The inaugural edition of Heading SouthWest starts in less than 2 months! In this issue we share with you the official GPX file of the route as well as some key points. We also mention the personal insurance topic. We are Heading SW!

the route

The route was designed to explore the diversity of Portuguese landscapes and cultural heritages from the mountains in the Center to the plains and hills in the South (Alentejo & Algarve regions). In the mid-XX century, the geographer Orlando Ribeiro developed the first in-depth study on territorial conditions and society in mainland Portugal. He identified two opposite realities in terms of geomorphology, climate and social organization. In the North the Oceanic climate prevails and in the South the Mediterranean/Semi-Desert climate. These conditions and the different geological elements have shaped - over time - the diversity of cultural heritage that remains today. The Central System Mountain Range and the Tagus river divide the two realities. The name of Orlando Ribeiro’s masterpiece is precisely: ‘Portugal, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic’. Heading Southwest explores the diversity of Portuguese landscapes and cultural heritages. The on-road route was designed with the contribution of those who know Portuguese roads best: long-distance cyclists living in Portugal. From the mountains in the ‘transition zone’ to the “plains” in Alentejo, heading the ocean in Algarve. This is a set route event: 99% on-road and 1% gravel. A road bike with 28mm tyres is perfectly okay to face the 'pavé'/cobblestones sections and the smooth gravel sector. Introducing the main places and regions that the route – with approximately 1.000K and more than 15.000M of climbing - crosses:

Coimbra | The Departure City

This medium size city (100.000 inhabitants) is located halfway between the two major Portuguese urban areas: Lisbon and Porto. Traveling from both by train is fast and bike friendly. Coimbra has another key factor: the location allows a quiet and safe connection by bike with the Portuguese inland territories. The route leaves the urban area in a few minutes/kilometers, following the Mondego river and valley. Coimbra is also the home of one of the oldest universities of the world and UNESCO world heritage site. The adventure starts on May 21st 2022 (8AM local time) close to Praia Fluvial do Rebolim, a peripherical area in the southeast part of the town. In the previous day, Coimbra will also host the briefing-dinner session in Galeria de Santa Clara (7PM local time).

Mata Nacional do Buçaco | KM 39-42

A special cobblestone sector surrounded by the protected, historic and mysterious Buçaco National Forest. The ‘Buçaco Palace climb’ is a journey back in time. It isn’t long and too steep (2KM & 6.8% average slope), but probably will extend the gap between the riders.

Serra da Freita e da Arada (Arouca Geopark) | KM 131-158 + KM 181-208

Riders will face the two first mountainous challenges of the route (‘Serra’ means mountain range). Even for the majority of the Portuguese cyclists, Serra da Freita e da Arada are unfamiliar areas. Serra da Freita climb is long (27 kilometers), with some sections with more than 10% of average slope. It starts close to Vouga River (150 meters above sea level) and finishes in Detrelo da Malhada (1.099 meters above sea level). Both climbs are in the UNESCO Arouca Geopark territory. In Serra da Arada climb there is one of the most emblematic points of the route: Portal do Inferno (Gate of Hell). The name honors the challenge.

Serra da Estrela (Estrela Geopark) | KM 340-400

This mountain range is the main reference for road cycling in Portugal. Almost all national riders have the goal to reach the highest point of the Portuguese mainland territory by bicycle (2.000 meters above sea level). However, ‘SouthWest’ will show the less familiar side of Serra da Estrela. The places with less tourists and where the (few) locals live – in the traditional mountain villages (Aldeias de Montanha). Cabeça climb has 13KM and 5% of average slope, but – due to the irregular declives - this sector will show that climb higher, longer and on a high average slope doesn’t means harder.

Vila Velha de Rodão (Tagus River crossing) | KM 537

It isn’t exactly the halfway point of the route, but it is the transition point in the landscape, from the mountainous areas to hills/plains areas, from the Center of Portugal to Alentejo Region, from the ‘Atlantic’ zone to the ‘Mediterranean’ zone. The bridge over Tagus River has a landscape bonus: the view to the most famous natural Portuguese monument – Portas de Rodão.

Marvão Village | KM 594

The only ‘Dead End’ point of the route. If ‘SouthWest’ had Control Points, this would be certainly one of them. Marvão is one of the highest spots of Alentejo region (860 meters above sea level) and an historical place, concerning the battles between Muslims and Christians in the XII century, as well as between Portugal and the Kingdom of Castila (former Spain) in the XIII century.

Alentejo | After Tagus River

Alentejo is the biggest region of Portugal and probably the territory with the strongest identity in the mainland areas. From the societal perspective, Alentejo is a plan area. However, cyclists are aware that this perspective isn’t really true. In Alentejo is located the only gravel sector of the route with 6 kilometers – between the kilometers 862 and 868. The goal is to honor the characteristics of the landscape.

Alte, Algarve | The Finish Point

The route finishes in Alte village (a few kilometers away from the Atlantic Ocean), namely in the Germano biciArte Café: the place where every single cyclist riding in Algarve region stops. However, there is a mountainous challenge before the glory. Serra do Caldeirão divides the regions of Alentejo and Algarve. Riders will need one last deep breath to complete the adventure across the diversity of the Portuguese territory.


Personal insurance valid during the event is mandatory and participants should send us a document proving it (like the one in the image). We won't allow any rider to participate in Heading SW without personal cycling insurance. For riders officially living in Portugal we strongly recommend Federação Portuguesa de Ciclismo 'individual' insurance/registration (33€ and valid for one year) which includes personal protection and civil liability. Riders who aren't living in Portugal must have personal insurance covering personal protection, civil liability and repatriation in case of severe physical injuries or death. Please send us the doc to: (or by replying to the email).