Dennis is the founder of a Victoria-based cycling club ‘Ghostriders’, which has been travelling with UTracks since 2009. He’s written a blog post for us about his group’s most recent cycling holiday in Portugal in October 2018, including his highlights and top tips for travellers thinking about going cycling in Portugal.
I was aware of how hot summer can be in Portugal, so we chose to complete the Portugal Wine and Castles Cycle in October. This proved to be a wise decision as the weather at that time of the year was much more conducive to enjoyable cycling.
Since none of our group had ever been to Portugal before, we really did not know what to expect. The UTracks web site classifies the ride as ‘moderate’ and several days were described as ‘mostly flat’. We soon found that the Alentejo region is never entirely flat and most days contained at least some climbing. The Alentejo countryside itself reminded us of Australia in many ways. The obvious difference was the vast number of cork trees that dotted the landscape wherever we went. The region occupies almost 30% of Portugal but only 5% of the population contrasting sharply with the more densely populated coastal areas of the country.
If you travel to the Alentejo expecting the classic medieval European stereotype, you will be surprised to find that the villages are few and far between. The villages that we did encounter were almost invariably situated on hilltops, meaning that you had to work hard to get there.
Although the cycling was sometimes challenging, it was never too difficult to be unpleasant. Our riders are mostly aged in their 60s and 70s and all of them thoroughly enjoyed the varied days of cycling. Everyone in the group was used to regular riding in Australia and many had already completed previous European rides with UTracks. E-Bikes were available.
As with all of our European cycling (or walking) adventures, there were many highlights. Apart from the fascinating history that is all around you, the food and culture is always an important part of any trip. Once again UTracks did an incredible job in selecting a great range of hotels for our nightly stays. In the historic town of Vila Viçosa we stayed in a restored convent that had themed rooms including the Hunters’ Room and the Astronomers’ Suite and in Estremoz our luxury hotel was in Castle Estremoz – both were spectacular and standout favourites.
Portugal is certainly a country that adventurous travellers should consider if they want something a little bit different. As well as the time spent on our cycling, we also had most enjoyable stays in Porto and Lisbon. I would recommend that these beautiful cities should be included in any trip to Portugal.
The only lowlight I can recall about this trip is that we had heavy rain on one day in Portugal. Did it ruin the trip? Not at all. Although we were all wet through, we managed to see the humour in it. Sometimes it is days like that that everyone remembers with the most affection.
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