Cycling in the Algarve: what you need to know inc routes, GPX and hotels Back to top
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Cycling Algarve:
your ultimate guide


Why go cycling in the Algarve?

The Algarve is famous as a beach and sun holiday destination. But it also provides some of the best cycling holidays Portugal has to offer. 

For a relatively small region, cycling in the Algarve presents a great variety of flat and hilly landscapes. Closer to the sea the roads tend to be quite flat or rolling, with a maximum altitude of about 300m. Climbers just need to turn inland to find the hills. 

WorldTour teams use the region as a base for their training camps and the Volta ao Algarve is a UCI ProSeries event. If the Algarve is good enough for world champion Julian Alaphilippe to train in, it’s good enough for us!

The Algarve is also great if you’re looking for a family holiday, or one that doesn’t revolve entirely around the bike. There are plenty of historical cities with fortresses and castles like Alte or Tavira, as well as the more popular touristy areas like Portimão where the Formula 1 circuit is located. On top of that, you’ve got highlights such as vineyards, boat tours, and lots of hiking trails. 

Finally, but very importantly, the climate is moderate all year round - even in winter temperatures can reach up to 20°C. Just check out what the pros are wearing in February at the Volta ao Algarve if you don’t believe us!


Want to find out more about Algarve bike holidays?

The Algarve Tourism Board are keen that cyclists know more about the fantastic opportunities in their region. They asked us to interview Marco Fernandes to share what you need to know to plan a cycling trip in the Algarve.

Here Marco shares his tips on everything from bike hire in the Algarve to cycling friendly hotels and the best cycling routes in the Algarve.

Enjoy!

Banner photo: Lagos, credit Algarve Tourism Bureau

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1. Tell us about the Algarve's Cycling routes

1.1 Geography of the Algarve

The Algarve is the southernmost region in Portugal, in southern Europe. It sits alongside the border with Spain to the east, and has the Atlantic Ocean to the south and west. Altogether, the Algarve boasts around 200 kilometres of coastline! 

The Algarve is well-known for its luscious beaches and warm climate, but the region is also home to some of the best bike tours in Portugal.

You’ll find a diverse mix of landscapes, with the largely flat or rolling coastal areas compared to the hilly central area (known as the Barrocal) and the mountains in the north of the Algarve. The mountains aren’t quite like riding in the Alps, but it’s not a walk in the park either!

Odeceixe to Aljezur, credit: Federação Portuguesa de Ciclismo

Credit: Algarve Tourism Bureau

Foia climb, credit: Federação Portuguesa de Ciclismo

1.2 What are the roads like in the Algarve?

The roads in the region are typically well maintained and consist largely of smooth tarmac. The coastal regions are home to the busier roads, but that is to be expected as it is where the more densely populated areas are. 

Once you ride north of the N125 and A22 highways, the roads are often largely car free.

The Algarve isn’t just expanding the road cycling infrastructure, Loulé and Albufeira are both developing mountain bike centres which will have trail and gravel routes. If this is something that interests you then Lagos already has one open to the public (information on it here).


1.3 Key cycling history and events

The popularity of the Algarve as a cycling destination is growing considerably within the realm of professional cycling. Teams are slowly beginning to recognise the appeal of cycling in Algarve, with Human Powered Health and Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl both using the region to host training camps this year. 

The Algarve is also well known to many astute cycling fans as the home of the Volta ao Algarve. The Tour of Algarve cycling stage race takes place early in the season, with many WorldTour teams and top riders taking part each year as they warm up for the Spring Classics. 

The Algarve cycling tour 2022 professional race took place between 16-20 February, with a mix of WorldTour and ProTeams. In 2022 the race was won by Remco Evenepoel, but in 2021, local cyclist João Rodrigues won the race - the first time a local rider has done so. Other top riders from the region include Ricardo Mestre and Amaro Antunes who have both won the Volta a Portugal aka the Tour of Portugal in their own right.

In addition to the Volta ao Algarve, there are other amateur cycling events that stand out in the region, from road sportives to events such as the Algarve Bike Challenge - a multi-stage mountain bike event. 

Check out our article on cycling events in the Algarve for more information.

Monchique, credit: Federação Portuguesa de Ciclismo

Tavira, credit: Algarve Tourism Bureau

Bordeira, Carrapateira, credit: Federação Portuguesa de Ciclismo

1.4 What are the best regions of the Algarve for cyclists

Although the vast majority of the Algarve is suitable for road cycling, there are particular areas that I highly recommend basing yourself in on a cycling holiday or trip:

  • Salgados in the central Algarve
  • Tavira in the eastern Algarve
  • Lagos in the western Algarve. 

