deltas, beneath fine fortresses and alongside sandy beaches and dunes, marshes and maritime forests, bustling marinas and traditional fishing villages. Countless ancient peoples settled these fertile lands and left their mark by the great Guadiana estuary which separates Portugal and Spain. Today some visitors flock to wade the lagoons and wetland reserves, others to take a break on the shoreline, but coasting along by bike and stopping off where you will – well, that has to be the best of both worlds. Read More
Bed & Breakfast
16 Days, 15 Nights
Jan - Nov
Grade 3 (Moderate)
In Lisbon, Costa da Caprica, Sesimbra, Setúbal, Sant André, Sines, Vila Nova de Mil Fontes, Aljezur, Sagres, Lagos, Portimão, Albufeira, Faro and Tavira (2 nights).
Day 1 Arrive & explore
Arrive in Lisbon and take to the trams to view the world and the Tejo river from the Moorish Alfama district. Castel São Jorge is a fitting place for a panorama of one of Europe’s oldest cities and has a fine introductory exhibition of Lisbon’s history. More into structures like the Eifel Tower? Head for the 1902 Carma lift (end of Rua de Santa Justa). But there are plenty more monumental must-sees – Padrão dos Descobrimento, the monument to Portugal’s great explorers of the Golden Age; Christo Rei (just think Rio on a smaller scale); the Praça da Figueira square and the most recent Vasco da Gama bridge, officially the longest in Europe. In the evening, the bar-filled cobbled lanes of the Bairro Alto are as tempting as a wander with the Lisboeta locals along the banks of the Tejo (Tagus) river.
Day 2 Monasteries & Moor
The vibrant riverside area of Lisbon is an ace start to the day’s cycling. There’s the Parque das Nações and the capital’s most iconic square, Praça do Commércio. You’ll find museums, cafés, monuments and all sorts here en route to Lisbon’s monastery at Belém. Built on the wealth of the Golden Age of Portuguese exploration, the Jérónimus Monastery with its cloister courtyard garden is made to impress. Its adjacent jettying Tower of Belém appears simultaneously both Moorish and medieval. Take the ferry across the Rio Tejo to Trafaria and the Costa da Caparica coast, but first enjoy a café break to sample the local sweet Pasteis de Belém (egg custard tart) in its town of origin.
Overnight in the resort of Costa da Caparica.
Miles 13 Kms 21
Day 3 Go local – with the ‘Lisboetas’…
On the Tejo estuary, Costa Caparica is, as its name – ‘rich headland’- suggests, a highly prized coast. It’s popular with the Lisbon locals for the Atlantic coast surfing, beach time and time out with friends over delicious seafood suppers. A refreshing change from city life, the cool coast is backed with pine forests and dotted with beach shacks, but amazing nature is also not far away – the Serra da Arrábida Natural Park is right on its doorstep. There are brilliant beaches and totally photogenic vistas to enjoy, and the coast has a history of fossil finds too – the wild exposed Cabo Espichel headland boasts two sets of dinosaur footprints, plus a unique church and lighthouse. The Arrábida hills are popular with the ‘Lisboetas’, offering excellent hiking. The area is renowned for a special micro-climate which like the ‘maquis’ scrublands of the Dalmatian Coast. Lush vegetation and wildlife are the order of the day, so look out for reptiles, amphibians and unusual birds. Your route leads to Semimbra Bay, a charming small-scale resort renowned for red rocky cliffs views from the Castelo de Sesimbra and its ‘marisqueira’ seafood restaurants.
Overnight in Sesimbra.
Miles 25 Kms 40
Day 4 What a corker!
Time to explore more of the Arrábida Natural Park on the north shore of the Sado River. Heading through Arrábida uplands landscape, the vegetation – including impressive cork oaks – and views really steal the show. Cameras and binoculars at the ready then, to make the most of those tantalizing glimpses of blue ocean offset by the bright lush greens! But what goes up, must come down and it’s only natural that you’ll want to put a toe in the water and enjoy the wonderful beaches of Portinho da Arrábida and Figueirinha. Finally, pedal on to the thriving port of Setúbal by the ‘Stork estuary’ of the Sado River, home to one of the most prestigious fishmarkets in the world.
Overnight in Setúbal.
Miles 18 Kms 29
Day 5 Birds, Bottlenoses & beaches
A unique ferry boat trip starts the day, setting out across the Sado Estuary Natural Reserve, home to flocks of storks (spring/ summer) and over 250 species of birds, unexpected rice fields and even bottlenose dolphins, who may well delight by chasing you on your boat trip. Landing on the Troia peninsular, it’s soon time to coast along a while as the landscape relaxes into the gentle plains of the Alentejo – a land of white-washed villages and robust castles, home to crystal waters and officially some of Portugal’s very best beaches. Fishing has historically been a key industry in the area, so it’s worth a detour to Carrasqueira to view the old wooden fishing wharves. The affluent ‘planned’ city of Santo André (Santiago do Cacém) is your final destination for the day.
