When I first planned my trip to the Algarve I pictured myself exploring breathtaking cliffs and stunning beaches – seeing the region from its highest mountain, while on a bicycle, was not very high on my bucket list. But I’m never one to turn down a new adventure, so when the lovely guys over at Outdoor Tours reached out to me to join them on a 35km downhill bike ride through the Algarve, I said yes!
Logan and I participated in the Downhill Nature Cycling Trip, which is a pretty easy going ride, suitable for riders of all skill levels. Those looking for more of an intense biking challenge can try the Downhill Off-Road Trip or the Foia Uphill Challenge which are designed for skilled riders.
The Downhill Nature Cycling Trip runs every Tuesday and Thursday and meets in the morning at the Outdoor Tours bike shop in the town of Monchique, just 20 minutes outside of Lagos. If you don’t have a rental car a shuttle can be arranged to pick you up in Lagos. At the bike shop, the group is fitted for helmets before hopping into the van to take the thirty-minute drive up the mountain. The mountain, named Foia, is the tallest in the Algarve, standing at an impressive 902 meters above sea level.
Once we arrived at the top of the mountain there was time to grab a quick coffee and enjoy the breathtaking 360-degree views before beginning the downhill journey.
The downhill bike ride takes a different road than the one taken in the van to get to the top of the mountain. This is more of a side road that has very little car traffic – for the majority of our ride, our group of cyclists were the only ones on the road. There is also another guide following behind the group in the van, in the event someone is too tired to carry on, or just needs a minute to relax. They also keep a stash of cold water in the van to replenish everyone at each stop. This was something I was truly impressed with. The guides were very responsible in ensuring everyone was properly hydrated – after all the temperatures in the Algarve during the summer are usually in the high thirties, so it can be very easy to get dehydrated, especially while riding a bike.
During our bike ride, we rode down a mix of steep and flatter hills that all provided sweeping views of the beautiful Portuguese countryside. Everyone once in a while our multilingual tour guide, Thomas, would stop to give everyone a chance to catch their breaths and give us a quick lesson in Portuguese history and the local culture.
When they say this biking tour is for everyone, they really do mean it. I know how to ride a bike, but wasn’t feeling 100% confident in myself biking down such a massive mountain. However, the entire road is very well paved and maintained, aside from a few gravel patches here and there, and the guides allowed us to go entirely at our own pace. I hung out at the back of the group and was able to go as slow as I wanted without losing the group.
Around 12 pm our group stopped for lunch in a quiet village, where traditional, fresh Portuguese food was waiting for us. Lunch is included in the price of the tour, so there’s no need to bring along any extra cash! After we were rested up and full of energy we headed out again. The entire bike ride is absolutely stunning – at every turn, you’re met with a view that’s nothing short of spectacular. Along the way Thomas pointed out several picturesque areas, giving us some more insight into the region. We were even able to see where some of the forests had been destroyed due to the wildfires that are common during Portuguese summers, as well as where the famous wine cork producing oak trees are planted.
Overall, the bike ride is fairly easy. Aside from a few flat areas, the journey is downhill, so you spend a lot of time breaking as opposed to pedaling. There are a few steeper hills that can be a little daunting, but they’re not impossible to conquer, I just took a little extra time going down these, but if you’re a daredevil you can easily pick up a lot of speed on these hills.
After arriving back at the bike shop the guides help to get your helmets and bikes put away before rewarding your efforts with a nice, cold beer.
All in all, this trip really exceeded my expectations. I think it was an incredibly unique way to experience the Algarve that most people probably wouldn’t typically consider. However, if you’re looking for a little something different on your next trip, and want to experience some of the best views of the Portuguese countryside, this biking trip is for you!
Book your own Downhill Cycling Trip HERE.
Cost: 53€ (including lunch)
Airplanes & Avocados was welcomed as a guest of Outdoor Tours. All opinions are my own.