The village of Esteval dos Mouros is a linear village that lies nestled in a valley with the imposing Rocha da Pena to the north and the large village of Paderne to the south. Both places had an important significance during the Moorish occupation of the Algarve.
The Moors built a castle at Paderne in the ninth century and are said to have hidden in the caves on top of Rocha da Pena during the Christian reconquest of Portugal. But, for more than four centuries, this area was the Moors’ heartland.
You may be wondering what this brief history lesson has to do with the village and the answer lies in its name – ‘Esteval’ translates as ‘Rock Rose’ and ‘dos Mouros’ as ‘of the Moors’, and for centuries during the spring, the countryside here has been awash with flowers, many of them rock roses of the Cistus family.
I led a circular walk through the village and surrounding area in early February – while the spring flowers were only just beginning to show, the almond blossom was in full bloom. If you have never visited the area, you will not be disappointed whatever time of the year you go.
There is no café in the village, so I would suggest parking at the village entrance by the abandoned school building on the left. From here, you can walk up the road through the lower part of the village arriving very quickly at the Largo Amadeu Pedro da Cruz.
From here, it is best to continue straight ahead along the road where you will see local gardens decorated with improvised arts and crafts, which I can guarantee will bring a smile to your face.
You may notice red and white signs for the ‘Via Algarviana’ on the road while you walk and, after almost 1km, they will indicate a turn to the right; you can turn and follow a minor surfaced road. Either side of the road, you will see orange and olive groves together with wild scrubland with a variety of birds flying overhead. The road is flat, and this is easy walking.
When you have walked enough, you just turn round and retrace your footsteps. Don’t worry, this will not be at all boring as everything looks so different when coming from a different direction.
If you are more adventurous and do not mind a climb, then I suggest exploring the hills above Esteval dos Mouros. Park as above, but this time walk back down the road for about 50m when you will see a track off to the right. Turn and follow the track as it heads uphill passing fields that are either full of carob and olive trees or have been abandoned.
The track, which again is part of the Via Algarviana, will bring you up to the abandoned hamlet of Rocha Amarela (Yellow Rock), where ruined houses are slowly crumbling as they succumb to the vagaries of the Algarve climate. Just exactly when the hamlet was abandoned is unclear, but it has been in the last 60 years.
As you walk around and explore, you cannot help but wonder who once lived there. Life would have been hard, and it is easy to see why young people left as soon as they could. I imagine houses were never reoccupied once the older occupants died off.
From here, the views over the village below and surrounding area are superb; on clear days you have amazing panoramas down to the coast and up to Monchique. They are a just reward for your exertions. You should return to your car by the same track – now so much easier as it is downhill!
How to find Esteval dos Mouros: Take the EN270 from EN125 from Albufeira towards Messines. You pass through Purgatório continuing north and, after about 2km, turn right to Ribeira de Alte. Drive through the village and then follow the signs for Lentiscais. Drive through Lentiscais, stay on the main road and, after almost 2km, you come to a junction – turn right and you will see the village sign of Esteval dos Mouros.
Julie and her team lead walks every Tuesday morning and every other Friday. All are welcome. There is a nominal charge of €5 per person and this includes a donation to charity. Full details at www.portugalwalks.com or in the diary section of the Resident.
February 22 – Let’s Walk in the forest at Barão de S. João
February 25 – Let’s Walk from Benafim
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.