Overnight in Santo André.
Miles 34 Kms 55
Day 6 A taste of Alentejo - from Santo André to Sines
Into history and good food? Today will be a treat then, as you pedal into Alentejo, that ‘land beyond the Tagus’. Sheep’s cheese, black pork, salt cod, asparagus, wild mushrooms may all be on the menu, with delicious Alentejo wines to wash them down, of course. If you’ve a taste for the local culture, then there are Visigoth churches, Roman remains, prehistoric engravings and mighty megaliths perhaps to graze on. After a great day nibbling at all sorts of local attractions, the old fishing town of Sines – birthplace of the great explorer Vasco da Gama – has to be an appropriate catch as a place to stay. You’ll find the great man’s statue standing proudly by the walls of his castle.
Overnight in Sines.
Miles 13 Kms 21
Day 7 A rugged coastline like no other …
The Southwest and Costa Vicentina Natural Park reaches all the way down into the Algarve and has a reputation as the finest preserved stretch of coastline in Europe. With its fantastic flora and fauna, it’s really popular with botanists and zoologists – a landscape of steep cliffs, surf and rocky coves – so prepare for outstanding Atlantic Ocean views, paradise beaches and traditional fishing harbours. This is one of the last European places where otters exist in a marine habitat and the only place in the world where white storks build their nets on seashore outcrops. Vila Nova de Mil Fontes is your overnight destination, but even that can have an extra treat to end the day – the sunset at Portinho do Canal.
Overnight Vila Nova de Mil Fontes.
Miles 26 Kms 41
Day 8 Algarve horizons
Day two of exploration in the Costa Vicentina Natural Park. More fascinating species, awesome vistas, plus lofty cliffs topped with sandy dune systems and unique flora around the Ribeira de Aljezur estuary and Amoreira beach. Feast your eyes on secluded coves and Atlantic views, then head for Aljezur, home to the sweet potato festival. Local restaurants offer plenty of hearty fare here, but bream and sea bass also feature prominently on the menu. Founded by the Moors in the 10th century, the town spreads across the hillside, dominated by its massive twin-towered castle. From the castle battlements, look back at the hills you have conquered on your travels – what a feeling!
Miles 44 Kms 71
Day 9 The end of the world?
Cycle from Aljezur down the Costa Vicentina to the area perhaps most associated with Henry the Navigator, the Portuguese prince behind Europe’s Golden Age of exploration into Africa, Asia and the Americas. The 100m high cliffs at Cabo São Vicente (Cape St Vincent) were the European landmark of ‘home’ for those determined explorers returning, ships fully laden with treasures procured on those earliest voyages of discovery. Today, like so much of the Costa Vicentina, it’s an unrivalled haven for sea- and shore-birds as well as birds of prey. Visit the site of Henry’s original church at ‘the Cape’ and admire the lighthouse provided by a local bishop to help the safe passage of local fishermen. The fortified port of Sagres is your last port of call today. Recharge a while and you’ll soon find the energy for an evening trip back to the ‘end of the earth’ to catch its truly out-of-this-world sunset.
Overnight in Sagres.
Miles 21-42 Kms 34-68
Day 10 Goose barnacles & pirate coves
A quick tour down to the lower fishing port and remains of Baleeira Fort is a must before leaving Sangres. Bearing the scars of an attack by the English ‘pirate’ Sir Francis Drake in 1587, the fort sets the scene for the day as the ‘Ecovia do Litoral’ weaves up to Vila do Bispo (home of a fine sacred art museum and that most local delicacy – goose barnacles!), then around the sandy, cliff-enclosed coves on the stretch of stack-rock coast where Drake once sought to hide galleons packed to the gunwales with gold and jewels from the Americas or with precious rich spices from the Indies. The walled town of Lagos, the former hub of Prince Henry’s great Golden Age, is the perfect place to reflect on the swashbuckling history of the day.
Overnight in Lagos.
Miles 31 Kms 50
Day 11 Around the Ria de Alvor to Portimão
The Algarve coast is riddled with watery outlets, so inevitably, there are times when a bit of circumnavigation is unavoidable. Leave the coast briefly today then to discover ‘inland’ fishing harbours and delightful villages around the Ribeira de Odiáxero as you skirt the Ria de Alvor. You’ll soon be back to the Atlantic breezes and white sands at Praia da Rocha, before another turn inland up the Arade River basin to the Algarve’s second largest city, Portimão. It’s worth pedalling down to admire the cliff-lined coast from the old town with Castelo Santa Catarina sitting proudly above the coast road.
Overnight in Portimão.
