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Walking the Portuguese Southwest coast of the Algarve - what is it like?
One of many “must do” activities in Portugal is definitely hiking along the Southwest coast all the way down to the southernmost part of the country, the Algarve region. The Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural park's peaceful atmosphere, with it's pristine beaches, dramatic cliffs and delicious gastronomy and renowned the trails of the "Rota Vicentina", will make you fall in love with the most preserved natural stretch of coastline in Europe!
For many Portuguese, Algarve is the summer holiday favourite destination, due to it’s warm weather, blue waters and white sandy beaches. Here you can find some of the beaches that were voted best of the world, by renowned specialist magazines and websites. By heading to the Algarve's Southwest Coast is where you'll truly find will discover the best destination for hiking, away from the busy resorts and in trails alongside the beaches- inserted in the natural park of Southwestern Alentejo and Vicentine Coast, you'll discover a paradise for hiking, birdwatching, cycling or surfing enthusiasts and all nature lovers. Its cliffed beaches and chilled atmosphere are the perfect area to go on an adventure of a lifetime. Here is a description of a 5 day itinerary in the Algarve's Southwest Coast, which you can discover on your own on our self-guided walking tour in the Algarve.
The tour starts right in the heart of the Southwestern Alentejo and Vicentina Coast - natural park. Arifana, pretty famous for its beautiful beaches and world class waves for surf enthusiasts as you will have the chance to check while hiking.
Walking from the centre of the Village of Aljezur, you will find your first climb, it’s a 1.5 km’s stretch towards the quiet streets of the village all the way up to the castle. There you will have the chance to overview the whole town and your following steps on today’s hike. Next, you will walk in a plateau section where you can start to have a glimpse about the fauna and flora surrounding that part of the Portuguese coast.
The first beach highlight of the day is the next spot, the Monte Clérigo beach, graved in the cliffs but with easy access, it is the perfect location to stop and take a break for a snack and enjoy this remarkable spot. By the beach you will find a few restaurants/bars where you can have lunch or simply a cold beer/cocktail. Following the route, the tour will follow the coastal area and you will spot some little villages where many locals live or have their surf/water related businesses running.
The last stop of the day is the Arrifana beach where there is a small fishing hamlet, nestles in a pretty shell-shaped bay, which shelters it from the cold wind and waves from the north. Although narrow, the beach stretches for over 700 metres and is framed by imposing, craggy, black schist sea cliffs. If you look to the south, you will see a huge, dark, thin rock sticking up out of the sea. This is called the Pedra da Agulha (Needle Rock) and it has become an icon on the Costa Vicentina. If you just decide to stay at the top, the views from there are great and you can have a full perspective of the beach. Take some time to enjoy the place as you are close from your hotel destination for today. Also you can come back to this place by the end of the day to enjoy a surf lesson or simply relax by the beach, it’s your call! Just a few meters from there you will find the hotel location - do the check-in, make yourself comfortable and enjoy the rest of the day.
Before you start today's hike, make sure you have enough food and water supplies for the whole route, you will be walking mostly far from villages, by the forest area.
On your second day hiking, the route will take you back to Arrifana beach, from there you will head south in some trails by the cliffs until you reach the almost unknown Canal Beach. Mostly rocky, that beach is not so popular for sunbath lovers but it´s a beautfil a super quiet spot that also gives you the “backside” perspective of Arrifana beach where you are still able to see the lonely Pedra da Agulha (Needle Rock). Following the route, it will lead you more inland to the macadame trails by a forested area, for about 10 km’s, mostly surrounded by native pine trees and many stevia trees, also used as a sweetener with its greasy looking leaves - Pretty common in this region of the country!
After this long section by the forest, you will reach the little village of Bordeira, a small location where most of the residents live for long generations. The last stretch of the day will be for 4 km by the paved road until your final destination of the day, Carrapateira, where your hotel is located.
After doing the hotel check-in you can enjoy the rest of the day by the hotel pool, or we suggest you to rent a bike for a little loop in the area, or if you missed a chance to go for a surfing lesson, you will find plenty of related offers. There is also, in Carrapateira, a little market where you can find some souvenirs and groceries or if you wish to go for lunch or dinner.
Today’s hike will be one of the most unique hiking loops in Portugal with memorable views. Leaving the hotel you will walk an asphalted section for the first 3kms until reaching the first beautiful beach of the day, the Bordeira beach. There you can enjoy some time by the beach or following the route uphill you will get to a plateau, the famous Bordeira plateau. Up there, the first viewpoint you will find is a wooden path overlooking the Bordeira beach and also a big extension of the coastline up north that you walked the days before. The views from there are like taken from a postcard!
