The Algarve region in southern Portugal is blessed with fantastic nature and a variety of scenic landscapes perfect for exploring on foot. The area is best known for its golden sand beaches and jaw-dropping coastline but it is also home to lush green mountains, oak forests and wetlands teeming with wildlife.
During our recent trip to Portugal, we discovered some of the most beautiful hikes in the Algarve, both along the coast and in the mountainous interior of the region. Whether you prefer long-distance hiking adventures or short day hikes, you can be sure to find a trail that suits you.
Without further ado, here are the most scenic walks in the Algarve.
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Best hikes in the Algarve:
The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail
The Seven Hanging Valleys trail is a coastal walk starting at Praia da Marinha and ending at Praia do Vale de Centeanes (or vice versa). You can do it either as an out-and-back trail which would be 12 km (7.5 miles) in total or you can do it only one way (6 km/3.7miles) and then get a taxi/uber back to the starting point of the hike.
The mostly flat trail offers breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and the jagged limestone cliffs rising vertically from the turquoise water. Along the way, you’ll pass various sandy beaches surrounded by impressive rock formations, arches and sinkholes. The color of the cliffs ranges from deep orange to vibrant yellow to white and creates phenomenal scenery.
Since the Seven Hanging Valleys is one of the most beautiful Algarve hikes, it can get very crowded in the summer season. During our visit in December, we were happy to see that there were just a handful of other people on the trail – one of the perks of visiting the Algarve in winter!
P.S. The Seven Hanging Valleys trail also passes close to Benagil Cave, one of the most famous attractions in the Algarve, so it would be a good idea to make a stop there to explore this popular spot.
The only way to access this magnificent cave is by sea. You can take this kayaking or SUP tour from Benagil Beach where you’ll also get to see other attractions along the coast with a local guide. Alternatively, you can take a Benagil Cave boat tour from the neighboring towns. There are various speed boat tours departing from Portimão, from Albufeira and from Lagos as well as more relaxed catamaran tours departing from Albufeira.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t visit the cave because the waves were too big. Just another reason to come back!
Carvoeiro Boardwalk and Algar Seco
You can extend the Seven Hanging Valleys hike by walking further to the Algar Seco caves and Carvoeiro Boardwalk. They are both amazing places to explore and will only add a few extra kilometers to the hike. But you could also visit Algar Seco and Carvoeiro Boardwalk by car if you don’t feel like hiking there.
Rota Vicentina: The Fishermen’s Trail
Rota Vicentina is a network of walking trails in southwest Portugal. It consists of 750 km (466 miles) of marked paths and encompasses three routes – the Fishermen’s Trail, the Historical Path and the Circular Routes.
The Fishermen’s Trail, which has been named one of the most beautiful coastal hikes in the world by the Conde Nast Traveler magazine, leads you through the spectacular Vicentine Coast Natural Park. It starts in São Torpes and meanders along the coast all the way to Cape St. Vincent, the most southwestern point of continental Europe, and from there on to Lagos.
Crossing unspoiled coastal landscapes and deserted beaches, the trail offers endless views of the mighty Atlantic Ocean. Here you can witness the incredible power of the Atlantic waves as they dramatically crash into the high cliffs of the Vicentine Coast. You’ll be hiking in the footsteps of local fishermen who can often be seen standing on the edges of the cliffs with utmost confidence.
The total distance of the Rota Vicentina Fishermen’s Trail is 226 km (140 miles) but you don’t need to walk all of it to experience its beauty. Due to time constraints, we only walked short sections of it. Based on my experience, some of the most scenic parts of the trail are around Pontal da Carrapateira and Ponta da Piedade.
Pontal da Carrapateira
Forming a section of Rota Vicentina, the Pontal da Carrapateira trail takes you across a rugged headland with beautiful coastal scenery. Along the trail, there are several marked viewpoints offering impressive vistas of unspoiled beaches and cliffs in shades of orange, red and yellow. It is easy to see why it is considered one of the best hikes in the Algarve.
