Hiking in the Algarve
One of the most interesting and environmentally friendly activities to discover the region is hiking in the Algarve. There are plenty of opportunities for hiking. Walking trails have been developed by most municipalities and are available in the whole region. They are perfect for relatively short walks. In addition, there are some long-distance walking trails that will let you discover the Algarve in a very unique way. After reading this article, you will put on your walking shoes because you will know exactly where to walk in the Algarve.
If you want to get a sneak preview of how it is to hike in the Algarve, then watch the short video below.
The best short walks of the Algarve
With the awesome Portuguese food, it is great to have a walk after lunch. Below you can find our favourite short walks of the Algarve. We see short walks as walks that last a couple of hours at most.
Lagos area: walk along the coast
There is a fabulous walk along the rocky coast of Lagos, with spectacular rock formations in Ponta da Piedade and the surrounding area. You should start this trail in the centre of Lagos and walk along the coast to Ponta da Piedade, a few kilometres south of the town. Along the trail, you will enjoy the magnificent views over the bay of Lagos and its coastline until Alvor and Praia da Rocha. You will also see many small beaches surrounded by rock formations, such as Praia da Dona Ana and Praia do Camilo. The highlight of the walk is Ponta da Piedade, which is considered by many as a natural wonder and for sure one of the top attractions of the Algarve. From there you can also discover other grottoes and rock formations, walking to the west. Walking in this area is one of the most beautiful hikes in the Algarve.
Loulé area: Rocha da Pena
There is a beautiful walk in the countryside surrounding Loulé. If you ride along the road from Salir to Alte (municipality of Loulé), you will find signs indicating Rocha da Pena. This is a mountain with great walking conditions. After you parked your car, walk up the mountain and follow the trail. The walking trail is very well signposted. The circular walk is about 6,4 kilometres and lasts about 2,5 hours.
Along the walk, you can see some cultural heritage, such as a neolithic wall and caves (grutas in Portuguese), where the Moorish inhabitants of Salir sought refuge and hid themselves from the Christians that conquered the village of Salir in the 13th century. During the walk you will also have beautiful views up to the coast and the northern side of the Algarve. Almost at the end of the walk, you pass a beautiful tiny village called Penina. This village seems like time stopped here a long time ago. Near the end of the walk, you will also see ancient Moorish wells (noras in Portuguese). Overall, the hike on Rocha da Pena is highly recommended.
Loulé area: Trilho da Fonte Benémola
Another great hike in the Loulé area is the walking trail of Fonte Benémola. The circular walking trail is about 4,4 kilometres and takes about 1,5 hours to complete. There is actually a longer circular trail (9 kilometres) as well. Both are well signposted. They are both quite easy walks, but worthwhile nonetheless. You will come across freshwater springs, watermills and an old water well, as well as a myriad of birds. After the walk, you can have a drink in the nearby village of Querença.
Sagres area: walk to the cape of St. Vincent
Walking from Sagres to the Cape of St. Vincent offers a combination of nature and culture. You can start by visiting the fortress of Sagres, which was founded by Henry the Navigator. From there, you walk towards the Cape of St. Vincent. Along the way you will pass some beaches. First Praia do Tonel, with an impressive rock inside the water which looks like a lion. A bit further you will see Praia do Beliche and the fortress of Beliche. Follow the road and you will end up at the Cape of St. Vincent.
When you walk here you will feel like two eyes are not enough to appreciate the natural beauty of the area. The cliff views are amazing. The Cape of St. Vincent is the most southwestern tip of Europe. You will see a small building with a lighthouse. The rocks surrounding the cape are 75 metres high. If you like to appreciate the magnitude of nature, then hiking in this area is one of the best things to do in the Algarve.
Faro/Olhão area: walk in the Ria Formosa
When you are near Faro or Olhão, make sure to walk in the natural park of Ria Formosa. This walk is great if you like to enjoy the peace and quiet of nature. The area is especially great for birdwatching. There are several walking trails in Ria Formosa, but our favourite one is the Ludo trail. This trail is about 4 kilometres in length, but you can extend the walk by taking alternatives routes, making it a total walk of 8 kilometres. Along the way you will see various salt pans. Chances are you will even see flamingos in the water.
