ExperiencePlus! Blog

Is a Gravel Explorer tour right for you?

Biking unpaved roads in Portugal's Algarve region

Since launching our new Gravel Explorer tour style in 2022, almost 100 travelers have joined us on one of our new offerings in Croatia, Portugal and Italy. When we developed this new tour style, we wanted to create an affordable tour style for adventurous and independent-minded cyclists to experience the joys of seeing the world by bike. To meet this objective we developed fully-supported week-long tours that highlight quiet, unpaved roads and paths, comfortable yet modest accommodations, and navigation by GPS.

Because daily rides blend paved roads with unpaved, mixed-surface terrain – think farm roads, smooth gravel, unimproved pavement, dirt bike paths and crushed fines, and because we use hard tail mountain bikes with front suspension, the cycling is not rushed. Cyclists are joined by two tour leaders, one who rides with the group and one who drives the van, which carries luggage and can assist cyclists throughout the day. As always, travelers are encouraged to go at their own pace, stopping where and when they want.

That said, Gravel Explorer tours are distinctly different from all other styles. If you’re new to EP, you might not know this and it may not matter! If you’ve traveled with EP for years, you will probably notice those differences. Making an informed decision is paramount to truly enjoying any experience you embark on, we think it’s important that you know how to evaluate whether or not a Gravel Explorer tour is right for you. Here are some questions to ponder:

  • How comfortable are you with digital navigation? Have you used a GPS device, or app such as Ride with GPS, to get from point A to B? We equip bikes with GPS units that are fully loaded with all routes and tour leaders coach cyclists on how to use the device for navigation. Many folks prefer to navigate with the Ride with GPS App from their phones. And some prefer to ride with the tour leader throughout the day.
  • What is your comfort level riding for 10 or more miles without van support? Because some routes access remote terrain or bike paths, the van may not always be nearby. Tour leaders will brief you daily on what to expect as far as van support. If the thought of riding without support for more than hour makes you nervous, take note.
  • What grade of hotels do you need to truly enjoy your experience? We seek out local, comfortable, family-run hotels that offer quality accommodations, solid breakfasts, and pleasant staff. Some places will be nicer than others. Four stars is not a requirement.
  • Do you enjoy choosing your own adventure? Gravel Explorer tours emphasize individual exploration over guided group experiences. Tour leaders and your Ride with GPS Experience app will point out places and experiences you can encounter each day. Your tour leaders are also of course our outstanding cultural ambassadors and will happily impart their local knowledge. But where and when you stop is entirely up to you. So if you love nature, let yourself be carried away photographing a field of poppies. If you love history, investigate every narrow cobbled street and museum and monument that catches your eye.
  • Do you enjoy a physical challenge? What difficulty level is your upper limit? While these tours aren’t grueling, they aren’t walks in the park. Even if a tour is rated a 2.5, that doesn’t mean you won’t have a level 4 day. Biking uphill on gravel requires more effort than biking up the same grade on a smooth surface. The laws of physics still exist while on vacation! We steer clear of highly technical terrain, some sections will require your attention and good bike handling skills. This doesn’t mean you have to be a wickedly fit brute to enjoy a Gravel Explorer tour, just something to keep in mind. When you manage your expectations for difficulty and actually enjoy a physical challenge, the rewards can be invigorating.

If any of what we describe above like an awesome way to explore a new place and just what you are looking for in a bike trip – excellent! Check out our itineraries below and let us know if you have any questions.

If some of this feels like a deal breaker to you, we encourage you to honor that hesitation and steer towards our Classic, Bike and Boat, or Expedition tour styles instead (also keep in mind that our Travel Assistance services do not apply to Gravel Explorer tours). As with anything, the attitude and expectation you bring to an experience can strongly influence what you get out of it.

More than anything, we think taking a Gravel Explorer tour lets you access your inner kid, the one who likes to play outside, loses track of time, and revels in the joys of doing their own thing.

Gravel Explorer tour customer feedback

The riding was spectacular- exactly the kind of gravel touring I love. I loved being out on dirt roads and rarely seeing a car or other people. Picking an orange & eating it while standing in the shade of the orange grove. Swimming in the ocean & reservoir – bikes shorts & all. Meeting new people. We’re not big on guided tours of any kind so this seemed like we could be more independent, but still have full support.


This tour was great for the independent types. Almost no traffic is great and you get to see places that you would otherwise never go to.

K. Kunz, White Roads of Tuscany, May 2023

I did not quite understand that there would be some technical aspects to the terrain. Once I understood I quite enjoyed teh trip. I now know to be better prepared if I choose to do another Explorer trip!

L. Knight, Croatia Blue & Green

Incredible experience, challenging and a great way to travel across southern Portugal. It was exciting to ride through the countryside, especially off-road – gives a totally different perspective. Each town or village was unique, food was great, views were spectacular. Not to mention, the tour guides are awesome!

M. Cotter, Cycling the Algarve, May 2023

Quite challenging both in terms of terrain and navigation but a lovely ride through beautiful and contrasting scenery. Interesting hill top medieval villages and stunning coastline.

H. Brown, Croatia Blue & Green, May 2023

Loved the fact that we could go at our own pace and stop when and where we wanted. Loved the idea of a less guided tour where people went at their own pace and a chance to go off road and see areas you typically would miss.

C. Benedict, Cycling the Algarve, May 2023

This tour had a mix of dramatic scenery, trail and road riding, some hills – but something that no other tour of the Algarve could capture.

D. Miller, Cycling the Algarve, December 2022