Long Weekends in Europe are incredible ways to get some cycling done in a new place. Last time we explored this subject we looked at the German capital of Berlin. Today, however, we are looking to soak up some sun, sea and sand as we head to the Algarve region of Portugal.
Where should I stay?
There are plenty of great spots in the Algarve, each ideal for different groups of people. If it’s your first time in the region, your best bet is to stay in the tourist hotspots of Lagos or Faro as each city is brimming with great hotels and attractions, making them great places to enjoy some sight-seeing.
If you’re looking for a more authentic and relaxed Portuguese experience, a stay in the medieval city of Tavira is a good choice. The town is primarily known for its fishing heritage and the gently flowing Gilão River that it straddles, however its maze of cobbled streets and network of idyllic beaches gives Tavira its own distinct character.
For those that like to hit the town, Albufeira is the place to be. Its selection of bars and clubs are unmatched in the region, making it the perfect place to throw some shapes while clutching a local beer or glass of port.
What is there for families to do?
Thanks to the raft of tourists that visit the Algarve each year, there are plenty of amazing activities to keep the kids entertained. The largest and most popular attraction is the Zoomarine theme park found just outside the town of Guia, a little way inland from Albufeira. The park features an eclectic mix of rides, shows and animals, including the opportunity to swim with dolphins.
Given its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, it will come as no surprise that the Algarve has a storied history with piracy. These days the real pirates are gone, however you can still book on to a variety of pirate themed boat tours that immerse your family into the life of a Portuguese pirate.
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The coastal nature of the region means that seafood is top of the list when it comes to delicacies. The city of Portimão is world renowned for its salty fish, so much so that it holds an annual festival dedicated to sardines. The festival is so popular that you can often struggle to find space to eat, so get there early and indulge in some delicious grilled seafood.
While fish are the staple of many Algarve dishes, another Portuguese delicacy is Frango de Guia. Essentially a form of grilled chicken, Frango de Guia is traditionally cooked with a range of spices and is best served in Albufeira as a late night snack.
Cycling in the Algarve
What makes cycling in the Algarve so thrilling is the sheer variety of terrain that it offers up over a relatively small area. You can start your day from the front of your hotel and gently warm-up through the streets of Tavira or Lagos before cruising along the coastal roads and into the hills of the Barrocal in the centre of the region. My favourite route around the Barrocal is a testing loop that takes in plenty of tough climbs and can be extended or shortened depending on your ability.
For MTB or gravel fans, the Portuguese cycling federation have been keen to expand their nation’s offerings in each discipline in recent years and the opening of a dedicated MTB centre in Lagos is a key factor in this growth. Boasting over 300km of trails across nine different routes, the centre has become a popular meeting spot for cyclo-tourists and is one of the most beautiful settings for MTB riding in Portugal.
When should I visit the Algarve?
For cycling, the best time of the year to visit is outside of the peak tourist season. The main reason for this is that temperatures can reach exceedingly high levels in the summer, making cycling an uncomfortable experience. In September and October, the weather remains pleasant, but the sun is less intense.
If you want to watch some racing, the Volta ao Algarve traditionally takes place in mid-February each year and is one of the biggest early season stage races in Europe.
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The easiest and cheapest way of getting to the Algarve from the UK is to fly into Faro airport. From here you can catch a train to anywhere in the region or take a coach to your resort.
If you want to make the trip part of your adventure, you could take a ferry from Portsmouth to Santander in Spain before getting a train or renting a car to get you the rest of the way.
This really is just a snippet of everything the Algarve has in store for you and will almost certainly require more than one visit to truly appreciate it’s rugged charm. Before you set off, make sure you’ve taken out cycle travel insurance which covers emergency medical expenses, trip cancellation, trip abandonment, repatriation and a whole host of other benefits. If you need any help, please give us a call on 0333 003 0046