Photo by Daniela Giusti
The Algarve is a hiker’s paradise, both because of its mild climate, allowing hiking basically all year round and because of the abundance of walking trails. If you enjoy walking and the great outdoors but relocated recently and do not know many people, fear not, because it easy to join existing groups. Hiking is extremely popular and practiced extensively both by locals and foreigners.
The choice of trails is immense, catering for a variety of tastes and physical conditions.
Thanks to the geographic diversity, you can walk for hours in the flat lagoon area around the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve or you can climb up the Algarve’s highest peak, the Fóia situated in the Serra de Monchique and reaching 902 m.
Here you can find a short list of suggestions, but remember that the choice is immense and these are just a few trails:
the Salt Marsh trail around Castro Marim. Starting from Venta Moinhos, this is an easy, flat trail of a little more than 7,5 km meandering around orchards, where you can see traditional plantations such as olive and carob trees but most of all, you will be able to enjoy the nature reserve and do a lot of birdwatching. Not for nothing, this trail is also on the list of “bird hotspots”.
the Barranco dal Lajes, a rather remote circular trail starting in Cabanas de São Bras de Alportel. This trail of moderate difficulty, despite is relative shortness may take up to 3 hours to complete. It is interesting because it runs in “cork country”, the world’s highest-quality cork being actually produced here.
some deceivingly simple hikes, still in the eastern region include the Cerro de Guilhim and the Cerro Miguel, both located closed to Faro. Once you reach the top of these hills you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the coast, but it will come at the price of some very steep and equally breathtaking climbing.
On the other hand, the Culatra Island trail is a path that will please the least athletic as it is an easy linear trail. The island can be reached by ferry from Olhão and once there you can enjoy the view of the ocean meeting the lagoon and miles of pristine dunes covered with sparse endemic vegetation.
Another favourite is a tour of the “falesias”, the cliffs that dominate the costal landscape between Albufeira and Lagos. There are countless trails and they all include some climbing on the very uneven, rocky ground and spectacular views of the sea. The falesia trails may not be suitable for children and people with reduced mobility, because they can get quite arduous, but they are worth the effort. You can also get a chance to reach some secluded beach and take your break enjoying a well deserved, refreshing plunge in the ocean.
More inland you may enjoy the Paderne Castle trail and you can also walk all the way up the Fóia, the highest “mountain” in the Algarve. Despite reaching almost 1000 mt, the Fóia trail is a gentle uphill hike and when reaching the top you will be able to proudly tell your friends that you reached the Algarve’s summit.
Photo by Daniela Giusti
Further west, you find the Vicentine Coast and its natural park, one of the best preserved coastlines in Europe described as “one of the wildest and most spectacular territories, where the preserved nature has a strong character, creating landscapes of breathtaking majesty”. Extending into the bordering Alentejo region, you can find a multitude of trails in this natural park to explore for a whole weekend or even a whole week.
As for finding company to enjoy your hiking with, for English speakers, you may want to check Guided Walks - Algarve an organised group that proposes a new trail each month and that can be joined paying a 5 € fee for each walk. Another group from Lagos is Meetup , but there are many more to be found online. When you join a group, you will usually find only a short online description of their selected trails, but according to your area of interest, you can find a ton of additional information online.
In any case keep the following in mind: even if theoretically hiking can be practiced all year round, it gets extremely hot in summer and the best hiking seasons are autumn and spring. It’s mild enough to enjoy walking also in winter, but check the weather report first, because the rare rainy days in the Algarve occur usually late autumn/early winter and the downpour can be dangerously heavy. February signs the start of a new hiking season, when most aficionados follow the the almond trees flowering trails, of which there are many.
From October to April it doesn’t get too hot during the day and if you leave at a decent time in the morning you can reach your destination around lunchtime without risking a sunstroke. When the temperatures start raising, an early start is strongly recommended, to reach your destination before noon or even before 11:00. No walking is recommended during the scorching July and August, unless you want to risk serious dehydration. If you really do not want to give up hiking you should start very early or very late (if you enjoy night walks).
For more information about the trails, check the official guide to visiting the Algarve, where you can find walking and even cycling tours other pedestrian trails can be found following this link of Visit Algarve but the limit is only your imagination… or your internet searching skills.