By PAUL MCKAY [email protected]
In his new bimonthly column, Paul McKay will be taking readers along some of the routes less travelled in the Algarve as well as well-trodden but still enjoyable paths.
The route – non circular
Start – Marina at Praia da Rocha
Finish – Old town, Alvor
Level – Easy to moderate (a few climbs)
Time – approximately 2 hours
As I write, the July temperature in Monchique is teetering around the 40s, the most ridiculous time of the year to contemplate walking anywhere in the Algarve.
With this in mind, this first walk is very straightforward, avoids prolonged climbing, passes dozens of cafés and restaurants but still manages to uncover a little of the unspoilt Algarve.
Stunning cliff top views can be enjoyed, some deserted farmhouses explored, hidden beaches discovered, fresh figs picked from wild trees and there is a trek through a scented pine forest.
Most of the walk benefits from a cooling sea breeze and can be undertaken by all but the morbidly unfit. And all a stone’s throw from Praia da Rocha!
Enjoy this gentle midsummer stroll in preparation for more strenuous routes in the months ahead.
It does stick to well-trodden paths. It is not Everest. But it is a manageable pleasant amble for mid-August.
I would advise you to avoid walking between 11am and 5pm, to apply sun screen and to take a good supply of water.
The walk begins at the Marina in Praia da Rocha. Head for the new board-walk that follows the cliffs that flank the beach. This board-walk makes walking along the beach pleasant all year round and is popular with joggers early morning and late evening.
At the end of the board-walk, if the tide is out head around the cliff to the water line and continue walking along the beach, heading west.
This end of Rocha is less developed and the beach bars are more low key. As long as the tide is out far enough, it is possible to follow the water’s edge until the cliffs end and you arrive at Praia de Vau.
If the tide is in, you will need to climb the steps and follow the road or paths at the top of the cliffs that head towards Vau. This is decidedly less pretty but does boast some pretty cafés.
As you arrive at Praia do Vau, look ahead at the pine covered headland and the rocky coastline – that is where we are heading.
Vau is the last opportunity for refreshment for a while, so if you are in need of sustenance, now is your chance.
Once refreshed, head to the last beach bar which is called Bar Lino. Behind this bar is a path leading up above the sea.
As you climb, you will notice a severe drop to the beach below, so to avoid free fall diving keep away from the edge.
The path soon becomes concrete and you arrive at two stone pillars – pass through these.
Keep straight on the now gravel path, through another pair of stone pillars and follow the mud path down a hill. This joins a road leading to a car park which serves the beach of Barranco das Canas.
As you head down this short road, look ahead and you will see some steep, dangerous looking steps carved into the mud on the cliff in front – climb these.
At the top, head towards the cliff edge again and choose any of the small paths that wander along the cliffs’ edge.
Soon the gentle hubbub from the beach is replaced by birdsong and the irritating screech of gulls. The air smells fresher and is filled with the scent of pine. Follow the cliff path, although you will have to come inland to cross two deep ravines. After each one, move back towards the cliff edge.
After the first ravine, there is an impressive blow hole where you can look down at the waves crashing below.
If you wish to maintain the pretence of being in the unspoilt Algarve, avoid looking east at all costs.
After crossing the second ravine, head back towards the sea where the path passes under an old pine tree and past a concrete post. Further on, the path forks, take the left fork sticking close to the cliff edge. You soon arrive at a narrow strip of land that heads onto a small headland – follow this and look down at the caves, beaches and rock formations below.
These beaches can be reached by boat or a treacherous climb on some slippery paths. One is known locally as Praia do Submarino. If you look to the right, you can see the rock formation that appears at low tide giving the beach its name.
Now turn around, head back to terra firma, follow the path left through the pine forest, this joins a wider track, turn left onto this track as it skirts an old ruin.
Follow the track, passing a pile of old branches and climb towards a clump of very old pines. At the top, you will see grape vines in front of you, and a huge, round, disused water deposit to the right, keep to the path which heads off left.
Head towards a bougainvillea clad villa in front (Casa Caracol), keeping the vines to your right. You’ll see a better road lower down, head to that to pass in front of the villa, the distant sea can be seen to the left. Next to the Casa Caracol is a blue and white cottage, opposite is a road with a NO ENTRY sign and some broken wooden signposts.
These wooden posts marked the walk but have been destroyed at this junction. Ignore the NO ENTRY sign, walk along this short road, when the fence to the right ends take the path that shoots up the bank and becomes a well trodden path heading back towards the sea.
Keep with this path through fields until you pass a big sand coloured complex on your left, then the path widens and a hedge runs along to the left. You arrive at a broken fence. Carry straight along the narrow path, keeping the entire fenced area to your left. You soon arrive at a vast open lawn area which is the resort of Prainha, with the beach down steps to your left (further on there’s a lift too).
This area is really quite beautiful with benches looking out over the sea. Keep following the cliff path until you reach Restaurante O Búzio. Pass the restaurant and immediately turn left on a calçada path down to the beaches of Três Irmãos and Torralta.
Here you can make your way onto the wooden walkway along the beach heading on west towards Alvor beach. After the pine, the cicadas and the tranquility of the cliff tops, the fragrant scent of Alvor, chips, vinegar and suntan oil can jar the senses a little.
You continue along the walkway for about 15 minutes or so, pass (or stop to indulge) at a tiny beach bar called Bar de Praia.
Conveniently, the walkway ends some 30 metres before joining a ramp leading up to a road. Trudge to the ramp and join the road which passes the Windsurf Beach Bar, then turn right to leave the beach. At the roundabout, keep straight on, pass the fishing huts and, at the end, walk across the calçada esplanade with cafés that overlook the harbour – you are on the homeward stretch now.
Once across the esplanade, there is the old fish market, walk up the main road, Rua Verde, a dizzy road of pizza cafés, music bars and flip flop shops.
Eventually you arrive at a crossroads (Albar coffee shop in front), turn left. You arrive at a very sweet square with the tourist information office in front and Alvor church off to the left.
Turn right to head down to Alvor bus stop and taxi rank where there are endless affordable ways of returning to Portimão, Praia da Rocha and hopefully, your car.