For those that would like some history thrown in with a great walk, then I can thoroughly recommend the coastal path between Burgau and Salema.
It is not flat, with ups and downs and the occasional area with loose stones, but the path is very suitable for anyone of average fitness.
From the central crossroads of Burgau (where there is a large bus shelter to the right), you take the road leading out of the village in the direction of the ‘Fort’. After passing the final row of houses on the left, you have a fenced field.
Just after the fencing ends, you will find a small footpath on the left; take this and it will lead you to the clifftops where you now turn right to follow a much wider path up and down along the clifftops. Careful peering over the edge will reveal steep cliff faces of alternating bands of limestone and sandstone.
Approximately 1km along this coastal path, you will find that you have gently climbed up to the highest point along the route. Ahead on a good day, you will have views all along the coastline with Sagres in the distance; behind there are coastal views to Ponta da Piedade, Lagos.
From this point, there is a stony descent, and you will notice an old warehouse to the left and, reaching out into the sea, a small disintegrating boat jetty. These are the remains of a once-thriving tuna fishing industry, which declined in the late 60s as the migration routes of the fish changed, making it unprofitable to continue fishing in the west Algarve.
At the bottom of the descent, turn right and follow the track uphill. Take care, but to your left you will see below the beautiful sandy beach of Cabanas Velhas. Stay to the right on the wide track and it will bring you down to a wide unsurfaced road; if you turn to the left, you can visit the beach. To continue the walk, you must go right and walk up to meet a surfaced road.
Here, turn left and walk along for about 100m where you will see a path off to the left that you now take. This path leads up towards a large house and, just in front of it, you will notice a path to the right that again follows the clifftops and will lead you up to a large ruin – this is the Fort of Almádena.
The fort was built in the mid 17th century on the ruins of an older fortification, variously believed to be either Roman or Muslim, and was intended to help protect the people from pirates. The fort was partially destroyed in the 1755 earthquake, however, it was still used as a military fortification until the end of the Portuguese Civil War (1828-1834) when it was abandoned.
From here, take the very wide track that leads away from the Fort towards a surfaced road. Just before reaching the road, you should see a small path to the left that heads downhill. Take this. The narrow path becomes wider and stonier as it leads down towards a beach, Boca do Rio. Just before the beach, you will pass some ruins on your left – this was a small hamlet that was destroyed by the tsunami that followed the earthquake.
Go to the left to walk along the beach leaving by the side of an abandoned building. Here you should see a sandy track that will take you uphill. However, to the left, you can see some relics of old walls above the beach; to your right, there is a very large grassy area. Underneath the grass are the remains of a Roman settlement and the wall relics are of Roman origin also. At one time, there had been excavations of the site, but a lack of funding stopped this and, to preserve the settlement, it has been covered with sand until such a time that excavations can continue.
At the top of the climb, you will notice a very wide unsurfaced track to the right. Take this and you are rewarded with wonderful views to your right over the Budens wetlands – a haven for bird and wildlife lovers. The track brings you to a small, surfaced road; turn left and then take the left fork. This small road leads you down to centre of Salema where there is a good variety of cafes and restaurants.
By Julie Statham
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Julie Statham has been walking throughout Portugal for more than 20 years and now acts as a walking advisor and guide for various companies in both Portugal and Europe. She has a background in earthsciences and a Ph.D. in geochemistry from Bristol University, UK.