Tour Advisor Liv visited Portugal in May 2019. She had a superb time cycling the group guided version of the Castles and Wines of Portugal tour. We asked her some questions regarding her experience.
Can you tell us about the accommodations?
All the hotels were cyclist-friendly. Some hotels were centrally located, while others were outside the nearby town. The Pousadas were amazing, and in locations where the Pousadas were not available, I stayed in smaller B&B accommodations that were very nice and quaint.
And the bikes?
The bikes were in good condition and did not require any maintenance. The e-bike was lighter than other e-bikes I have ridden, and the charge lasted up to 3 days even with my regular use [Note: heavy use of the battery-assistance will drain the battery faster].
The hybrid bikes were Kross brand, and the e-bikes were either Focus or Cube brand. I tested both bike types. They were good quality, durable, and reasonably lightweight bikes.
Can you tell us more about the day-to-day aspects of the guided tour?
My week started with an orientation with the guide and other cyclists. Each morning before cycling, the guide would provide a short overview of what to expect along the route that day. Because the guide cycled with us the entire tour, I did not receive maps or any route instructions–this was very different from the self-guided tours I’ve taken. While cycling, the guide would periodically cycle ahead or drop back to check in with all the participants.
In addition to the cycling guide, another guide drove the support van and prepared lunch each day. The driving guide also met up with the group at some of the sites that were near the beginning, middle, and/or end of that day’s ride. I found both guides to be very personable, knowledgeable, and fun-loving.
What about the meals?
The included lunches and dinners were plentiful and delicious with desserts and wine included. Dinner was not included on two nights, but on these nights the tour operator provided multiple restaurant suggestions in the tour documents, and the recommendations I chose were both excellent.
What was your group like?
I cycled with a couple from Oregon in their early 50s. We became great friends over the course of the tour.
How was the route?
The scenery was beautiful. The selected route took us to numerous beautiful villages, cities, and some monolithic formations. There were a few roads with traffic (mainly into and out of the city), but we mostly cycled secondary roads with little traffic. All the traffic we encountered was very aware of and courteous to cyclists.
This tour is perfect for Active Riders [see our Rider Level definitions]. The rolling, hilly terrain challenged me just enough, but then provided enough of a break to catch my breath. The daily distances were very manageable.
Did you have to contact the tour operator with any issues or problems?
I had to call the tour operator during my multiple flight issues (pre-tour). The first tour operator employee I spoke with did not speak English comfortably to solve my issue, but they communicated that someone else would call me back immediately. The next employee did contact me right away to help me sort out the details.
What did you love about Portugal and this tour?
The food and wine were amazing, and the people were exceedingly kind. Hearing the detailed history of the many different cultures that influenced Portugal (Spanish, Moorish, and African influences) was very intriguing.
The experiences I loved the most were:
– Cycling through a vineyard and having lunch and wine-tasting under an old cork tree
– Visiting the chapel of bones
– Learning about the aqueducts in Evora
– Visiting the leather factory and seeing the process from start to finish
Who would you recommend this tour to?
People who are food and wine lovers with a sense of adventure. The cycling features more countryside than cities; many of the smaller roads don’t even have road signs. I’d recommend the self-guided version of this tour to people with good navigational sense. Or you can take the guided version, as I did, and relax while the guide navigates for you.