Operator Profile: Discover Coastal Portugal with Algarve Bike Holidays
BikeToursDirect now offers four self-guided bike tours in Portugal with operator partner Algarve Bike Holidays. All four tours are available to depart daily, year-round, for parties of 2 or more.
Whit Altizer, a staffer in BTD’s Asia satellite office, recently spoke with Algarve Bike Holidays’ operator Paul Beesley to find out why Portugal should be your next destination. Following are highlights from their email interview, including the delicious Portuguese cuisine and why you should cycle Portugal while it is still a well-kept secret.
Why do you think Portugal is best seen by bike?
The road network is not always so developed here and sometimes the bike can take you to places that you wouldn’t get to by car or by foot. There is a tremendous variety of routes and places to see along the way and you are never far from a great sea view, a delicious café, or a point of interest you’ll want to stop and see. It’s a scenic location with plenty of variety and a bike tour is one of the best ways to have the most complete experience on a visit here.
Tell us a little bit about your location. Why are you located there?
Algarve Bike Holidays is based in the central Algarve region. The Algarve region is about 200 kms wide from the Atlantic Ocean at the west coast to the border with Spain designated by the Guadiana river. We are close to Boliqueime and Albufeira, right in the middle of the Algarve. By motorway we can be on the west coast or in Spain in around an hour, so at times it doesn’t feel like that big a place.
What did you do before Algarve Bike Holidays ? Did you ever dream of you would start your own bike tour company?
No, this is something that evolved as a business idea after I came to live in the Algarve. I realized what a great location this is for cycling, but it was relatively undeveloped as a cycling destination. This still remains the case to a certain extent, but while we’re trying to change this bit by bit, our clients can still feel a bit of the pioneering spirit as they explore on one of our holidays.
How did you choose the tours that you offer? What do you look for when creating your tours?
Tours have a tendency to evolve from a variety of sources, perhaps a newly created cycling route, a walking/hiking route or just from a bespoke holiday created for a particular client with a specific set of criteria for a cycling holiday.
We have to think about our criteria for creating an interesting holiday: high-quality accommodations, appropriate cycling distances for the type of bike to be used, safety of routes, scenery along the way — these are all factors that we have to take into account.
What tour would you choose to do over and over again?
There is one tour that we do regularly and this is the Algarve Coastal Route. Many of the guided tours that we offer utilize sections of this route on a regular basis. We have also completed our “Algarve Coastal challenge” twice in the last couple of years when we complete the entire route in two days. (That’s 230km in 2 days, quite a challenge!)
However, the route that I would prefer given a choice would be our “Best of the Algarve” as I believe the tour does what it says. It combines the best of the coastal cycle route with some interesting inland sections to truly offer the “Best of the Algarve.” We offer this as a 7-night/6-day tour and this provides what I would consider a great sample of the region for our clients!
Note: BikeToursDirect sells 3 versions of this “Best of the Algarve” program:
Describe some of the accommodations you choose for clients. What are the most interesting places to stay?
We try to provide interesting and high-quality accommodations on all of our routes. Usually a hotel is located within walking distance of a number of good restaurants and the town centre where there is plenty to explore. A few favorite hotels on our various tours are Hotel Vila Lido, ViLAFOÎA and Marés Residencial.
What is the food like in Portugal? What your favorite dishes that travelers should be sure not to miss?
Naturally being close to the sea, there is usually a tremendous variety of fish and seafood available throughout the Algarve. Sardines in season, clams, prawns, octopus, squid, sea bass, sea bream and tuna are amongst the wide variety of specialities available fresh everyday. Often simply cooked on a charcoal grill, these items are typically accompanied by a simple salad or seasonal vegetables.
Also available are a wide selection of locally hunted meats such as wild boar and lamb. The local restaurant scene is constantly developing and evolving and there is a growing number of quality gourmet establishments, which, combined with the traditional local places, provide visitors with a comprehensive choice of food to suit a wide range of tastes and budgets.
The Algarve is famous for its cakes — especially the dangerously addictive pastel de nata (custard tart) which is a favorite accompaniment for the morning café throughout the region. There are many cafes in the region that offer great snacks and toasted sandwiches for a quick lunch break out of the saddle.
The food is so good here — it’s a good thing that I do so much cycling, as this helps burn off some of the calories consumed along the way!
Who is an ideal client for your trips?
An ideal client should be inquisitive, open-minded, willing to explore and experiment with local cuisine and go with the flow if any surprises come up along the way!
How many people are on staff? Who guides your trips?
Algarve Bike Holidays is jointly owned by me and my colleague, Fred van der Meer.
Fred and I are both involved with guiding of clients on holidays and we also offer many different half-day tours. We also have a number of locally available freelance guides that we can call upon to help from time to time. One of our part-time guides is Samantha Diamond and she also helps out with some of marketing and sales activities