Once you get over the cost of adding your bike to airline luggage, it’s always worth packing a bike wherever your travels take you and summer holidays are no exception. It’s not always possible to drag the better half and kids to the Grand Massif in the Alps, and no amount of lidos are going to dissuade them that you’re only there to cycle. So compromise is the name of the game and a cycling holiday in the Algarve is just the ticket.
A cycling holiday in the Algarve gives you beautiful scenery, with really friendly locals, great food, but is it’s a place almost totally focussed on golf?
There are some very good cycling areas North of Lagos, such as Monchique (used in the Tour of Portugal) and tour companies such as Embrace Sports actually run training rides as part of their Triathlon camps all around the area.
If you end up in Vale do Lobo or Vilamoura (golf resorts) you can’t move for pink polo shirts and checked trousers, and you may get funny looks for hanging around in skin tight lycra.
On the bike and once you head North from the Algarve coast and having crossed the A22 (the motorway running all the way to Spain), the hills start to appear as you climb out of the big town called Loule, which incidentally has a cyclist statue (always encouraging). From there the place to head is Salir and all signs are accompanied by a mountain graphic. There’s nothing too scary as you head into the hills, with 300m being about the biggest climb. But beware, there are lots of them, especially if you head further North towards Ameixial. The only way to describe the landscape is to say it’s like sand dunes, with the occasional small whitewashed town on top and the same old lady sitting on a bench in each..
During the summer, as well as the relentless short sharp hills, it’s also blisteringly hot, getting up to 49 degrees at the end of July. Arguably this is too hot to cycle, but as long as you stay hydrated then why not. Pack some salt tabs, as no matter what colour kit you wear in the morning, it will always be white by the time you get back.
The Algarve – The last word
To sum up a cycling holiday in the Algarve in summer is a really great place to ride, with very little traffic once you’re away from the coast. It is a little on the hot side (factor 50 all the way), with some testing rolling hills and the occasional out of the saddle dig – you’ll appreciate your coffee stop after climbing into Querenca.