There’s more on each of these places just below and you'll find accommodation suggestions for each in section 2 below.

It may be an idea to do a multi-stop trip and stay in a few of these places rather than just the one. Although the Algarve is small enough that a reasonably fit rider could cover most of the region in one long ride, a multi stop holiday will allow you to more easily experience the diversity the area has to offer.


1.4.1 Salgados

In the central Algarve, Salgados is a great place for cyclists to stay. This coastal town is close to the hotspot of Albufeira, meaning there is plenty going on nearby, including a variety of hotel and accommodation choices. It is the most touristy place on this list, particularly as it is by the beach, but its location also lends itself to avoiding the busy roads. 

Salgados is ideal as a base for those who want to mix up their Algarve cycling trip with the flat coastal areas and hilly inland areas. Salgados offers plenty of variety of riding and lots of nice roads nearby. 

As a reference point, the area of Monchique (home of the famous climb - more info below) is roughly 50 kilometres away.


1.4.2 Tavira

In the eastern Algarve, there is Tavira. It is a historical city, influenced by the many cultures that have lived here through the centuries, including Venetians and Romans. 

From here, Tavira cycling offers you the option of riding towards Spain - it is easy to forget the Algarve is so close to Spain! 

If you ride along the coast it is mainly flat, but offers wonderful sea views and beaches. If you head north then you will find the Serra de Tavira which is vastly more hilly and home to plenty of car free roads. It’s a great place to mix up your cycling.


1.4.3 Lagos

Finally, there is Lagos. This city is on the western side of the Algarve and is one of the most historical cities in the region. You will not find as many crowds here as in the south of the region, and it avoids much of the traffic. 

Riding west you will see the Atlantic Ocean, but beware the coastal breeze! Heading further inland will take you towards Monchique, which is only 20-30 kilometres away. 


Read on for cycling friendly accommodation in these places.

Serra Tavira, credit: Federação Portuguesa de Ciclismo

Foia climb, credit: Federação Portuguesa de Ciclismo

Castro Marim, credit: Federação Portuguesa de Ciclismo

1.5 What are the most famous cycling climbs in the Algarve?

There are a few key climbs that take pride of place in the Algarve. 


1.5.1 Serra de Monchique Foia

The first is the Serra de Monchique Foia climb which happens to be the highest point of the region at 900m. It is situated in the western area of the Algarve, around 25-kilometre from Portimão.


1.5.2 Malhão

In the central region, there is Malhão, a 3-kilometre climb with an average gradient of 12%, although some sections reach 20%! It is by no means an easy climb, and is usually featured in the Tour of the Algarve (Volta ao Algarve) professional race on the final stage. Much like the Ardennes in Belgium, the surrounding area is filled with short but steep climbs. 


1.5.3 Alcaria do Cume

Finally, there is the Alcaria do Cume climb near Tavira, which is 10.6-kilometres in length and 3% in gradient. It isn’t so much about the steepness of this road as it is the length of it, and the views that the climb offers. 

Most of the climbs in the Algarve average a maximum of around 500m altitude. So it’s not the Alps, but there’s definitely scope for being challenged!

Cyclists at Alcoutim, credit: Algarve Tourism Bureau

Carvoeiro, credit: Federação Portuguesa de Ciclismo

Alvor, Algarve, credit: Algarve Tourism Bureau

1.6 What are the must-do cycling routes in the Algarve?

For those looking for half or one day rides, these are some of my favourites:


1.6.1 Western Algarve

Serra de Monchique loop, western Algarve
Distance: 

51 kilometres

Elevation gain: 

975 metres

What to expect: 

This route tackles the biggest climb that the Algarve has - the Foi climb in the Serra de Monchique. Beginning in the western side of the Algarve, Monchique is fondly known as ‘The Garden’ of the region. This Monchique cycling route is short and sweet but takes in some spectacular views around Fóia and the Vicentine Coast.

Why it’s special: 

Ride the famous climb of the cycling Tour of Algarve professional race but at your own pace.

GPX file:

More information on Visit Algarve’s website.


