Pousadas are a network of luxury hotels located in some of the most historically important buildings in Portugal, including castles, palaces and convents. It's like staying in a luxury museum with a pool and a fantastic restaurant.
Alentejo is at the forefront of Portugal's wine revolution and the region is home to some fantastic reds. The land is flat and the sun was shining in early April and I was on my way.
Photo courtesy of Portuguese_eyes via Flickr/cc
The Week Begins
I started my week-long journey in Alvito, where I stayed in the Pousada de Alvito, a 15th century castle in the middle of town. I took a stroll through the castle gardens before settling into a nice bottle of local Alentejo red and dinner at the pousada.
On my first day of cycling, I headed off into the Alentejo plain towards Ėvora. The riding was flat and I had a steady tailwind that made it feel like I was being pushed forward. I pedaled through tiny towns, passing people moving in that slow, rural pace you find in the country. I checked out some pottery in Viana do Alentejo in a shop near the town's castle before visiting the Church of Senhora de Aires. I had a nice lunch at a local tasca (a typical cafe in the region) before pedaling on to Evora.
There, I stayed in the Pousada de Evora, next to the Roman ruins in town. I tasted some delicious local Cartuxa red wine by the pool before dinner and a good night's sleep.
Olives, Wine and a Dam
The next day I cycled through olive groves, stopped for a break in Nossa Sra. de Machede at another tasca, and rode to the Castle of Valongo where I took another rest. I ended the day's ride with a wine tasting at the Reguengos de Monsaraz winery before dinner.
From Reguengos, I cycled to Monsaraz where I struggled up the final climb into town after a flat day's stage. The reward is an amazing view from the castle of the Alqueva dam, the largest artificial lake in Europe.
Convents and Castles
Continuing on in the morning, I headed to Vila Vicosa and the Pousada de D. João IV, set in the former Convent of Chagas de Cristo. The Pousada has kept all of the convent cells, retreats and oratories built by the nuns intact. The restaurant was fantastic, as was the Pera Manca I drank with dinner.
The last stop of my Portugal journey was Estremoz, a city amid the Alentejo plain with wonderful architecture and an imposing tower of the castle in town. I stayed in the castle, now the Pousada Rainha Sta. Isabel. I celebrated my last night with a tasting of wines by João Portugal Ramos, the well known local wine maker. It was bliss.
How To Learn More
If you'd like to see the bike tour I developed from my trip, take a look at BikeSherpa's Luxury Bike Tour Portugal - Castles, Wine and Sunshine. You can stay at many of the same pousadas I did and sample the delicious wines, too.
Robert Reimann is founder and CEO of BikeSherpa, a boutique bike tour company with trips in 16 countries in Europe. He's a native New Yorker that lives in Dresden, Germany.