Tavira area: walk to Praia do Barril
You can walk from Tavira to Praia do Barril. First you walk along the road from Tavira to Santa Luzia, which has a good trail for hiking and biking. Arriving in Santa Luzia, you can walk along the main street facing the Ria Formosa. You will find the building of the octopus auction, as the fishing in this village is specialised in the catch of octopus. Continue walking towards the west. Two kilometres further, you will find a narrow bridge on the left. Cross the bridge. From here you can walk to Praia do Barril. Just follow the road, which is about 3 kilometres in length. This would take about 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete. If you would like a small break, you can also take a small train to the beach instead of walking.
Praia do Barril itself is a wonderful beach and known for its anchor cemetery. You can see many anchors rusting in the dunes, which is a reminder of the tuna fishing industry that once thrived here. When you are on Praia do Barril, there is a wonderful beach walk to the east. This is the perfect place to extend your walk. If you want, you can walk all the way to Praia da Ilha de Tavira. From there, you can just take the ferry back to Tavira.
São Brás de Alportel area: countryside walk
It is fabulous to hike in the countryside surrounding the municipality of São Brás de Alportel. There are several walking trails in the area, but our favourite one is called Between Valleys, Springs and Memories of the Serra do Caldeirão. This circular trail starts and finishes in the small village of Parises, north of São Brás de Alportel. The walk has a total distance of 20 kilometres and takes about 7 hours to complete (there are shorter trails as well). The walking trail is well signposted. Here you can discover the rural Algarve, with some picturesque villages, old houses and traditional vegetation such as cork oaks. Some houses are in ruins, as people have moved towards the coastal regions. The few people still living in this area are mostly elderly people. You can find small rivers, especially in the winter and spring, valleys and mountains. This is the forgotten side of the Algarve.
Monchique area: Fóia trail
Near Monchique you can go up the Fóia mountain, which is the highest mountain of the Algarve (902 metres). There is a walking trail so you can reach the top by foot. The trail has a length of 7 kilometres and hiking it lasts about 2,5 hours. It is well signposted. From the top of Fóia you have a spectacular view over the Algarve. The best thing is to visit on a day with clear sky, so you can see as far as possible.
Alvor area: the Alvor boardwalk
Near Praia de Alvor, not too far from Portimão, there is a great boardwalk straight through the Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve. The boardwalk is about 3 kilometres in length, but you can walk here for hours. You can walk all the way to the small green and white lighthouse at the end of the boardwalk. There are a variety of birds you can see along the way as well. Make sure to bring some binoculars if you can. Although the nature here is very peaceful, you will find several restaurants nearby. They are a great location for a drink afterwards.
Vila do Bispo area: Castelejo Environmental Trail
Near Vila do Bispo you can find a circular walking trail called the Castelejo Environmental Trail. The trail is about 3,5 kilometres in length and takes you through a wonderful part of the Vicentine Coast Natural Park. The trail starts at a picnic area near a parking lot, which is on the way to Praia do Castelejo. It takes about 1,5 hours to fully complete and is well signposted. The hike is definitely worth it. Afterwards, make sure to check out the viewpoint of Castelejo, from where you can see Praia da Cordoama and the rugged coastline of the Algarve.
Lagoa area: Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos
Near Lagoa you can find one of the most beautiful walks of the Algarve. The walking trail is called Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos, which translates as walking trail of the seven hanging valleys. It starts at Praia de Vale Centeanes and goes all the way to the world-famous beach of Praia da Marinha. The circular trail is 12 kilometres in length and takes about 5 hours to complete. It is well signposted. Along the way you will see stunning rock formations and breathtaking views of the coastline. You will also pass the secluded beach of Praia do Carvalho and the Alfanzina lighthouse. Don’t miss the Algar de Benagil cave near Benagil beach, which is the most famous cave of the Algarve. Overall, this is a very scenic route and highly recommended.
Long-distance walking trails
In addition to short walks, there are several long-distance walking trails in the Algarve. You can read more about them below.