Heading further south, in this next section you will keep following the cliffs on a gravel road, where there are many amazing viewpoints and some extremely hard access beaches that are a delight for your eyes. You will also be able to spot the ruins of ancient fisherman’s settlement on a location where the view is really unique and where you’ll also be able to spot your next stop, the Amado beach.
Once in Amado beach you can enjoy the bars/restaurants by the beach or dive in the ocean if the weather invites you to. This beautiful beach it’s a pretty famous spot for the locals and marks the last stop of the Bordeira plateau .
Finishing the hike today, you will pass close to the Carrapateira village and follow the gravel road through the valley, where you will experience the Algarve’s countryside atmosphere and quietness. Done with this section you will get to the final destination of the day and also your hotel for tonight, the Aldeia da Pedralva. This place was once a small village, but among the time it became desertified and many houses ruined. Nowadays, the rural hotel owners bought many of the houses and converted them into individual rooms, where you will have the chance to experience how it was to live in a small village like that. There are still some locals living there, extremely friendly, always waiting to answer you back with a “Olá” and a smile, an unforgettable experience!
Day4 - Pedralva - Vila do Bispo (17km’s - 213m total ascent)
On your third day hiking you’ll leave Aldeia da Pedralva following an unpaved road, once used for the locals to connect to Vila do Bispo, the nex big town. Then this stretch will start converting into a forested area where a big wind farm is located, the biggest of it’s kind in the area, an unexpected scenario but still pretty beautiful.
Done with this stretch you will cross the asphalted national road and follow a gravel section until a point where the plates referring to the beaches of Castelejo and Cordoama will be spotted. The track will lead you to a viewpoint, at the top of the cliffs between both beaches of Castelejo on your left and Cordoama on your right. There, the view speaks for itself, a unique panorama image taken from a dream movie, plus a wide perspective of the coastline, one of the most pretty spots of this tour, and the highlight for the day. Make sure you take some time to enjoy this place and maybe make it the stopping point for a snack.
The next destination is Vila do Bispo, the town where you will stay for the night and the second biggest one of the whole tour. There you will find some small and very typical restaurants, pretty populars among the locals. You may give it a try to local delicacies like “Percebes” or the very local “fried moray eel” , it’s your call!
Day5 - Vila do Bispo - Sagres (24km’s - 331m total ascent)
This is your last day hiking and also the longest distance of the tour with a total po 24 km’s. Leaving Vila do Bispo town, the tour will take you to a long flat stretch on a macadame trail, this spot is pretty famous among the bird watching lovers for observation of local species and a completely different landscape observed in the previous days.
Going further south, the tour will lead you to one of the last beachesreached on the tour, the Ponta Ruiva beach, a hidden gem in the area and a perfect spot for a dive or time to relax. Back on track, follow the trails towards the highlight of the day, the St. Vicent cape and lighthouse, this is the southwesternmost point of continental Europe and one of the closest points from northern Africa. Once there, take some time to enjoy the place, the amazing scenario with the cliffs “falling” to the ocean always illuminated with the majestic lighthouse, that will make you feel like a water drop in the middle of the ocean. It's a one of a kind spot.
From the lighthouse you will start hiking East, towards Sagres. Getting there the mandatory visit spot is the Sagres fortress dating from the 15th century, once one of the major defences against invaders and an unmissable location in town of Sagres. This coastal town has an old fishing tradition and nowadays is pretty popular for surfers, due to its unique conditions for practising. Don’t forget to check the Baleeira beach, the most central one with it’s incredible vibe.
Your hotel is located right in the town centre as you may first consider to relax there and lay by the warmed pool with a view over the ocean, and then taking some time to enjoy the town centre where many restaurants and bars will be located, off course many restaurants are more fish oriented but you will find a big variety of options ready to satisfy your gastronomical needs. Don’t forget to “make a toast” to celebrate the end of this epic journey you have experienced for the last five days, cheers to you!
Enjoyed this small description on the wonders of exploring the Algarve's southwest coast on foot? Then take a look at our self-guided walking tour in the Algarve, that explores this exact itinerary, and can start any day of the week, for a minimum group of two guests.
Also, if you are planning to discover Portugal on foot, check our quick guide about Walking in Portugal, where we talk about when to go and the best regions to go hiking in Portugal, among other insider tips.