Miles 19 Kms 31
Day 12 Avocets & lush Algarve pastures
From harbourlands to fertile fields and rich pastures – explore local lagoons at Lagoa and Salgados teeming with birdlife and backed by the gentlest farmland landscapes. You may have left the coast, but you’re sure to spot some fishing still going on along these salt-water natural park stretches which are home to several varieties of heron including the small, rare ‘Squacco’. There are great viewpoints at Siera da Rocha and Armação de Péra, but sharp-beaked fisherfolk and dabbling avocets backed by a landscape which combines everything from dunes, reeds, rushes, to verdant meadows simply steal the show. Tonight’s roost is back on the coast at the popular Algarve marina resort of Albufeira.
Overnight in Albufeira.
Miles 28 Kms 46
Day 13 Seafood & fruity Algarve treats
Time to look out for Mediterranean orchards and the Algarve’s biggest fish. Around Vilamoura, the reed beds and artificial lagoons are another nature reserve, home to purple heron, little bittern and marsh harriers, but you’re sure to find plenty of other local characters in the fish, fruit and vegetable market at nearby Quarteira. Try out the local figs, almonds, carob, beans and citrus fruits or take a break by the beach to sample barbecued skewers of the freshest fish, chunked up with delicious local vegetables or Calderiada – the Algarve’s famous fish stew. From Quartiera, cycle right alongside the beach a while before weaving around a resort or two to reach the Algarve’s mightiest catch – its capital city, Faro.
Miles 30 Kms 49
Day 14 Barrier islands & the Ria Formosa natural park
Bustling Faro and the nearby port of Olhão lie on the Ria Formosa estuary, edged by a continuous string of islands which boast some stunning beaches and unusual coastal vistas. Boat trips and ferry crossings are on offer if you wish to explore Ihla do Farol or Ihla da Armona, but the classic fishing village of Fuzeta is calling and it’s hard to resist taking the mini-train from Pedras D’el Rei to join the sun-worshippers on Barril Beach. Portugal’s third largest wetland area stretches from Olhão all the way to Santa Luzia and beyond the historic town of Tavira. The marshes, salt flats, dunes, channels, mudbanks and pools are another impressive year-round haven for thousands of waterfowl.
Miles 26 Kms 42
Day 15 Fish, fortresses & flamingos
Stylish Tavira is full of historic interest with over thirty churches, elegant mansions and its iconic Roman bridge. It has a castle too, no doubt created to protect the fishing fleets catching mighty tuna along the eastern Algarve coast. Cycle on and explore some of the Algarve’s most ancient lands, once home to Phoenicians, Romans, Greeks and Carthaginians. Stop off at Cacela Velha, that most ancient of settlements or put a toe in the water at Manta Rota Beach, before heading off through the maritime pine forests around Monte Gordo and the Sapal natural park with its great saltpans around Vila Real de Santo António and Castro Marim. There’s a chance to take the train rather than cycle back from Santo António to Tavira, so why not climb Castro Marim’s castle walls, pause a while by the old windmill or take a longer, closer look at those flamingos and spoonbills? And if you fancy a spot of Spain, it’s only short ferry ride away over the Guardina River – just remember the time difference so you catch that train ok!
Overnight in Tavira.
Miles 21-42 Kms 34-68
Day 16 Depart after breakfast
Depart after breakfast following your final night in Tavira. Unless you can’t resist one last stroll along the Rio Gilão and Roman Bridge of course.
Extra nights can be booked in Tavira on a bed and breakfast basis after the tour to allow more time to enjoy the sunshine coast and its beautiful beaches.
Dates & PricesDownload Prices
For tour start days/dates, seasons and all prices, please click on the PRICES button above
Ensuite accommodation as described with buffet/continental breakfast (prices based on two adults sharing). If half-board is booked, dinner each night (15 dinners). If upgraded room is booked, this will normally have a seaview or overlook the garden
Luggage transfer between hotels
Taxi transfers Lisbon airport to hotel & Sagres to Faro airport or station at holiday end
Hire of hybrid bicycle and ancillary equipment (single pannier, pump, basic tools, spare inner tube & puncture repair equipment shared between 2 people)
Local assistance on call (although puncture repair is excluded)
Information pack with detailed joining instructions and daily route overviews sent out approximately 2 weeks before departure so you can plan ahead and look forward to your cycling adventure
Detailed route notes and maps with marked routes provided on arrival, 1 per room
GPS and odometer 1 per party (extra units can be hired at additional cost)
Please note that the price EXCLUDES
Costs of getting to and from the tour area
Selected 4 star hotels in Lisbon, Costa da Caprica, Sesimbra, Sines, Santo André, Aljezur, Sagres Lagos, Albufera, Portimão, Faro, Tavira (2nights); 3 star hotels in Setubal and Vila Nova de Mil Fontes.
Half board is an option on this tour.
We are pleased to discuss details on request.
Useful websites, travel information and tips to help you plan your journey to and from the country and location of your holiday.
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