IMG_2624Judi Biking


Want a quick flashback to the joys of yesteryear? Combine cycling with your vacation plans, it’s a cheap mode of transportation, it’s healthy and it’s eco-friendly.


There are myriad options. Pack up your bike and head for Europe. Yes, you need special boxes for transporting bikes and there may be a few hassles with check-in but if you have long term in mind and want to be free of a schedule, it’s worth it.


Or easier, hook up with a well-established company and sign on for self-guided excursion – these are formatted in one-two weeks. In many respects it’s the best of both worlds as your luggage is moved, you are supplied with maps and directions and your accommodation is booked. My friend Margo and I cycled a ‘Mountains to Sea’ route in Portugal.



The mountain scenery of the Sierra de Monchique in the northwestern Algarve. Picture bougainvillea spilling above walls and along steep cobbled walkways in the small town of Monchique. We cycled a forested landscape where rural routes led us high and swept us back into verdant valleys and into sleepy villages where men sat and seemed surprised that we two women were on bikes instead of in kitchens.

Eventually this seven-day cycle veered us west to the picture perfect village of Odeceixe where it is a short pedal to the Atlantic and the first of our great beaches.


Early one morning we cycled through foggy stretches to Amado, a lonely beach facing the Atlantic where huge rollers swept in as the sun filtered through warming the October day.

Continuing south, along the Algarve we explored out-of-the-way places like Zavial Beach, a peaceful, sandy arc with few people but a lovely restaurant.

As well as our destinations, we loved our B’Twin bikes, true, rather dorky looking but comfortable saddles – what a concept. They were provided by a nice man named Walter at Rent a Bike in Lagos.

All the accommodation, organized by the tour company, worked well. We particularly enjoyed Bica Boa in Monchique, run by a cheerful Irish woman, Susan.


As the trip was described as ‘moderate’ we were not prepared for the extensive hills, mostly in the first few days. On a website description it stated that ‘long hills are avoided’ which wasn’t the case. While Margo and I are both fit we are a tad past our prime. However, the sometimes grueling elevation gain was not just observed by us — as we feasted on ice cream in the centro of the tiny mountain town of Alferce, two young guys pedaled up looking exhausted. “It’s too much hills,” one of them stated and we readily agreed!

It was bad luck that the weather was unseasonably hot for October, so we cycled hills as temperature rose above 30 C.


We booked through UTracks, an arm of the well-established World Expeditions tour company. ( Be aware that on a self-guided trip when you book through one company, at the destination you are accommodated by a local company, in this case it was Portugal Walks.

We arrived at Faro and were transported to Monchique.

Trips run April-June and September-October. Daily distance varies from 28 to 50 km per day

WHY TAKE THIS TRIP: Amazing scenery and just enough challenges that you feel great about yourself.