Lagos, western Algarve
Distance:

163 kilometres

Elevation Gain: 

3,330 metres

What to expect:

Exquisite views and plenty of climbing as you take in some of the western areas of the Algarve. The route begins with some gentle undulations towards Arão Stream and the Algarve International Motor Racing Circuit. Further north you begin to head inland towards the mountains, taking in an 11 kilometre climb to Picota, which sits at 774 metres. There’s plenty more to take in on the back end of the route through quaint villages, before returning to the beaches and familiar coast of Lagos.

Why it’s special: 

Enough climbing for most fit riders to present a challenge, this route offers a chance to ride some different peaks on your Algarve bike holiday.

GPX route:

More information on Visit Algarve’s website.


1.6.2 Central Algarve

Malhao climb, Albufeira, central Algarve
Distance: 

122 kilometres 

Elevation Gain: 

2,440 metres

What to expect: 

One of the more challenging Algarve cycling routes, this begins and ends in Albufeira, climbing to the second-highest peak in the Monchique mountain area; Malhão. This particular climb is 3 kilometres in length and averages 12%, so it’s not a leisurely Algarve cycling tour route! Short and steep inclines (up to 20%) are also common throughout this ride, but the views are more than worth the effort! Make sure you take your phone for some snapshots. 

Why it’s special: 

A climber’s special, plenty of ascent, combined with spectacular views from the peaks. 

GPX file:

More information on Visit Algarve’s website.

If this area has tickled your fancy for some Algarve tour cycling, here is another, longer route to whet your appetite.


N2 road, Quarteira, central Algarve
Distance: 

125 kilometres

Elevation Gain: 

1,945 metres

What to expect: 

One of the more physically demanding Portugal bicycle tours, this 125 kilometre loop showcases some of the region’s natural beauty and stunning coastal views. Beginning in Quarteira, head north taking in some reasonable climbs to Serra do Caldeirão. Once you have reached the 584 metre peak in eastern Algarve, the ride back is flatter and allows you to absorb the green luscious landscapes as you head back towards the coast. 

Why it’s special: 

Challenging climbs but beautiful luscious landscapes make it worth the effort!

This route uses part of the N2 road which crosses the entire country from Faro to the north. It is 750 kilometres in length and very popular with cyclists. If you want to ride this entire road, this article is a good reference.

GPX route:

More information on Visit Algarve’s website.


EN124, Albufeira, central Algarve
Distance: 

101 kilometres

Elevation Gain: 

1,360 metres

What to expect: 

There’s a reason this area is one of the most popular in the Algarve for holidays. Cycling in Albufeira offers a diverse landscape, and this route showcases the best of it. The ride begins relatively flat, allowing you to take in the orange trees and other scenery dotted along the roads. As you turn at São Bartolomeu de Messines the route begins to undulate, taking in climbs to Tôr and Cruz da Assomada. Any bike tour in Albufeira shouldn’t miss the views from here that look out over the Atlantic Ocean.

Why it’s special: 

History combined with beautiful roads. Head to the Silves castle, and be astonished by the Atlantic Ocean vistas. 

GPX route:

More information on Visit Algarve’s website.


1.6.3 Eastern Algarve

Tavira, eastern Algarve
Distance: 

163 kilometres

Elevation Gain:

2,825 metres 

What to expect: 

Take advantage of the Serra de Tavira’s hilly terrain with this century ride exploring some of the best road cycling the Algarve’s eastern areas can provide. Firstly, head to Santa Catarina da Fonte do Bispo, then onwards to take in the Alcaria do Cume climb, among others. 

Why it’s special: 

Car-free roads and panoramic views make this route one of the must-do rides when cycling Portugal’s Algarve. 

GPX route:

More information on Visit Algarve’s website.


Alcoutim, eastern Algarve
Distance: 

66 kilometres

Elevation Gain: 

740 metres

What to expect: 

Situated near the Algarve border with Spain, this shorter 66 kilometre route is a great way to explore the lesser ridden spots of the region at a leisurely place. It is even common to see wildlife such as boars and hares along some of these roads! Follow the Guadiana river to Alcoutim, then along to Vila Real de Sano António. 

Why it’s special: 

A perfect chance to discover the hidden gems while cycling the Algarve. 

GPX route:

More information on Visit Algarve’s website.

1.6.4 Other routes in the Algarve

For fans of long-distance cycling routes, Portugal and the Algarve are home to the Eurovelo 1 route which follows the coastline east to west before heading north beyond the Algarve. Most of the route is in decent condition but there are some small areas where improvement is required. You can find out more about EuroVelo 1 here.

