Our BikeTours.com travel ambassador Jackie Nourse has traveled around the world and back again, but never by bike. (Until now!)
She just returned from the Castles and Wines of Portugal tour. Check out her tour recap below. (Spoiler alert: She loved it!)
Last month, I did something I never thought I would do: I participated in an organized bike tour. As in, I got on a bike and rode it for multiple days in a row, with other people, through the wine country of Portugal. (I know, twist my arm on that last part).
I had several fears about bike touring before I started the trip, having never done anything like it before, and part of me thought I might have to fake a smile just to get through it. (I was mostly concerned about the “discomfort” I expected!)
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
As a serious hiker, I’m used to being outside for multiple days at a time. I love feeling the sun on my skin, smelling the trees and fresh mountain air, communicating with other hikers on a regular basis, and earning my dessert each day. For some reason, I never even considered that a bike tour would entail nearly these exact same things.
It was so much of what I love about hiking trips, only faster.
I quickly got used to packing my bike bags each day, hopping on my amazing hybrid touring bike, pedaling up hills and through vineyards, and cruising through field after field of beautiful cork trees. The whole time, I never had to worry about where we were going, where I’d eat the next meal, or where I’d sleep that night. Everything was taken care of, even my luggage was transported each day to the next hotel while I worked my way there on two wheels.
A lot of you followed my Instagram stories through this tour, and I promised to show you more where those came from, so here goes:
Watch this one too so you can see why I was super nervous to do this tour, and how all of my concerns were dispelled!
Portugal Bike Tour Itinerary & Daily Activities
Booked through: BikeTours.com (they offer over 200 tours across 40 countries in Europe!)
Route: Arraiolos – Évora – Reguengos de Monsaraz – Monsaraz – Vila Viçosa – Estremoz
Accommodations: Pousada de Arraiolos – Monte do Serrado de Baixo (2 nights) – Solar de Alqueva – Estalagem de Monsaraz – Alentejo Marmoris Hotel (regular tour hotel is Pousada D. João IV) – Pousada Rainha Santa Isabel
Besides riding, we did/saw all of this:
- Sheep cheese farm
- Wine tasting
- Chapel of Bones
- Cathedral tours
- Megalithic monuments (3,000-5,000 BC)
- Cork trees and museum
- University from the 1500s
- Pottery museum
- Marble quarries and museum
A Typical Day:
We always stayed at hotels that had breakfast included, so we would eat on our own time and then meet around 9-9:30am to start riding. We would ride for maybe half an hour before stopping, either for coffee or to see a site of some sort like those listed above. We broke up our days with sites/wineries/museums, etc., plus meals, which were always in small restaurants, typical of the region. We’d end up riding only 3-4 hours total in between all of our stops, so it was never too much at a time. We’d arrived at our hotel around 5pm and meet again for dinner around 7pm, so we had plenty of time to shower and get a good night’s sleep every night, which I very much enjoyed!
I was trying to figure out the highlight of my Portugal bike tour as soon as I finished it, and as I kept listing things off, I realized that all the things I listed were the routes that we rode. There were 2 out of 6 days that we couldn’t ride due to heavy rain, but the rest of the days we rode through vineyards and beautiful rolling fields of cork trees. Several of the stops we made were highlights too, but I couldn’t pinpoint one or even just a few.
What stood out to me most was that it was the actual riding that ended up being the greatest highlight for me (as it should?). I never would have guessed that I would truly enjoy all that biking as much as I did. But, as with everything else, I had to say yes and show up and push through my concerns to find that out. The reward is all mine!
If I had to pick other highlights, I’d say the sheep farm on the first day and the hole in the wall restaurant (and the couple who ran it) on the last day. Both of these show up in the video above. I don’t think the restaurant has a name, it doesn’t have a sign or anything. You’d never know it existed, not even if you were standing right outside of it. You must be taken there by a local like our guide Jorge.
I think the obvious answer here is that it rained for a couple of our riding days, which meant we spent those days riding in a van instead of on bikes. However, I wasn’t complaining then and I don’t truly consider those lowlights now. The van days allowed us a little break from riding, kept us from being potentially miserable, soaked, and freezing, and we got to visit more places than we would have on bikes. I’m grateful for the entire experience, just the way it was.
My true lowlight would be my saddle soreness on Day 2. Luckily it went away pretty quickly and never came back.
I had a beautiful Kross hybrid touring bike that I loved so much I wanted to take it home with me. It had 21 speeds, rode very smoothly, and had a pannier on the back. No one had any problems with the bikes all week long, they were in great shape and well-tuned, I was very impressed!
There was one woman who opted for an e-bike (electric bike), which is a great option if you need an extra boost up hills or if you aren’t as strong a rider as your partner, so you can stay together.
FAQ: You Asked, We Answered
During this trip and my Austria trip, I received several great bike tour questions from viewers and readers, so I brought them up in a conversation with Jim, the founder of BikeTours.com. We got together for a podcast interview and answered the following questions. I’ll give you the short answers here for now, listen to the episode to hear the full answers, plus a whole lot more about my experiences biking in Europe:
- Where do you keep your clothes while you ride? They get transferred to your next hotel for you!
- How much does it cost? Packages start at $700/week, but this depends on your tour location, length, activities, etc.
- Is it flat? What about hills? Also depends on your selected route, stick to river valleys if you want flat!
- How many hours a day are you riding? 4-5
- Is it appropriate for families? YES
- Do I have to have expert map reading skills? No, but it wouldn’t hurt to be good with directions.
- I’m not a biker, is this something most people can do? Yes, and there are different levels for everyone.
Inspired to take your own Portugal adventure? Check out all our Portugal tours here.