One hundred and fifty kilometers of coastline. Countless paradise-like bays. And a year-round sunny climate. All ingredients that make the Algarve the ideal destination for a lazy beach vacation. But there’s also plenty to do for the more active vacationer. You can take beautiful hikes, either along the beaches and cliffs or through the hilly interior. Feel like hiking in the Algarve? We’ve tested many of the trails and these are our favorites.
- In this article
- 1. Beach and cliff hike at Praia da Falesia
- 2. The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail
- 3. To the highest point along the Foia Hike
- 4. Lagos Coast Walk to Ponta da Piedade
- 5. The end of the world at Cabo de São Vicente
- Staying overnight in the Algarve
1. Beach and cliff hike at Praia da Falesia
Ten kilometers east of Albufeira, just past Olhos de Água, lies a beautiful beach with towering red, gold and copper colored cliffs. The cliffs bear a striking resemblance to Bryce Canyon in America, albeit on a smaller scale.
The parking lot is close to the shore, so all you have to do is follow the swimsuit-clad tourists carrying coolers and inflatable flamingos to the stairs that lead down to the sandy beach. Just a hundred meters further on, you’ll leave the beach and take another set of stairs leading uphill. From there, a trail begins that takes you over the cliffs. Over the course of about three kilometers, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean. Be careful as the cliffs drop steeply in many places!
Along the way, you’ll come across wooden steps that allow you to descend to the beach. You can change the length of this hike to suit your needs. We turned around the Adriana Beach Resort and started our way back along the beach. We walked along the shoreline, narrowly avoiding waves that came closer than expected, and enjoyed the warmth of the evening sun.
Praia da Falesia
2. The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail
This marked trail is one of the most well-known in the region, so you will have to share the trails with many other adventurous travelers. The reason is obvious: it is breathtakingly beautiful. Despite the crowds, this is a hike not to be missed.
You start at another exceptionally beautiful beach, Praia da Marinha. There is plenty of parking space available. From here, just follow the yellow-red markings westward and feast your eyes. You’ll pass impressive rock formations, both on the beach and in the sea, and you’ll even see arches sculpted by the immense power of the water.
After two kilometers you reach the famous Benagil Cave, one of the highlights of the Algarve. You can admire the cave from above through a hole in the “ceiling”. However, it is not possible to enter the cave from there; it is only accessible from the water. Through the opening you’ll see kayaks and paddleboards resting on the small beach inside the cave.
At the fifth kilometer, you’ll pass a beautiful lighthouse, and after six kilometers, you’ll reach your destination: Praia de Vale Centianes. Treat yourself to a refreshing beer or a delicious meal at the beach restaurant. You’ve earned it!
You could, of course, walk back in the opposite direction. But we decided to take the easy way out and called an Uber. The ride back to the parking lot took only twelve minutes and cost us €6.50.
Seven Hanging Valleys
3. To the highest point along the Foia Hike
A change of scenery is always refreshing, and that’s why we recommend a hike in the Algarve’s interior. The environment here is completely different. The green hills are full of cork, eucalyptus and pine trees. In the summer you can escape the heat and also find peace and quiet, as the inland areas can sometimes feel quite deserted.
The highest point in the south of Portugal is Pico da Foia. Admittedly, a mountain of 902 meters may not sound very imposing, but from this rooftop of the Algarve you get a panoramic view in all directions. On a clear day you can see all the towns along the coast, including Sagres in the far west.
To reach this highest point, you can actually drive up by car, but of course we preferred to walk. We parked along the road on the Estrada da Foia. There we joined a marked trail and followed the yellow-red markings through the woods. Later, we connected to the long-distance trail called Via Algarviana, a 240-kilometer route that crosses the interior from east to west.
After five kilometers we reached the literal and figurative highlight of the day: Pico da Foia. At the simple restaurant at the top, we enjoyed a light snack and waited for the dark clouds to dissipate, finally giving us a view of the coastline. With a sense of accomplishment, we began our return trip. The descent was steep at times, which was not ideal for sensitive knees, but we were still glad we took the loop in this direction.
Pico da Foia
4. Lagos Coast Walk to Ponta da Piedade
Lagos is one of the most vibrant cities in the Algarve, but just outside the city walls we discovered an even bigger gem: Ponta da Piedade. The rock formations on this cape are incredibly rugged, rising like stone towers out of the sea. You can admire them on a boat tour, but you can also reach them on foot from Lagos, passing several breathtaking bays along the way.
Although there is a wooden boardwalk with different viewpoints, we preferred to go our own way and walk closer to the sea. Not only was it more adventurous, but it also allowed us to see more of the beaches, mysterious caves, and yellow sandstone cliffs.
When you’re near the furthest point, you can go down along the Passeio às grutas (Cave Trail). You should definitely do this! It will take you to wild waters that, depending on the sunlight, range from turquoise to cobalt blue. Only small boats can navigate through the finger-like gates, arches, peaks and towers that nature has created here.
Finally, the southernmost tip of the cape is a great place to watch the sunset. You’ll have to make your way back in the twilight, which isn’t a problem as the route along the paved road is far less inspiring. It’s the perfect time to look forward to finding a bar in Lagos!
Lagos Coast Walk
5. The end of the world at Cabo de São Vicente
Cabo de São Vicente is the most south-westerly point on the European mainland and is well worth a visit. For a long time it was believed that civilization ended here, and you can understand why when you take a walk on this sixty meter high rocky plateau. The cliffs are almost vertical and are constantly battered by the waves of the wild Atlantic Ocean. The atmosphere here is very different from the picturesque bays further east.
Parking is available at the Forte de Beliche, supposedly the residence of Henry the Navigator. From here, head north to the other side of this narrow strip of land. Then continue along the coast to the lighthouse, whose beams can be seen up to a hundred kilometers out to sea. Unfortunately, the lighthouse was under reconstruction when we visited.
At the cape, you’ll find several food stands, including the “Last Bratwurst before America” truck, where you can order a delicious bratwurst. After refueling, you can choose to walk back along the road or continue along the coast. You can make the trip as long or as short as you like.
Cabo de Sao Vicente
Staying overnight in the Algarve
Tranquil, fairly central location. Amazing hospitality. Delicious breakfast. Restored traditional farmhouse.
Centrally located, right in the heart of Lagos. Free parking nearby. Very welcoming hosts. Excellent breakfast.