If you want a great resource for cycling Algarve routes officially recognised by the tourist board, then this website contains a lot of information and route suggestions.

2. What are the best hotels for cyclists in the Algarve?

There are plenty of great places to base yourself on your Algarve cycling holidays.

In the west, there is Lagos, in the east, Tavira, and in the centre, Salgados. We briefly discussed what makes these great bases for cycling holidays in Algarve at section 1.4 above, but here we’ll look at some recommended cyclist accommodation nearby to some of the routes suggested above. 

Portugal offers a Bikeotel scheme whereby hotels can designate themselves as bike friendly. There’s more details here.

All of the hotels suggested below are members of the Bikeotel scheme.


2.1 Água Hotels

Situated neatly between Lagos and Albufeira, the Água Hotels offer luxury rooms in a coastal location. These locations are recommended for riders who want to ride to Monchique and the mountain regions inland. The Riverside is situated closer to Portimão, while the Jardim is to the west. They also have a hotel in Lagos. Each hotel offers bicycle hire if you haven’t brought your own.

 https://www.aguahotels.pt/


2.2 Monchique Resort

Monchique Resort is ideal for cycling holidays in the Algarve, as the resort caters very well to two-wheeled guests. They have secure bike parking, a workshop with tools, a bicycle wash station, and they even have suggested routes for you to ride. They also offer Specialized bike rental, and cater for touring, road and mountain bike riders.

https://www.monchiqueresort.com/


2.3 Vila Galé

The Vila Galé is a chain of hotels with locations all over the Algarve. This includes Tavira, Albufeira, Vilamoura, and Lagos among others. They are certified as bike friendly and the locations are ideal for bike tours in Algarve as they are across the entire region, meaning everywhere is accessible for bike rides!

https://www.vilagale.com/en


2.4 Golden Club Cabanas

Located in Tavira, the Golden Club Cabanas resort contains holiday apartments for those who prefer a little more independence on their cycling holiday in Portugal. There is bike rental available directly from the resort.

https://goldenclubcabanas.com/en/


2.5 AP Hotels & Resorts

Dotted across the Algarve, AP Hotels and Resorts has locations in Tavira, Faro, Albufeira, and Portimão. These resorts and hotels are ideal for Faro cycling, as well as cycling the Algarve coast thanks to the locations. It is known that the Albufeira, Tavira and Faro locations all have places to store bikes, but if you want to stay in Portimão it is best to check before booking. 

https://ap-hotelsresorts.com/

Alcoutim, credit: Algarve Tourism Bureau

Albufeira, credit: Algarve Tourism Bureau

Silves Castle, credit: Federação Portuguesa de Ciclismo

3. Are there many bike shops and bike hire options in the Algarve?

Bike rental in Algarve is quite popular, so there are plenty of places to choose from depending on what type of bike you want and what area of the region you are looking to ride from. Check out this list on the Algarve Tourist Board's website.


3.1 Abílio Bikes

https://www.abiliobikes.com/en/ 

R. João Vaz Corte Real Nº23A

8800-351 Tavira

Tel. (+351) 281 323 467

One of many bike shops the Algarve has, Abílio Bikes also hires out bikes and is an official KTM dealer. It is located in Tavira, and prices start from €10 per day, depending on the type of bike you want to hire. They have a selection of mountain, city, road and electric bikes to choose from.


3.2 Bikesul

https://www.bikesul.pt 

Poço das Canas, EN 125 - Km 68

8200 - 564 Guia 

Albufeira

Tel. (+351) 289 561 310

Bikesul is another bike shop in Algarve that also rents bikes. It offers a wide selection of road, mountain, gravel, leisure and even kids’ bikes from the well known brand KTM and Polish brand Kross bikes. Road bike hire starts from €25 per day.


3.3 Megasport

https://megasportravel.com/en/rent-a-bike

Zona Empresarial e Industrial  de Loulé, Área C Nascente Lote 6 E

8100-272 Loulé

Tel. (+351) 289 393 044

Megasport offer bike rental in addition to their walking and cycling holidays (but you don't need to be on one of their holidays to rent a bike). They deliver in many parts of Portugal. If you want to hire in person, please make an appointment first. E-bikes, touring bikes, road bikes, tandems and kids bikes are all available.


3.4 Algarve Bike Holidays

https://www.algarvebikeholidays.com/bike-rental/

Avenida da Liberdade 144
8200-002 Albufeira

Tel. (+351) 913 226 954

Algarve Bike Holidays rent mountain bikes, touring bikes, road bikes and e-bikes. Helmets and GPS bike computers are also available for hire. 

