We love to hear the history of our local partners around the world. How they become tour operators and guides, how they first fell in love with cycling the world, and, most importantly, why we should cycle in their little corner of the globe. Here, we chat (via e-mail) with Teresa at Portugal Best Cycling.
When did you get into cycling? Were you a traveler first or a cyclist first?
I was definitely a traveler first! I started very young with my parents, walking and doing jeep expeditions. Later, I got addicted to mountaineering, canyoning, kayaking, and long trekking trips. I did a lot of 7-day treks in in New Zealand, and three long treks in Nepal. Then, I had a boyfriend that was addicted to mountain biking and I couldn’t get him walking….so I had to start cycling!!! 🙂 We are not together anymore, but I will forever thank him!
What do you love about bicycle touring?
The speed, fast enough and slow enough; the smells, which you would never experience from a car; the way local people react to you – people seem to feel very safe around cyclists. They invite you in, talk to you, are curious about you. And people are such a big part of traveling! And the huge sense of freedom that it gives me!
Do you personally guide all the guided tours at Turaventur?
Unfortunately not, but I do guide about 70% of them. Our office is at my family’s farm, which means that people who work here know my parents (who are the founders of Turaventur). They know my kids and are part of the family. They guide just as I would do it. Sometimes people even ask them if the company is theirs, so you can see how natural they are!
Which is your favorite tour you offer and why?
That’s a difficult one….in April and May, the Castles and Wine, because everything is so green and all the flowers are blooming, and every time I have to drive somewhere I just dream about being on the bike instead. In June, when it starts getting hot here, I start dreaming about going to the beach, and the Along the Coast tour is just perfect! We get to swim every day and there is also a nice cool breeze. The views of the high cliffs and the blue ocean are so soothing it’s like doing yoga!
Why should travelers add Portugal to their travel list? Why is it special?
The strongest reason is authenticity. Though we have all the comforts of modernity, people and places are still so authentic that traveling here is always a special experience. You have a super safe country, great weather, amazing food (even in the simpler cafés!), and ever-changing scenery in really short distances. I think that we are one of the smallest countries of Europe but have so much to offer – mountains, plains, forest, ocean, everything so close together you can mix it in one single bike tour.
What are some of the best things you can experience by bike in Portugal?
Stopping in a local café and engaging in conversation with a local old man; showing your curiosity about something he is eating and being offered a chair and a bite; lazing under a tree after lunch; bathing in the glorious Atlantic ocean at sunset; arriving to your hotel at end of the day and getting REAL personal service and a gentle smile. Portuguese people have this intrinsic need to go the extra mile to make your stay unforgettable. In two words, REAL hospitality. We are famous for that!
Tell us more about Turaventur/Portugal Best Cycling?
Turaventur started in 1990, founded by my parents and a friend. It specialized in team building activities and jeep tours. I worked as an extra every once in a while. From 1997 to 1999 I went traveling the world (Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Laos, Nepal, India) and finally decided it was time to come home and asked for a job. I got it. 🙂
Soon I introduced the cycling tours and shortly after they became the main income of the company, though we still do walking tours and team building.
When cycling started to be so important we decided to create the brand Portugal Best Cycling.
In the meantime, we also opened a small bed and breakfast on our farm, where we have four bedrooms. Here we do the Cycling in Paradise tour, which is very similar to the Castles and Wine but without the packing and unpacking each day.
Though we have always been growing slowly, our goal now is to stabilize and not to grow more. The type of service we want to provide is too personal to become too big.
We have now seven people full time, one part-time and my mum is our free-of-cost consultant whenever big decisions need to be made. 🙂
Teresa is the owner and operator of Portugal Best Cycling/Turaventur.