Ride to Portugal’s Algarve and fly home…
Starting in Spain’s spectacular Picos de Europa, this southbound leg of our Grand Tour offers a shorter trip for those unable to travel for 3-weeks. At the tours conclusion in Portugal’s Algarve, you can either make your own home, or have us transport your bike whilst you fly home (see the Logistics tab below).
Leaving the Picos de Europa National Park behind us, we cross Spain’s Cordillera Cantabria and enter Portugal through its North East corner; a region once so remote it spawned its own dialect and customs. Once across the border, we join an extraordinary network of trails (many un-mapped), that service the country’s, forests, farmland, orchards and vineyards. From hardpacked dirt, grit and gravel to stony, rocky, sandy and even crushed granite (ever ridden in kitty litter?), the range of riding surfaces is vast. We’ve classified it Level 3 (see FAQ’s)
Our southbound route through the eastern hills and central mountains (Serra de Estrella) ensures an undulating ride. Tight ‘n’ twisty, steep ‘n’ loose, fast ‘n’ flowing are all worthy descriptions of the trails as the regions roll out before us. And then there’s the tarmac; often so good you won’t care you’re not on the dirt. Yes, really…it’s that good.
The diversity of the Portuguese countryside quickly becomes apparent. Its rich Roman, Moorish and Christian history seemingly untouched. A land of castles and farmsteads, where rural life appears to have remained unchanged for centuries, where cobbled streets and allotments abound;. you’d be forgiven for feeling like a time traveller. Springtime brings the early blooming purples of heather and the yellows and whites of wild flowers; whilst autumn brings a palette of colours to the landscape that have to be experienced in person. Nevermind New England in ‘the fall’ – Galicia in the autumn is a must.
Our rest-day sees us in one of Portugal’s most historic and unspoiled cities; Evora. An enchanting place to spend some time, your biggest difficulty will be deciding how to spend your time in this UNESCO listed gem.
Onward we ride, through the olive groves and cork forests, sweet-chestnut and citrus orchards, vineyards and wheat fields. Eventually we cross the Serra. Three ranges of hills that separate the Algarve from the rest of Portugal; protecting it from the northern winds and contributing to the region’s balmy climate. Welcome to the Mediterranean 😎
Off the bike
It’s not just the riding and scenery that’s spectacular, off-bike highlights include:
- Évora – The UNESCO World Heritage listed Roman city
- Mértola – The riverside town that dates back to Phoenician times
- Almeida – The country’s most impressive fortified border settlement
Dirt roads: Distance vs Time
It’s easy to look at the percentage of dirt roads on a particular tour and to think it’s either too little or too much.
One thing that comes up regularly in our customer feedback is that neither distance nor percentage (of dirt roads) accurately portray the actual riding on the day. On a day of 50% dirt for example, your time on the dirt will account for 70-80% of your riding time (pending the nature of the terrain) and therefore feel much more than the 50% by distance. This generally leads to a feeling of having ridden much more dirt than you have.
To get an idea of the terrain, head over to the Big Sky Riders YouTube Channel for some helmetcam footage.