Tavira’s Pego do Inferno attracts dozens of visitors each day despite “no entry” signs

It was closed to the public in 2012 after a massive fire, and access routes are virtually non-existent, but Tavira’s Pego do Inferno waterfall continues to attract hundreds of visitors, many foreign holidaymakers, who somehow find their way there.
Access is difficult, through the woods and along stream margins, but persistent visitors always find a way to get to the natural beauty spot – even though they are disrespecting the “no entry” signs put up two years ago by the local council when a large fire destroyed access routes to the waterfall. In fact, it destroyed 20,000 hectares of ‘serra’ in Tavira and neighbouring São Brás de Alportel, and was considered one of the largest fires ever to hit the Algarve.
Tavira mayor Jorge Botelho hopes to rebuild access routes with the aid of EU funds but for now those who want to visit the waterfall and its lake should prepare for some adventure. Getting there is not easy, say visitors, but “it is well worth the trouble”.
Speaking to Lusa news agency, 25-year-old Tiago Coelho from Lisbon said he just had to visit Pego do Inferno after seeing some pictures on the internet.
He knew he was in for a natural spectacle, but nothing prepared him for what he saw when he got there – dozens of people, including many holidaymakers, swimming in the lake and enjoying the surroundings. “I was very surprised because if a Portuguese national, like me, didn’t know about this place (until recently), how come tourists knew?” he added.
Pego do Inferno is the largest of three waterfalls in the Asseca river valley and boasts a lake where people can enjoy a swim.
It was once a well-kept secret but has slowly become one of Tavira’s and the eastern Algarve’s most popular tourist attractions.
In 2011, Pego do Inferno was in the news over vandalism and safety issues. The council even took the drastic action of closing the site to safeguard the naturally-rich area and ensure the safety of the public.
But then it was hit by the fire in 2012 and the lack of funding to carry out improvement works has meant the attraction will continue to be “officially” shut.
Many legends about the site are told by locals. The most popular and well-known tells of a carriage that fell into the lake and was never found. As divers allegedly were unable to find the bottom of the lake, it became known as ‘Pego do Inferno’ (Hell’s Pit).
Locals also speak of underwater tunnels that connect to the Guadiana and Gilão rivers.