Luís Simões, travel sketcher around the world
Despite its name, the Via Algarviana doesn’t actually follow the Algarve coastline. Instead, it winds its way for 300 kilometers through the interior of the region. Passing through rural landscapes, forests, and mountains, and offering a very different perspective on the Algarve than the typical beach resorts and coastal towns.
With its rugged mountain ranges, picturesque villages, and serene beaches, the Algarve is a veritable paradise for cycling enthusiasts seeking adventure and inspiration. The Via Algarviana tour, in particular, offers an unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in the region’s natural beauty, history, and culture, while pushing your physical and mental limits to new heights.
This is not a journey for the faint of heart, however. The route demands strength, endurance, and a fierce determination to overcome steep ascents, rough terrain, and harsh weather conditions. But those who rise to the challenge will be rewarded with unforgettable experiences and memories that will last a lifetime.
From the lush forests and rolling hills to the sparkling coastlines and charming towns, the Via Algarviana offers a feast for the senses at every turn. You’ll have the chance to explore hidden corners of the region, discover new flavors and aromas in the local cuisine, and connect with the friendly and welcoming people who call the Algarve home.
How to get there
The Via Algarviana tour isn’t a loop tour, yet it can be done perfectly in a reverse way. However, given its location in the south of Portugal, you will need to prepare yourself for a long trip (depending on your starting point, of course).
The starting point of the Via Algarviana is located in Alcoutim, a small town on the banks of the Guadiana River, which forms the border between Portugal and Spain.
To get to Alcoutim, there are several options:
- By Car: If you’re driving, you can take the A22 motorway from Faro or the N122 from Lagos to Alcoutim. The journey takes about an hour and a half from Faro or two hours from Lagos.
- By Bus: There are regular buses from Faro to Alcoutim, operated by the Eva Bus company. The journey takes about two hours, with several stops along the way. You can check the schedules and buy tickets on their website.
- By Train: You can also take a train until Vila Real de Santo Antonio, and ride up to Alcoutim.
If you want to travel in the reverse direction and start your journey at the end point of the Via Algarviana, which is located in Cape St. Vincent, you can follow these directions:
- By Car: If you’re driving, you can take the N268 road from Lagos to Sagres, and then follow the signs to Cape St. Vincent. The journey takes about an hour and a half from Lagos.
- By Bus: There are buses from Lagos to Sagres, operated by the Eva Bus company. From Sagres, you ride to Cape St. Vincent, which is about 6 km away. Alternatively, you can take a bus from Lagos to Cape St. Vincent, which runs once a day. You can check the schedules and buy tickets on the Eva Bus website.
- By Train: You can also take a train to Lagos and get a bus to Cape St. Vincent, but it’s more unpractical, logistic wise.
Once you reach your desire starting point, you can follow the signs or use a GPS device to start your journey along the Via Algarviana. The route is well-marked, and there are several accommodation options and food outlets along the way.
The Via Algarviana tour is a 312-kilometer bicycle tour through Portugal’s Algarve region. It spans rugged mountain ranges, tranquil forests, charming villages, and bustling towns, and ends at the historical point of Cape St. Vincent. The 14 stages of the route vary in difficulty and offer opportunities to explore the region’s natural beauty and rich cultural heritage.
As we had previously covered both the starting and finishing points of this remarkable tour in the prior year, coupled with other factors, we opted for a trimmed route this time. We started from Vaqueiros and cycled all the way to Marmelete. Even though we didn’t do the full tour, we still got to experience the magic of the Via Algarviana. However, the GPX file of the full tour is available for download in the detailed sections below.
Situated approximately halfway between the starting point of Alcoutim and the end point of Salir, making Vaqueiros a convenient location for a rest stop during the Via Algarviana tour. This makes it an ideal place to break up a longer ride and take a breather before continuing to the next destination. It is a charming and authentic Algarvian village, with traditional architecture and a laid-back atmosphere. It provides a great opportunity to experience local culture and hospitality, as there are several guesthouses and B&Bs run by locals.
Start your journey in the calm village of Vaqueiros. The ride will take you through some of the most beautiful countrysides in the Algarve, as you pass through rolling hills, small villages, and fragrant orchards. Make a stop at the top of Eira de Agosto to rest while enjoying the breathtaking view before continuing to the historic town of Salir, where you’ll spend the night.
Once you reach the historical center of Salir, you will welcome by narrow streets and white-washed houses adorned with colorful flowers, creating a peaceful and idyllic atmosphere. The village has several accommodation options, including small hotels and guesthouses, making it easy to find a comfortable place to rest for the night. It also has a few services, such as restaurants and supermarkets, which can be useful for restocking supplies or grabbing a meal.
