…cycling one side of the Algarve to the other

Trails of the authentic Algarve

A bike ride created for locals…by locals

This is one that does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a Trans Algarve Mountain Bike tour across the back hills of the Algarve, exploring hidden trails, many of which are seldom ridden.

It was created from scratch by local tour leader Paul Beesley and his team at Algarve Bike Holidays. This was no mean feat; the Algarve and lower Alentejo comprise literally thousands of kilometres of tracks that, back in the day, were the link between rivers, farms and villages and were frequented mainly by locals on donkeys.

Testing and recording suitable cycling routes and identifying refreshment stops and accommodation along the way took time. But Paul and his team were determined to provide something unique for local mountain bikers who love to head off the beaten track.

“I cycle weekly with lots of local MTB enthusiasts and we cover some pretty good ground. But many of my clients express a desire to venture further afield. That’s what started us thinking about ‘Authentic Trails’…” explains Paul.

…see how the locals really live

Unfortunately, the all too familiar Covid situation has meant that this, along with most other trips, was put on hold for a couple of years. But happily March saw the first group of locals (in a while) depart Villa Real de Santo António for their fully guided trip from one side of the Algarve to the other.

I caught up with a few of them…

Penny Thornberry, Almancil

“I was keen to see more of the countryside and was impressed how each day the landscape changed, from Day One’s eucalyptus forests and slate hillocks, to the remote mountain ranges of Day Three and the Buddhist temple on Day Four.

The hospitality was typically Portuguese, friendly and unobtrusive, and we experienced traditional local food at local prices!

Some days entailed serious climbing. But we felt a fantastic sense of accomplishment and it was always worth it for the views. Our group bonded well and supported each other during the trickier moments.

Our fantastic guide, Marco, encouraged us throughout, especially on the last day when the heavens opened and we had to complete our cycle in a howling gale with driving rain, thunder and lightning! We finished in Odeceixe, sweaty and soaked, but happy! A fantastic sense of accomplishment and camaraderie was felt by all.

The trip exceeded my expectations on all counts. We were very well looked after and our luggage was brought ahead so all we had to do was follow our guide and concentrate on the cycle. Fantastic…”

…exploring hidden trails

Samantha and Jamie Simister, Loulé

With the abundance of off road trails and stunning, rugged scenery on your doorstep, each day is different and the riding experience spectacular. It’s an Algarve that you never see unless out on two wheels.

Staying in small hotels and guest houses, albeit close to home, gives you a real taste for the Authentic Algarve and a chance to see small towns and villages through locals’ eyes.

Not only do the local guides know their terrain exceptionally well, they are able to adjust the day’s cycling and route depending on the group’s capabilities. For us, this was brilliant as we felt satisfied after each day with the right degree of challenge.

It was a chance to try some authentic Portuguese cuisine on a daily basis, including some of the best coffee and cake stops the region has to offer!”

…the climbs are worth it for the views

Tim Silver, Quarteira

“I loved discovering parts of the Algarve that I didn’t know, getting away from the bits I’ve already cycled. You’d never find these routes yourself. We literally spent five days in the middle of nowhere, and it was great to finish the day and not have to return to “el touristy”. We experienced isolated hamlets, subsistence farming, ramshackle cottages that people actually still live in…and all of this only one hour from QdL!

It’s a trip that can accommodate a mixture of bikes. I was recovering from an injury so I took an Ebike. It gave me that added confidence on the hills.

I would stress that it is a group holiday. This means you may have to compromise sometimes, but it also makes it great fun and Marco adjusted the tour accordingly.”

Incidentally, I did this trip with my husband as a self-guided holiday in May 2019. So, it doesn’t have to be a guided one. But judging from the comments, there are definitely advantages of being in a group.

Either way, it is a trip that has been specifically designed with those in mind who genuinely want to explore the authentic countryside life. After all, you may live locally, but nothing quite beats seeing how the locals live.

For more information on this and other MTB, Tour Bike, Road Bike and E Bike holidays and mini breaks in the Algarve, visit www.algarvebikeholidays.com or email Paul Beesley: paul@algarvebikeholidays.com

By Samantha Diamond
|| features@algarveresident.com
Samantha Diamond arrived in the Algarve in 2006 and has made it her home. Her passions are travel, cycling, languages and dogs.