There is a walking trail along the entire Algarve, from the Cape of St. Vincent in Sagres to Alcoutim near the Spanish border. This walking trail is called Via Algarviana and is about 300 kilometres in length. Literally, Via Algarviana means the Algarve way. The trail is actually divided into 14 smaller sections of up to 30 kilometres, taking 4-8 hours of hiking per day. Each section starts and ends in a village. The trip would take you through unspoiled nature and small villages. This trip would also take you through the mountains in the north of the Algarve. It would show you the traditional way of life, as it was like 100 years ago in the Algarve. The walking trail is clearly signposted.
The entire trip would last several days, but you can also just walk a part of it of course. You could do this trip by bike as well. If you do decide to do this walk, we recommend that you do it in the spring. The summer might be too hot and in the winter the trees are not as nice as in the spring. One thing is for sure: you will remember this walk for the rest of your life. If you want to do this trail, check out the website of Via Algarviana to plan your trip.
There is also a handbook about the Via Algarviana, full of useful information and tips:
The Rota Vicentina is a long-distance walking trail along the Costa Vicentina, in the west of the Algarve. Here you can walk along the coast of the natural park. The trail opened in 2012 and is divided into several small sections, each between 15 and 25 kilometres in length. This way you can go from village to village. The Rota Vicentina is the result of carefully studying the most beautiful coastal sights of the Costa Vicentina and linking them together in a walking trail. You will see unspoiled nature and another side of the Algarve. This side is much less touristic, and resembles the traditional way of life in this area. You will breathe fresh sea air and taste regional specialties. The trail is very well signposted, in both directions. Check out the website of Rota Vicentina to plan your trip.
Grande Rota do Guadiana
In the east of the Algarve there is a beautiful walking trail along the Guadiana river, between Vila Real de Santo António and Alcoutim. It is called the Grande Rota do Guadiana or the Great Guadiana Route. This trail is suitable for both hiking and biking. The walking trail is about 78 kilometres in length and will take you through the mountains and countryside of this region. You will surely enjoy the peace and quiet that you can find in the nature here. From Alcoutim you could even extend your walk to Mértola or continue on the Via Algarviana and walk all the way to Sagres.
Ecovia do Litoral
The Ecovia do Litoral is a trail stretching for 214 kilometres all the way across the entire coastline of the Algarve. In fact, litoral means coast in Portuguese. The trail was originally meant for biking, but is great for hiking as well. You will see stunning nature, amazing beaches and beautiful cliffs along the way. Before doing this route, check out the website of Ecovia do Litoral to plan your trip.
Walking with a guide or alone?
While walking alone can be quite peaceful, there are several advantages to walking with a guide. Especially if you want to know more about the area and the plants that exist in a region, a guided walking tour is recommended. A walking guide has a lot of local knowledge and can tell you exactly why a specific plant exists there, which bird you just saw or why the rock formations are so unique. Another advantage is that you will never get lost. The guide knows the way, which can be useful where walking trails aren’t marked. In addition, hiking with a guide is safer. For example, some areas can be a bit unstable or you will encounter cliffs that are eroding. A guide will know exactly where to go and which parts to avoid. And just in case something happens, the guide will know how to perform first-aid. If you prefer to hike with a guide, there are several local walking guides available who can show you some of the hidden gems of the Algarve.
The downside of a guide is the cost. Depending on the guide, the area and the duration of the walk, a guided walk will cost € 25 at least.
Below you can find our favourite walking tours with a guide that can already be booked online:
If you go hiking, it might be handy to have a handheld hiking GPS device with you. This allows you to easily find your way, even if you don’t know where to go. They usually work on replaceable AA batteries, so that you don’t have to worry about your smartphone having no more battery. Such a hiking GPS can save you a lot of headache.
Make sure you wear good footwear when you go hiking in the Algarve. Also wear socks with trousers, to protect yourself from insect bites and thorns. Before going to hike, check the weather forecast. When the sun hits hard, don’t forget sunblock and a hat. Furthermore, make sure you always have plenty of drinking water with you.
If you don’t have proper walking shoes yet, we recommend the following waterproof walking shoes from Mountain Warehouse. They are lightweight, while still very comfortable. Perfect for the walking conditions you will encounter in the Algarve. Available in all sizes.
More information about walking in the Algarve
If you would like to have more information about walking in the Algarve, the Algarve Tourism Board published a comprehensive guide of walking trails in the region. Enjoy the walks!