The next stretch of the Via Algarviana tour will be from Salir to Silves. It. will take you through beautiful countryside and historic towns, with plenty of opportunities to explore along the way. Begin the day with a climb up to the charming village of Benafim, known for its historic church and stunning views of the surrounding hills. From there, continue to the village of Alte, where you can explore its narrow streets and enjoy the local cuisine.
Next, follow the route through the rolling hills of the São Bartolomeu de Messines that known for its historic buildings and beautiful gardens, before continuing to Silves through the challenging hills of Funcho dam.
Silves is a historic town with its most notable landmark, the impressive red sandstone castle, which dominates the skyline and provides visitors with stunning views of the town and surrounding countryside. The town also features a charming medieval center, with narrow streets and white-washed houses adorned with colorful tiles and flowers.
From Silves, proceed the journey through the Algarve’s stunning Monchique mountain range, with steep ascents and challenging descents that will test your cycling skills and stamina. Although the real Via Algarviana route will bring you through Fonte Santana, we decided to skip it as it is a dead end, which is not suitable for the bike tour. Yet, it won’t reduce the challenge as you still need to conquer Picota Peak before you reach Monchique where you will stay overnight.
Monchique is a charming town, known for its stunning natural beauty, quaint streets, and historic buildings. Its position at the highest point of the Algarve offers visitors breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, including the beautiful Serra de Monchique mountain range.
As you are here, it also means that you almost reach the end of the Via Algarviana tour. The following stretch will bring you to Marmelete through Foia Peak is an exhilarating experience that takes riders through some of the most stunning scenery in the Algarve region of Portugal. The route begins in the picturesque town of Monchique, nestled in the Serra de Monchique mountain range, and heads towards the summit of Foia, the highest peak in the Algarve at 902 meters above sea level.
As you climb towards the summit, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside, including rolling hills, lush forests, and panoramic vistas of the coastline. The route is challenging, with steep inclines and sharp turns, but it is well worth the effort for the incredible scenery and sense of accomplishment when reaching the summit.
After taking in the stunning views from Foia, you will descend toward the charming town of Marmelete.
Marmelete is known for its rustic charm and friendly locals. For bike tourers, Marmelete is a great place to refuel and rest before continuing on their journey. With its stunning countryside setting and welcoming locals, Marmelete offers a peaceful and relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of the nearby coastal towns. It adds up because the parish council of Marmelete prepared a shelter for pedestrians and bike tourers whose doing the Via Algarviana path with a small amount of money.
The final leg of the Via Algarviana route from Marmelete to Cape São Vicente is a challenging and rewarding journey for cyclists. The trail winds through the stunning landscape of the Algarve, with rugged hillsides, rolling farmland, and panoramic views of the coast.
As you approach Cape São Vicente, you will be compensated with breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and the chance to explore the historic lighthouse and fortress that stand tall on the headland. The finish line of the Via Algarviana marks the end of an unforgettable journey through one of Portugal’s most beautiful and unspoiled regions.
Overall, cycling through the Via Algarviana is a truly unforgettable experience that combines challenging terrain with breathtaking natural beauty and cultural richness. From the tranquil countryside of Salir to the historic city of Silves, the rugged hillsides of Foia peak to the stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean from Cape São Vicente, the Via Algarviana offers something for every cyclist, regardless of skill level.
Along the way, you can immerse yourselves in the rich history, culture, and gastronomy of the Algarve, and interact with friendly locals who are proud of their heritage and eager to share it with visitors.
So, if you are looking for a unique challenge, yet rewarding cycling experience, pack your bags and head to Portugal’s Algarve region to explore the Via Algarviana tour. You won’t be disappointed!
Don’t forget to explore some other awesome tours in the region while you’re at it such as The EuroVelo 1 – Algarve, The EuroVelo 1 – Costa Vicentina, and The Great Guadiana tour! You never know what hidden gems you might stumble upon.
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Scenic countryside: The Via Algarviana winds its way through the stunning interior of the Algarve, offering beautiful views of rolling hills, rural landscapes, and traditional villages.
Cultural heritage: Along the route, you’ll pass through historic towns and villages with rich cultural heritage, including, Alcoutim, Salir, and Silves.
Natural beauty: The route takes you through diverse landscapes, including the Serra do Caldeirão mountain range and Serra de Monchique, offering plenty of opportunities to experience the natural beauty of the region.
Authentic experiences: The Via Algarviana is a less-touristy route than the typical coastal areas of the Algarve, offering the chance to experience authentic Algarvian life, including traditional cuisine and hospitality.
Challenging terrain: The route includes some challenging climbs and descents, making it a great option for experienced cyclists looking for a more challenging ride.