What’s the most wonderful way to discover the Algarve? On foot, hiking on one of the numerous trails along the distinctive rocky coast, of course! The mild temperatures, especially in spring, not only invite you to long beach walks, but also to go hiking.
Unfortunately, I have to admit that until now I walked mainly in the area around the TUI BLUE Falesia, because I’m originally from Lisbon. My first thought was, So I ask one of our BLUE Guides, who know the area best! After a short consultation I choose “The Seven Hanging Valleys,” also known as “Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos,” one of the most famous hiking routes in the Algarve. In addition, I get the tip to download the free hiking guide from the website of the local tourist organisation. Super – now I can finally begin!
The most iconic hiking route in the Algarve
The stunning coastal walk between Vale Centianes (Carvoeiro) in the west and Praia da Marinha in the east is about 11.5 kilometres long. The trail leads along the steep coast, which is interrupted by seven watercourses; these have created small valleys over time, which give the path its name. With this route, I can enjoy the perfect combination of sun, sea, and adventure.
What’s in the hiking backpack?
Hiking alone is no fun! So I bring my friend with me on the adventure. Before we set off, we first learn how to equip ourselves for such a hike. Our tips: Always have a hat, sunglasses, and suitable footwear with you; light clothing in mild temperatures; a small, light backpack for plenty of water and snacks; a first aid kit; a torch (in case darkness falls); your cell phone; and, of course, a camera for unforgettable holiday photos.
You should plan your hike in advance, in order to be sure the weather is sunny and clear. Another factor is your time management. Don’t start too late because you won’t want to get caught on the rocky trails after nightfall, when it’s difficult to see. My tip: Start in the early afternoon in order to experience a gorgeous sunset on the way back!
Start in the Seven Hanging Valleys
After packing our hiking backpack, we decide to hike the first part of the Seven Hanging Valleys. The popular hiking route in the Algarve is open all year round. Right at the beginning, a sign points us to markers along the way, which help us not to stray from the right path. We recognise these prominently placed symbols everywhere along the trail, so we won’t get lost!
The trail begins at a picnic spot on Praia da Maria beach. Here we find an information board that shows the whole route at a glance. From here we have a great view of the beach and can take the first of many beautiful pictures! To my astonishment, I notice that the signboard mentions that the tour is bike-accessible. My disbelief doesn’t go unnoticed and some locals quickly assure us that they advise against bikes, as many passages are difficult to navigate. By the way: if you want to travel by car to the starting point of the Seven Hanging Valleys, you will find plenty of parking spaces on the beach.
Praia da Marinha
Many don’t know that Praia da Marinha is one of the most popular beaches in the Algarve and one of the most beautiful in Europe. The view over the rugged cliff-lined beach shows natural bridges of rock, caves, and seabird nests as well as passing seagulls on the horizon. This hike offers a number of surprises, such as wooded areas or huge sinkholes where I could hear the waves of the sea. It is a unique experience that gives me the opportunity to enjoy a relaxing day in good company.
The impressive shoreline commands my full attention thanks to its wide variety of geological forms and deep sea caves. On the first part of the journey I recognise the Arco Natural, also known as the “Rock Gate.” This rock was shaped by wind and weather and is an impressive masterpiece of nature.
The Grotto at Praia de Benagil
Perhaps the most famous place along the way is the Praia de Benagil, where the “Gruta de Benagil” or “Grotto of Benagil” is located. On the beach you can rent a kayak or take a short boat tour. The tour takes you to various sinkholes and sea caves along with some stopovers before docking in the world-famous Benagil Cave. Adventure-seekers can swim from the beach to the cave and back. However, I don’t recommend that as the current here can be very strong depending on the weather. The Praia de Bengail is located between Carvoeiro and Praia da Marinha.
But even from the Trail of the Seven Hanging Valleys, I have a fantastic view into the impressive cave below. With so many natural spectacles along the hiking trail, there is hardly time to catch my breath!
Nature, how you amaze me!
We continue along the path, noticing in many places that the cliffs offer a perfect refuge for various species of animals. Most of all, I observe rabbits, warblers, owls, and various types of butterflies. In the spring, vegetation sprouts and makes the Algarve trail unique for its fragrant and colourful ambience.
When we arrive at the Praia da Carvalho, an impressive beach hidden between cliffs and rocks, we decide to stop for a lunch break. Access to the beach is not easy to find. We have to cross a narrow tunnel that ends on a kind of balcony and finally leads down to the beach. Along the western cliffs there are several caves which we briefly perused before the break.
After finishing our lunch and leaving Praia do Carvalho, we continue our trek towards Leixão do Ladrão. Once there, we watch the water flowing through the rocks, forming almost perfect natural pools.
Another highlight on the Trail of the Seven Hanging Valleys is the “Farol de Alfanzina,” the lighthouse of Alfanzina, at the Cape of Carvoeiro. The lighthouse is 23 metres high and its light has a luminosity of 29 nautical miles. Unfortunately, the lighthouse can only be visited on Wednesdays, so my companion and I can only admire it from a distance.
Afterwards the trail narrows and is surrounded by impressive vegetation. It leads downhill and we climb a bit until we reach a wider path. This leads along a cliff to the end of our route to the beach “Vale de Centeanes.” We arrive just in time to enjoy the stunning sunset on the beach with a glass of wine in hand. Is that not the best way to end an incredible day?