Fancy getting out and about and seeing what Algarve has to offer off the beaten – or rather driven – track? We asked Linda Taylor Goncalves of Weekend Walkers for her six of the best.
The Algarve is a wonderful place for walking, whether you are out for a gentle stroll or are a dedicated hiker. The countryside is verdant, with undulating landscapes, and our coastal paths are well-maintained and marked. The months between October and May have great walking weather with the Algarve sunshine and gentle breezes. There are many way-marked walks managed by each local authority and these can be found on the internet with maps to print out.
As a general rule, you should always make sure you are well hydrated before starting off; take water with you and wear sunscreen. Choose the right clothes (think comfort as well as practicality) and ensure your legs are covered. Have a light – preferably waterproof – jacket with you in case there is the odd shower. Lightweight walking boots that give ankle support are ideal for the countryside as the going can be rocky in parts, although trainers are sufficient for the cliff paths and beach walks. Take your camera – you will find great photograph opportunities on all of these walks. Here are our favourites…
1. The cliff path walk from Praia da Rocha to Praia de Vau, then through the pine forest and countryside down to the beach, is quite special. When you see Dunas Restaurant, come off the beach and follow the boardwalk around the Alvor Estuary, enjoying the resident birdlife.
This walk is 12kms and involves some spectacular scenery, with huge (and protected) blowholes – dramatic sea views with the great rock structures scattered along the coast. There are plenty of cafés and restaurants close to the start point and along the way, so you can relax and enjoy your surroundings.
2. Drive west out of the castle city of Silves to find the beautiful meeting point of the Odelouca and Arade rivers. Parking beside a café, you walk a short stretch of road until veering off left towards the path encircling the watercourse. The going is mostly flat and accompanied by the gentle sounds of the water and birds. You pass through tiny hamlets with typical Algarve cottages before rejoining the pathway back to the start.
At approximately 9kms and a view of the water most of the way, this walk is good for the soul! You may encounter a few loose dogs but their bark is always the scariest thing about them and, if you don’t make eye contact and pick up a stone and mimic throwing it at them, they normally scuttle off quickly.
3. Rocha de Pena (The Rock of Pena) is a massive rocky outcrop popular with climbers and walkers alike. North of the market town of Loulé, just outside Salir, you drive through the pretty countryside lanes until you reach a café at the start of the walk. The first part of the walk is a stiff climb on rocky paths until you reach the top, 479m above sea level, where you will encounter amazing views that stretch for miles across the Algarve and to the sea.
It’s worth taking the short detour across to the other side of the rock to take in the inland views, birds of prey and the huge Buddhist Stupa perched on top of a distant hill in Malvao. Make your way back to the seaview side, and follow the way-marks through the scrub and rocky paths; be sure to stop and take in the views along the way across the top. The descent ends in the tiny village of Penina with traditional Algarve houses and then along the base of Rocha de Pena back to the café. You’ll have covered around 7kms back to where you started.
4. Between the towns of Sao Bras de Alportel and Tavira lies a small village called Mesquita. Parking behind the excellent restaurant, Lagar de Mesquita, the way-marked walk takes you through gently wooded areas and dryland orchards – en route you’ll see western peonies, Kermes oaks and the white-leaved rockrose and conehead thyme, and at Ribeira do Bengado, a wide range of river vegetation and a landscape dominated by olive trees.
From there, you head south along a length of cork oaks: the panoramic views over the whole valley follow as you advance through typical agricultural areas with plenty of birdlife. The final leg of this 9km walk passes through areas of carob trees, cork oaks and holm oaks.
5. The Masmorra Trail starts from the village of Mealha, inland from Tavira, at the Discovery Centre and covers 5.5kms of rural paths and road. Featuring Dolmens of Masmorra – remains of ancient civilisations which were once used for funeral ceremonies – you pass through typical agricultural village landscape to the Ribeirinha. Crossing the stream you’ll fi nd almond trees, mastic trees, purple phlomis, rushes, myrtle, oleander and carob trees before you climb up to the hill of Masmorra passing through wild olive, cistus, spurge fl ax and wild lavender to discover a great view at the top over the surrounding countryside.
Descending down the trail, you pass over the stream again on your path back to Mealha. This walk allows you to see a wide range of the typical flora and fauna of the Algarve mountains.
6. The town of Alcoutim is perched on the edge of the River Guadiana, marking the Algarve’s border with Spain. The 12km walk starting from just outside the village of Monte das Laranjeiras delivers breathtaking scenery, with long stretches of the way passing high above the River as you follow its path. After a gradual climb through forested areas, you reach a tiny hamlet and pass down to find an old, communal laundry, a good point at which to take a break and feast on the picnic you’ve packed.
The path then takes you high up – you will feel the heady sensation that you are on top of the World – until a gradual descent takes you along the riverbed through lush vegetation and the final climb up the hill back to the start point. As our final walk of the Season in May 2018, we topped the day off with lunch in Alcoutim and then crossed the River on a little ferry to enjoy the thrill of the zipline ride over the River from Spain back to Portugal!
The Algarve Weekend Walkers group is organised by Algarve walkers, Linda and Liz, who share over 20 years experience of walking the Algarve. It arose from their desire to share the many enjoyable and diverse walks, scenery and fresh Algarve air with anyone with a love of the outside and a stout pair of boots. Their professionally guided walks take place on Sunday mornings, always with a front and back marker to ensure everyone can walk at a pace that suits them. The €5 donation includes a bottle of water and those all-important gummy bears and doggy treats for the four-legg ed members. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information about future walks and to be included on their mailing list.