Quiet roads in the Algarve, credit: Algarve Tourism Bureau

Barragem Beliche, credit: Federação Portuguesa de Ciclismo

Pico da Mu, Serra de Loule, credit: Federação Portuguesa de Ciclismo

4. When to visit the Algarve?

The weather in the Algarve is suitable for cycling all year round, but there are some times that may be better than others for your holidays.


4.1 Weather

The Algarve is a moderate climate, with winter temperatures rarely dropping below 10°C (and often as high as 15 or even 20°C with very little rain)! 

Between September to November, and March to June, the temperatures are warm but not so much that it’s too hot to ride. 

Even though the Algarve is a relatively small area, there are still some regional variations due to the landscape. The western side of the Algarve has the influence of the Atlantic Ocean and is thus often windier than the east. The east has the advantage of being closer to Spain so it is less breezy. However the temperature really does not vary massively between the regions. 


4.2 Other factors

The Algarve is well known for its idyllic beaches and luxurious getaways, which means the coastal region in particular usually receives a lot of tourists in the summer months. Unless you’re not afraid of paying higher prices in hotels and busier roads, I usually recommend my friends avoid peak season when booking their cycling holiday in the Algarve. 

For these reasons, I think the best times to visit the Algarve are between September and June. You get to see the Algarve’s beauty without the hustle and bustle that tourists bring, and without sacrificing on warm temperatures. 

Other times that may be popular for tourists and locals include the Carnival of Loulé, which takes place in late February or early March. Unfortunately, it has been cancelled for 2022 due to Covid, but it is a great event to spectate.

Costa Vicentina, credit: Federação Portuguesa de Ciclismo

Loule, credit: Algarve Tourism Bureau

Querenca, credit: Federação Portuguesa de Ciclismo

5. Any tips for riding in the Algarve?

Cycling tours in the Algarve are a great way to see what this region of Portugal can offer, whether it’s on an organised trip or a holiday with a few short road cycling routes.


5.1 Kit to bring

The kit you will need for comfortable Algarve bike rides varies depending on the time of year you’re planning to go. But as a minimum, I recommend sun cream, (yes, even in winter!) water bottles, and comfortable cycling kit. 

If you’re riding in the winter, then consider longer sleeves for when the temperatures are fresher in the morning and nights, but during the summer you probably won’t be needing them!

It is easy to find places to stop for food and drink when you ride, but if you have specific dietary needs then you might want to take your own gels and bars. Every small village has its own café or shop.


5.2 Do I need a car?

In short, you don’t need a car unless you want to base yourself in one place and discover the entire region. Even then, it is possible to cover most of the Algarve in one long ride (although some of the hills might be quite tiring!). If you want to ride everywhere then it might be a good idea to hire a car, especially if you only want to base yourself in one spot for your trip.


5.3 Cuisine

Naturally, due to the Algarve’s proximity to the sea, there is plenty of fresh seafood to try. In Tavira, for example, there is a restaurant that specialises entirely in different ways to eat octopus! Piri piri chicken is also popular in the Algarve, as are many dishes of meat.


5.4 What is there to do off the bike?

As a big holiday destination, the Algarve has tons of activities on offer, both on the coast and inland. The Tourist Board’s website has tons of information on offer, depending what you’re looking for.


5.5 How to get to the Algarve?

If you are flying, then Faro airport is the easiest way to get to the Algarve. It has international flights and is in a pretty central-eastern location in the region. If you can’t fly to Faro then the next best bet is Lisbon, or Seville. 

There is an airport in Portimão but it is very small and the commercial flights are typically from within Portugal.

Flying or driving is probably the easiest way to get to the Algarve. Although there is a big train station in Faro, the international links are lacking and travel from central Europe are not that easy.

Monchique, credit: Algarve Tourism Bureau

Cacela Velha, credit: Helios Ramos

Bordeira, Carrapateira, credit: Federação Portuguesa de Ciclismo

A big thank you to Marco for sharing such useful information with us. We hope it helps you plan an amazing cycling trip in the Algarve!


Marco from BikeSul, Portugal

More About Marco

Marco Fernandes has been involved in cycling for most of his life, starting as a professional racer in his youth. After he finishes his degree, he worked with the Portuguese Cycling Federation and other companies that organise events and cycling tours in Portugal. He remains one of the authorities on cycling in Algarve Portugal.

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