Odeleite is a traditional unassuming village of less than 600 inhabitants located just off the IC27, which runs north from Castro Marim to Alcoutim.
Walking through the village, it is very clear that it has maintained its rural identity, with very few signs of 20th-century tourism, although a museum has recently been created from an old warehouse to show off to any visitors the traditions of the area and act as a social space for local events.
The Castro Marim Council has waymarked several walks in the surrounding countryside which will really offer an insight into an area that is usually overlooked by visitors to the Algarve.
The main walk from the village itself is the PR4, which begins from a very large and old eucalyptus tree just below the cemetery at the village entrance.
The walk is just under 11km, has a total climb of 264m and can be comfortably completed in three hours; it is clearly waymarked with red and yellow stripes.
The walk begins by taking you down through the narrow village streets to cross the bridge over the Odeleite River.
Just before the bridge on your left, you will see the 16th-century church of Nossa Senhora da Visitação.
From here you pass through fields of olive and carob trees before climbing up hill to the small hamlet of Fonte do Penedo. It is quite a climb, so take a break and enjoy the views from the hamlet before continuing.
You walk through the heart of the hamlet before following good tracks through unspoilt countryside to the village of Alcaria, where again you pass through the centre of the village.
As you leave the village, you turn left to follow a good surface road for a short distance before another left-turn takes you back into the countryside.
You follow a wide dirt track which offers good views to your left, before heading downhill passing abandoned farmsteads (used these days to keep goats) before reaching the banks of the Odeleite river.
Here it is easy walking as you pass by the restored tidal Moinho das Pernadas watermill – a great picnic spot. The banks of the river are lined with reeds which were once used to make baskets for local use (the history of this cottage industry can be found in the museum, together with samples of the different basket types).
The river is also home to a good variety of birds which can be viewed from the picnic table by the mill.
There are almost 3km of walking along the river margins before arriving back at the village and the sting in the tail – you must climb back up through the winding streets to your car! But there are several bars in the village for refreshments.
If the above walk is too much, then there is an alternative walk close by. It is from the Barragem do Beliche, which is found again off the IC27 just south of Odeleite.
The barragem is clearly signed from the road (a left turn if travelling north) and the walk begins at the carpark by the dam (barragem) wall. It is signed PR2 and is circular with a total distance of just under 7km. The official classification is ‘easy’ although there is a descent of almost 100m and a climb of 60m – so yes, easy!
From the carpark, you walk across the walls of the dam and then through the countryside, passing over the hills of Santo António before dropping down to cross the Beliche River.
From here, you arrive at a small, surfaced road where you turn right. The road takes you through the village of Beliche where you pass by the remains of an old water well (nora) which is very well preserved.
Approximately 1km of walking along the road, you will see a right turn that takes you back to the banks of the river, marked by tall reeds. You will come out below the dam walls where you have a left turn that leads you back up to the carpark.
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.