Ecovia do Litorol - 6

A Loop into the Alentejo

If you've cycled the Ecovia do Litorial route along the Algarve coast from east to west you will end up at Cape St Vincent. This is the southwestern tip of Europe and choosing a suitable route back to your starting point will be your next concern. There is no railway in this corner of Portugal, and retracing your route along the Ecovia would be a little dull, but there is an alternative that will take you through the unspoilt Alentejo region and get you back to Faro in three to five days, depending on whether or not you take a train for the final leg. This route will be anything but an anticlimax after the wild and rocky coastal trails at the western end of the Ecovia. The scenery is different but equally spectacular, much of the route being in the Southwest Alentejo and St Vincent Coast Natural Park.

vila_do_bispo.jpgFrom Cape St Vincent cycle back towards Sagres. You need to get to Vila do Bispo, which can be done either on the Ecovia or else by turning onto a minor road that runs due north (after a wiggle), shortly before you reach the Beliche Fort. This joins the Caminho Agricola dos Montes and cuts across to join the Ecovia just south of Bispo. Here you should visit the new interpretation centre with displays on the nature, culture and history of the region before leaving town on the EN268. You will climb steadily up to a wind farm (there is nothing to stop you cycling over to the wind turbines if you want a good look) and then, after a few miles, the road runs down towards the western coast and the small town of Carrapateira.

cork_oaks.jpgCarrapateira has a few restaurants and accommodation options. Like the other small towns and villages near this part of the coast, it is popular with surfers who come chasing the big Atlantic waves, which means it has a laid-back vibe. The customers sitting in the sun outside the cafes on the town square are an odd mix of gnarled old farmers and twenty-something foreigners wearing board-shorts. Moving on from here, head in a northeasterly direction out of town. The road then turns east towards Bordeira. You will be cycling past giant eucalyptus trees and cork oaks. After Bordeira, the road turns northeasterly again and eventually intersects with the N120.

OdemiraWindmill.gifAt this point you have a decision to make. If time is pressing, you could turn right onto the N120 (which is not very busy) and work your way back to the railway line at Mexilhoeira Grande via Bensafrim. Mexilhoeira is just off the Ecovia do Litoral and there are several direct trains per day to Faro, a journey of only 90 minutes. Alternatively, explore more of the Alentejo by turning left and continuing north through Aljezur (which is worth a stop) and Rogil to Odeceixe. This is a pretty town of steep hills, an old windmill and some very cheap places to stay. A further hour or so riding north will bring you to another small town, Sao Teotonio, which will suffice for a meal break, but Odemira is a better place to spend the night. From here you can turn south to loop back towards Faro and the south coast.

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