Portugal’s southernmost region draws millions to it every year. Most foreign tourists come for the beaches, the golf resorts, and the gloriously shimmering weather that rarely seems to drop below delightful. Yet increasingly, visitors are being drawn to the Algarve not for the laid-back beach life with a cocktail never far away, but instead to walk some of the area’s outstanding hiking trails.
Hiking in the Algarve ticks almost every box. Splendid weather, beaches that require herculean self-control to drag yourself away from and heart-breakingly quaint white-washed villages tucked away in the hills that can appear from a different time.
Most head to the Algarve for the beaches and the relatively low prices compared with other parts of Europe – but there is so much more to see.
Eastern Algarve – Around Tavira
Compared with the central section of the Algarve, the east receives far fewer visitors than the more popular hotspots around Faro and Lagos. But a loss to the masses is the walker’s gain. Tavira, nicknamed the Venice of the Algarve thanks to its location between the River Gilão and the River Segua, is arguably one of the most picturesque towns in the region and a splendid place to begin a walk.
From there you can head southwest towards Faro and the wetland wonderland that is the Ria Formosa Natural Park, passing fishing villages that will seriously make you consider packing it all in and give lobster trapping in Portugal a go, or inland where you’ll find white-washed villages, olive groves, and delightful valleys which appear virtually untouched by global tourism.
If you’re looking for a quieter walking holiday in an area that sees much lower tourist numbers, then the region around Tavira is perfect. Check out our Tavira walking holiday.
Western Algarve – Around Lagos or Portimão
The Western section of the Algarve may receive more visitors than the East, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be walking amid the crowds. While the beaches in the area can be busy, you need only head north into the interior to find the tranquillity that many crave.
This area boasts two sizable locations to be based in, Lagos and Portimão, both cities with plenty to do, but which also manage to retain much more of a large town vibe. Lagos is famous for its walled old city and dramatic cliffs close by, while Portimão, traditionally a shipbuilding and fish processing hub, includes a delightful old quarter complete with cobblestoned streets and a dazzling array of colours.
Choosing one as a base is a good option. From Portimão you can follow the Arade River north to the ancient Moorish capital of the Algarve, Silves, and visit the red-brick capital that once dominated the region. Directly opposite Portimão, across the Arade River, lies Ferragudo, a wonderfully quaint white-washed fishing village that has managed to maintain its charm despite its proximity to busy Portimão.
Lying between Portimão and Lagos is the wonderful Alvor Estuary that acts as a buffer between the major beaches that are certainly beautiful but can heave with tourists in peak season. Walking around the Alvor estuary is a real treat whether you’re a nature lover or not. If you’re a birder, spring and autumn see a staggering number of migratory birds gather in the area and you could easily spend your entire holiday in this one spot.
Lagos’ old town is a great base for any walking holiday with countless mesmerising beaches close by. With the Alvor estuary quite literally on your doorstep, you won’t be short of nature, but walking west, towards the dipping sun, reveals yet more Algarvian delights.
Barao de Sao Joao, just west of Lagos, is quiet, unassuming and a real delight, perfect for escaping the city, if only for a day. If you feel like hugging the coastline instead, you’ll be treated to some of the finest stretches of coast in the entire Algarve,
Some parts of the western Algarve are noticeably busier than in the east, but maybe that’s exactly what you’re looking for. With Lagos and Portimão as two options to be based, you’ll have plenty to do during the evenings, but both locations have a wealth of nature and idyllic walking routes close by.
Check out our Western Algarve walking holiday.
East to West
If you’re one of those people that simply has to see and do it all, then why not take in the full breadth of this magnificent region? Connecting Tavira in the east with Lagos in the west, this stunning coastal route includes a dazzling array of sights along the way and allows you to forgo the difficult decision of choosing which area to base yourself.
Consider all of the highlights that we’ve mentioned in both east and west Algarve and bundle them into a glorious package that combines everything. If you’re the kind of walker that prefers a long journey with a different stop every night instead of basing yourself around a single location, then walking the Algarve’s famed coastal route from east to west could be exactly what you’re looking for.
Tavira, Portimão, Faro, and Lagos are the main towns that you’ll pass through and each oozes an easy-going charm that you’ll soon get used to in the Algarve. You’ll also see plenty of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, a wetland area located just south of Faro that stretches for 60 km between the beaches of Manta Rota and Garrão and which has long been a birding paradise where you can see a huge number of flamingos and the ever-rare sultan hen.
Walking in the Algarve
Whether you choose to base yourself in the east or west of the Algarve or decide to combine the two into a grand walk that encapsulates the entire region, this sultry area at the foot of Portugal never disappoints.
The Algarve may predominantly be known for its package holidays, coastal villas, and low prices, but dig beneath the surface and you’ll find a stunning location that is simply crying out to be explored in more depth. So lace up those walking boots, hit the trails, and explore the real Algarve.