My favorite viewpoint by far was the one overlooking the Praia da Bordeira beach. This gorgeous beach is a paradise for surfers and features strong waves and a giant stretch of sand. Make sure to take a stroll across the massive golden dunes – you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of a desert!
Ponta da Piedade
Ponta da Piedade is another spectacular headland boasting fantastic rock formations, sea stacks and arches sculpted by wind and waves over thousands of years. It is located just outside Lagos, at the eastern end of the Rota Vicentina trail.
It’s a true marvel of nature with stunning views everywhere you look. Out of all the places we visited in the Algarve, Ponta da Piedade might just be the most beautiful one.
While here, don’t miss visiting the picturesque cove at the base of Ponta da Piedade, which can be accessed via a set of stairs. As the water in the cove is usually calm you can take a boat or a kayak tour to get a closer look at all the arches and grottoes. On a windy winter day, however, you can witness an amazing show of waves mercilessly pounding the cliffs.
Rota Vicentina: The Historical Way
A fun way to get to know the history of southern Portugal is to hike the Historical Way of Rota Vicentina. Starting in Santiago do Cacém Church and ending at Cape St. Vincent, the 260-km (162-mile) trail follows the paths once used by pilgrims, locals and travelers on their journeys across the region.
It’s a rural trail that extends through mountain ranges, valleys, tranquil cork tree forests and authentic villages. From Arab-era castles and coastal defense buildings to archeological sites, there are plenty of historical attractions to discover along the way.
Since The Historical Way crosses a lesser-known side of the region, it receives fewer hikers and is a great choice for those looking for some peace and solitude. The route is also suitable for mountain biking.
I didn’t get a chance to hike the Historical Way but I would love to do it in the future.
For more information on the Fishermen’s Trail and the Historical Way, such as the degree of difficulty, different rules and accommodation options near the trail, have a look at the official site of Rota Vicentina.
Unlike the other Algarve hikes in this post, the Via Algarviana trail takes you away from the coast and crosses the hilly and often overlooked interior of the region. It extends from Cape St. Vincent all the way to Alcoutim near the Spanish border and has a total distance of about 300 km (186 miles).
Passing through traditional villages, pastures and peaceful forests, the trail showcases the scenic countryside of the Algarve. You’ll see olive, almond and citrus orchards and come across a variety of aromatic plants such as eucalyptus, lavender and rosemary. If you hike Via Algarviana in spring, you’ll see fields of wildflowers in bloom.
Like with Rota Vicentina, you don’t need to hike the entire Via Algarviana to enjoy the fresh mountain air and the pristine nature as you can choose to walk just parts of the trail. We hiked a short section of Via Algarviana in the Monchique mountains.
Hiking in Monchique
Via Algarviana passes through the lovely mountain town Monchique, which is an ideal place to base yourself if you just want to hike a part of the Via Algarviana trail. With charming narrow streets, traditional whitewashed houses and hot springs, the town is definitely worth a visit on its own.
The short hike that we did in Monchique started at Fóia viewpoint, which is the highest point of the Algarve at 902 meters (2,960 ft). On a clear day, you should be able to see the Algarve coastline and the ocean from here.
The route will take you east towards the town of Monchique. Passing through eucalyptus groves and a fairytale-like cork oak forest, the vegetation along the trail is beautiful and very different from the one found on the coast. You will also pass by the abandoned Nossa Senhora do Desterro Convent, the most famous landmark of Monchique.
For more practical information on hiking the Via Algarviana trail, visit the official website of Via Algarviana.
Algarve hikes: Final thoughts
I hope that this post gave you some inspiration for exploring the incredible landscapes and the unspoiled nature of the Algarve.
Do you know of any other beautiful Algarve hikes that should be added to this list? Let me know in the comments!
For more photos and videos of our Algarve trip, check out my Instagram account. Look for the stories highlight called Portugal.
You might also be interested in my other blog posts about Portugal:
This post was made in collaboration with Algarve Tourism Bureau but as always, the opinions here are my own.
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