Creating the Portugal Bike Tourby Bike tour guru
As many of you know, DuVine has been offering bike tours in Europe since the company began 16 years ago. Each year we add new trips based on guest suggestions as well as where we would like to go (we ask DuVine guides where they would go on their own vacation and that is usually a good start to a new location). One of the areas that guests and guides began to ask about recently was Portugal. So late last year and early this year, we loaded up the van with bikes, maps and ideas and set off to explore and create a bicycle tour in Portugal; determine routes, find available activities and get the dates in place for this year and next. Although many contributed to the tour guides Alex and Camille did a lot of the road tripping and here is a glimpse of what they found and what we have planned for you in Portugal.
Our trip in Portugal will take off from Lisbon, but we will take a beautiful drive to the Alentejo once meeting up to begin. As we travel, our guests will quickly see the contrast between the urban and rural environments. The Alentejo, literally translates to 'beyond the Tagus', and is separated from the rest of Portugal by the Tagus River, creating a less interrupted landscape.
Considered the 'bread basket' of Portugal, the open countryside and fertile soil provide the region with rich crops. The cork oak forests supply the region with its most important export and the cork from these trees has been sold for over 300 years. The cork of one mature cork tree can produce about 4,000 corks for wine bottles, something we will become very familiar with on this trip.
The landscapes of the Alentejo region are peppered with vineyards, cork trees, fields, hilltop perched villages, and laundry hanging out to dry. It is Europe undisturbed. The peaceful landscape and quaint environment make it easy to imagine biking through the countryside. The paths are less traveled and the area is not invaded with hordes of people, so places to stop and have an unforgettable picnic are anywhere and everywhere. Imagine stopping for a picnic at the base of an old windmill, in the shade of a cork oak, or in a winery while tasting the best wines the region has to offer. Few places can match the old-world charm of the Alentejo area.
Because we are on the road less traveled, the region is still relatively new to tourism. This fact made our communication with possible vendors a little more time consuming. Explaining who we are and what we do was something that the locals were much less familiar with than in other regions that we tour. While that had some effects on the itinerary, I believe it will have a positive effect on the trip as a whole. The area just felt right for biking through and experiencing.
On our bike tours in Europe, finding the right mix of man made and natural creations is the goal. The luxury hotels we have chosen in the region fit our image of the perfect blend, as they all are committed to pleasing clients with exceptional service and quality. One such hotel, the Horta da Moura, is in the process of becoming able to serve only the produce that they grow on site. Later in the week we will stay in the Convento de Espinheiro and take a private historic tour led by the director. Once dinner is done, there will be plenty of time to enjoy the hotel's grand spa that the hotel has redesigned. Combine the luxury of the hotels with the rustic feel of the environment and we imagine that this will provide our guests with an amazing and relaxing experience both on and off the bike.
The roads are little trafficked and sometimes bumpy, cobblestones are common in all of the towns, but the rolling hills offer amazing views for miles on end. Even though the region is the hottest in the country, it is nothing compared to Spain, the eastern neighbor, and the climate should be relatively mild. The Atlantic provides a cool breeze most of the time and doesn't let the temperatures reach unbearable heights.
Open roads and mild hills make the rides from town to town relaxing and fulfilling. Stops along the way offer incredible views of the Alentejo as well. Riding from Estremoz to Monsaraz, we will stop in Alandroal at a medieval castle built by the Knights of the order in Aviz and look out from the ramparts. The region also produces quality pottery, and on the way to Evora from Monsaraz we will stop and check out the pottery shops in Sao Pedro do Corval.
As each day passes, we have plenty of opportunities to taste the wine of the area. Though the Alentejo is relatively new to the industry, the quality is evident. For example, the Dona Maria has been host to a congress of world defense leaders and receives an impressive list of guests. The wine will satisfy your taste buds and expose them to a different world of tastes.
The miles and miles of scenic rides through uninhabited fields make this trip amazing. The stays in historic luxury hotels and opportunity to test the best new wines of the region make it that much better. We are incredibly excited about these bike tours in Portugal and are intent on making them exceptional experiences for our guests.