Portugal is a real jewel in Europe´s crown. Quite simply, cycle touring in Portugal, is delightful!
Starting with the historic and timeless city of Lisbon to the Algarve´s coastline offering wind swept white beaches, castles and headlands, Portugal seems to have it all. Cycle inland where the rolling countryside provides inspiring vistas. Of course there are always a few exerting climbs for those that enjoy the challenge and this area of cork forests and mountain fortresses can provide that. Top that with magical palaces and monuments from the past and you will soon immerse yourself in the spirit of the place.
Luckily, with all this exertion, it is also a place you won’t go hungry. The Alentejo region, known for centuries as ‘the Breadbasket’ of the country and the Algarve´s strong fishing heritage, provides many a peckish cyclist with a filling meal. With an evening glass in hand of the national tipple port, you will reflect fondly on the miles travelled.
Our holidays cycle through the middle of Portugal, a rich fertile area called the Alentejo. This undulating terrain is home to a wealth of cultures and has seen some of the most powerful and influential of them settle here. Agriculturally based still, the artisanship apparent in everything from their famous woven carpets to their potent port is crafted with much pride. Cycle this area discovering the charming hilltop castle towns, its romantic Moorish legacy, the Roman mosaics and stirring monuments in the heritage city of Evora and of course the most lovely scenery. A country of explorers is waiting for you!
Further south from the Alentejo is the region of the Algarve, coming from the Arabic word, Al Gharb (the west). An area full of the footsteps of others it is a fascinating area and blessed with temperate climate the rest of Europe doesn´t lay claim to. Cycle this area discovering the alluring sea vistas, castles perched atop towns, and its own romantic Roman and Moorish legacy. It is also where the Golden Age of Portugal set forth as seafaring vessels left home from here. It is a magical area of white washed villages, blue skies and waving palms. Come and venture forth yourself!
Below is a short round-up of the highlights of the Alentejo region and the Algarve:
Lisbon (Lisboa): Enjoying Atlantic breezes from its shores, this capital of Portugal since its conquest from the Moors in 1147, was supposedly founded by Ulysess. Wander the old city quarters of Alfama and enjoy riding the Funicular elevator up these steep narrow streets. A lively city, you can always enjoy fado, the mournful national song at many a cozy night place or hit the wonderful array of museums that crowd Lisbon. Built on seven hills, exploring it will get the heart rate going but it will definitely be worth it.
Arraiolos: The craftspeople have perfected the art of their traditional hand made wool carpets and these are displayed throughout its twisting streets. Some of these 17 th and 18 th century inspired designs might make the trip home like many a traveller through the ages. Some even hang in London’s prestigious Albert and Victoria Museum. As well, close by is the nature reserve and if you can fit in just one more castle, the town’s own 14th Century fortress still has its Gothic arches and Manuelin clocktower all in working order.
Redondo: A lovely little town with the ruins of a 14th century castle hovering above, and almost like an even higher star floats the church of the Misericórdia. The centre of the wine growing region of Alentejo, cycle through vineyards.
Monsaraz: Lying close to the Iberian border, this enchanting town could make you believe you are living in another time, so medieval is the place. The steep city walls secure this history and date from the 16th century. Here is a place to wander and the Gothic church and Palace of Justice are real treats to the architecture buff as is the 14th century castle that looms above.
Evora: Once the residence of kings, Evora is a real tapestry of Roman, Moorish and Baroque influence, all of which has been wonderfully preserved in this UNESCO heritage city. The pretty narrow lanes spilling flowers are a delight to explore and the curved arched entrance takes one back to its Arabic heritage and you almost might wish you brought your toga when you explore the Roman temple.
Estremoz: Due to its admirable strategic position in the area, the country’s monarchs flocked here to reign in safety and probably to take advantage of the warm sunlight that floods the area as well. An interesting town with old fashioned houses and open plazas.
Vila Viçosa: Resting on the orchard filled hillsides of this most fertile area; this town spreads out below its castle. So pretty is it that it was even given as a wedding present to Dona Brites, the wife of King Afonso IV. Here the former residences of the dukes and kings are furnished in this area’s marble and they are a delight to visit.
Vila Nova Milfontes: Along the Algarve coast there are so many villages which saw some fascinating history of pirates, battles and watching Portugal´s Golden era of Discovery. Vila Nova is no different, set on the Atlantic it was founded in the 15th century and its 17th century fortress attests to these hardy people. The town itself is very close to several nature preserves, some wonderful bird migratory paths and has some romantically sandy beaches.
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