Hiking the Algarve – A Rocha Delicada

The Viaalgarviana is a long distance trail that runs 300 km across the Algarve from Alcoutim on the Guadiana River at the Spanish border to Cabo de São Vincente in the west. One the main goals of the system is to introduce people to the interior of the Algarve, away from the beaches and resort towns and to show the natural, cultural and historic charms of another side of the Algarve. In addition to the long distance path an additional group of 12 Rotas Pequenas (small routes) have been established in several parts of the Algarve. A Rocha Delicada is one of these trails.

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Train crossing at the starting point of the trail

Between Lagos and Portimao, and beginning at the Estação (train station) Mexilhoeira Grande the trail runs along several dirt roads passing small rural homes, farms and some larger villas. A multitude of spring flowers were in bloom and the late March sun was brilliant on the day we walked this trail. All around the fields and farms swallows and martins were swooping everywhere we looked. Warblers, blackbirds, cisticolas, crested larks, magpies, goldfinch and greenfinch added their songs to the pleasant soundtrack of the morning.

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As with so much of rural Portugal, the properties range from rustic ruins to modest dwellings to expansive (and expensive) villas all existing side by side. It makes for interesting contrasts set against the backdrop of the fields, cacti, orchards and vineyards which are characteristic of this area.

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Gradually the road leaves the houses behind and winds along the extensive wetlands of the Rio Alvor. In days past productive salt pans were developed in many of the estuaries, creating a series of ponds, streams and ditches. In addition to the natural salt marsh habitats this is a very productive area for both migrating and resident shore birds and many other species.

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Flamingos at rest

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Eurasian Linnet

The trail branches off the dirt road and follows the salt marsh out to the tidal edge of the estuary. This is an even and easy walk along the tops of small dykes that have been built to control the ingress of water to this part of the wetland. It also provides excellent viewing and photography opportunities across the marshes. On the day we were there we spotted flamingos, spoonbills, egrets, dunlin, plovers, stilts and sandpipers all within a short distance of the path.

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Returning to the road the trail passes a small sandy beach that looked very inviting in the relatively hot sun. In fact there was a family enjoying the day while the children frolicked at the water’s edge. Stopping for a small picnic lunch this was also the area where we encountered our first mosquitoes of the spring.

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The last leg of the trail is quite different as the road leads uphill through expansive fields providing pastoral backdrops for the vibrant flowers, enigmatic ruins and occasional hawks and egrets. Long time readers of our blog will know that we really enjoy walking these small country roads and discovering the amazing little scenes that open up around each corner or from the crest of each hill.

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As we neared the end of the trail, we both commented how hot this particular trail would be in the middle of the summer as there is little shade anywhere along the way. The back of our necks were sunburned as it was. So best to walk in the early morning or on cloudy days. That is case however for most hiking here in the Algarve and the guide books will warn you to avoid them in the summer altogether.

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Protecting their territory

At 6 km this trail was very pleasant and traversed a range of scenery and habitats. Probably the biggest drawback is that the road did seem that it could be busy (and dusty) at times. Also for anyone wanting to just do some birding, you can easily drive to the section of the trail that winds around the saltmarsh. This would make a very nice 2 km walk on its own and we saw several people doing just that. On the remainder of the trail we only saw one other group of hikers and one group of cyclists.

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We chuckled at the shepherd who trundled along with a flock of tourists

You can follow this link to a great online brochure entitled Walking Trails in the Algarve, published by Tourismo de Portugal. It lists this, as well as dozens of other trails throughout the region. Another good resource is Algarve Hiking Trails by Walk Algarve. We are now working our way through the lists and will publish a little summary of them as we go.

About Tim & Anne Hall

We sold almost all of our belongings and left our home in Nova Scotia in April 2016 to experience as much of the world as we could. We spent over a year slow traveling in Latin America and Europe, and are now living happily in the Portuguese Algarve, Portimao to be specific. We are gradually chnging the focus of our site to feature images of Portugal. Stay tuned - its a work in progress.
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7 Responses to Hiking the Algarve – A Rocha Delicada

  1. Joe says:

    I really appreciate this post, Tim & Anne. The variety of terrains on this trail looks very interesting and beautiful. I am not sure if we will have a car during our May visit, so knowing about a nearby trailhead next to the train station is a valuable option. Thank you for the link to the on-line brochure. I can’t believe how many great hikes you have in the Algarve.

    Liked by 1 person

    • timannehall says:

      Hi Joe. This one is a great option as you can hop off the train from Lagos at the station (it’s more of a stop than a station) and get back on when you’ve finished. The local train is cheap and runs several times a day. It is a good way to see some other places as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your series on the walks around the Algarve and how you’ve shown another side of the region in addition to the very popular beaches. With all the rain we’ve had at the end of winter and this Spring, it takes a flexible schedule to get your walks in. But the juggling looks like it’s been well worth the effort! Anita

    Like

    • timannehall says:

      Thanks Anita. It has been challenging getting out between the wet and windy days but definitely worth it. We love showing the rural side of the Algarve which so many people don’t ever see. The pace of walking also allows you to take in more than through the window of a moving car. We are also finding great new birding spots as we go.

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  3. BeckyB says:

    Ooh we’ve not done this one yet. We’ve got into the habit of creating our own now as we have bought excellent maps. Must though return to the book and try some of the published ones again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • timannehall says:

      It is a pleasant walk on a cool day as there isnt any shade. The birding is great along the marsh portion, and you can shorten it to whatever length by parking closer. We have done most of our walking in the Western Algarve but a recent trip along the Guadiana all the way to Mertola exposed us to that beautiful piece of Portugal. We will definitely try some of your recommendations.

      Liked by 1 person

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