Walking in the Algarve: Armacao de Pera

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The Algarve region, which covers the entire southern coast of Portugal, features amazing natural areas, full of wildlife, fantastic fishing and, of course, some of the best cliff and coastal hiking to be found anywhere in Europe. It includes a good portion of the outstanding Rota Vicentina trek, the best of Portugal’s hiking trails which goes along the Costa Vicentina through the beach towns and charming villages of Aljezur, Odexeice, Zambujeira, Almograve, Carrapateira, Vila Nova de Milfontes and Porto Covo along the way.

However, in many of the busier, more urban areas the hikes can be a bit difficult to access. Walking in the Algarve near Armacao de Pera Portugal is a treat because it is a relatively small town (5,000 permanent residents), impressively situated between the terrific Algarve cities of Portimão and Albufeira. It is a very manageable size, features a few nice old town streets, a spacious and scenic malecón, lots of great things to do and, best of all, is surrounded by great walking trails and outstanding cliff views for some amazing Algarve hike options.

We spent nearly 7 weeks in Armacao de Pera from mid-March until the end of April, sitting out the worst of the coronavirus fallout. With restaurants closed to anything except takeout, public transportation extremely limited and strongly discouraged and bars completely closed – and with no sports to watch anyway – exploring the area around town was basically our only activity during that time. So explore we did, seemingly covering every square inch of the trails, beaches and cliffs in the area. In fact, along with the fact we had friends staying there at the beginning, the proximity and availability of good walking in the Algarve was the main reason we chose Armacao. Laynni researched the area extensively before we made our decision since by that time it was clear that none of the usual travel activities were going to be happening, so having a variety of walks accessible from our apartment was going to be essential.

Walking in the Algarve near Armacao de Pera Map

Of course, we all hope that brighter, less restricted times are ahead. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set aside some time for Armacao de Pera and all these great Algarve hikes. Once again we were using our 3 UK sim card, one of the best UK sim cards for travel, which gives us cheap data anywhere in Europe and made it easy to explore off the beaten path when necessary. This list outlines the 5 main routes we used (#5 is absolutely the best) and gives distances and rough walking times, although looking at the maps you can see that they can all be easily adjusted – shorter, longer, wetter, sandier – as the mood strikes you. We also tended to walk pretty fast as this was usually our only exercise for the day – if you are planning a leisurely stroll you should probably plan for the higher end of the time range. Other than a few short dips and climbs along the cliffs there are almost no hills so all these routes would be classified as “easy” terrain. The only added degree of difficulty is the distance so you should be able to judge this based on your own hiking experience.

We also wrote a post listing of all the best Armacao de Pera beaches and viewpoints in the area to help you focus your time.

The links are to Wikiloc files. Wikiloc is a hiking app that is free to join and features hiking trails all over the world. If you prefer a different trail app (All Trails and Maps.me are two popular ones) it is possible to download the actual GPX file out of Wikiloc. From there you should be able to import it into your app of choice.

1. Armaçáo de Pera Low Tide Walk

https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/Armaçáo-de-pera-low-tide-walk-48619279

3 km

.5-1 hr

This fun little jaunt is perfect for people fascinated by the Algarve’s extraordinary rock formations and picturesque tide pools. While this entire walk is under water most of the day, at low tide you can wander out and around all the rocks and pools, enjoying terrific photo ops just off the main beach. You can easily just explore a bit and come back the same way or you can climb up and return by the cliffs to turn it into a loop.

2. Galé Beach Loop Walk

https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/Armaçáo-de-pera-beach-loop-48565244

11.5 km

2-3 hours

Definitely the most popular walk in the area is the standard beach walk on the longest of Armacao de Pera’s beaches. Galé is the neighbouring town to the east, roughly a 5 km walk along the ocean. It is best to time your walk to coincide with low tide for a couple reasons. One, there will be a much wider, flatter wet sand area to walk on. Two, there are a couple places where water from the inland lagoons meet up with the ocean and at low tide these are either dried up or at least low enough to cross easily. Even at higher tide it is always possible to cross if you take your shoes off.

A lot of people just walk out and back along the beach but we usually mixed it up by cutting inland at Galé where there are some nice boardwalks overlooking a bird-filled lagoon. After the boardwalk runs out there are many paths to choose from in the fields between the two towns – the one we’ve mapped here creates the largest, most varied loop. Keep in mind, there is a small stream near Armacao and only one small footbridge to cross it (unless you go all the way back to the beach).

3. Armaçáo de Pera Back Roads Loop Hike

https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/Armaçáo-de-pera-back-roads-48582973

10 km

2-3 hrs

This walk starts on the west end of town and meanders along dirt roads past farms and fields, eventually circling across to meet up with the back field section of #2. This route comes in past the Continente because we often set up our walks to finish at one of the grocery stores – kill two birds with one stone and all that. But you could easily continue on down to the beach or walk through the more picturesque old town area on your way back to the malecón.

4. Armaçáo de Pera Valley Loop Hike

https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/Armaçáo-de-pera-valley-loop-48646394

10 km

2-3 hrs

This walk starts off the same way as #2 but then heads west through more empty and remote fields. Eventually it meets up with the valley that leads down to Praia do Barranco. You then follow the valley along a very nice trail for awhile before cutting back into Porches and re-joining the regular cliff walk on the east side of Vila Lara Resort.

Man walking on dirt path with yellow flowers near Armacao de Pera Portugal

5. Praia da Marinha Cliff Hike

https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/Armaçáo-de-pera-praia-da-marinha-return-48602478

14 km

3-5 hrs

Also known as the Seven Hanging Valleys hike, this is the star of the show. The incredible cliff trail between Armacao de Pera and Praia da Marinha is the best Algarve hike, not to mention one of the best hikes in Europe. If you only have time for one lengthy walk during your time in Armacao, this is the one you don’t want to miss. We did a variation of this every few days during our stay and it never failed to impress. The route we’ve shown here stays as close to the cliffs on the way out, then takes a few slightly more direct paths on the way back. But the ocean is always right there so you can’t get lost and there is no need to stick exactly to the route on the map. In at least one direction you should take the time to follow as close as possible to the cliff edges.

The entire Algarve coastal walk is beautiful but definitely the best scenery is found at Praia da Marinha itself, one of the most spectacular locations in all of Portugal. Make sure you leave yourself time to explore the area. While the cliff viewpoints up top are the main highlights, the beach itself is also very nice and sheltered and at low tide you can explore in and around the famous arches. From the top it is also possible to explore some badlands-style paths leading partway down to the beach.

The caves of Benagil are also among the Algarve’s most unique and famous attractions. Praia de Benagil is only another 2 kilometres west of Praia da Marinha, although, unfortunately, you can’t access the caves on foot. The additional cliff walk is outstanding, though, and is well worth it if you have the time and energy. However, if you want to see the caves you will have to join a boat tour from either Benagil or Armação. Of course, you can also continue on all the way to Carvoeiro to complete the entire 7 Hanging Valleys trek, roughly 15 km in total (one-way). Unfortunately, we did not complete the route because we didn’t want to hire transport in the midst of the coronavirus restrictions. In different times, though, you could take a bus or taxi in one direction and walk the other.

https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/armacao-de-pera-praia-benagil-48059265

For some reason, the Vila Lara Resort in Porches is the only one in the entire region that blocks access to the cliffs, so you need to go up into town to detour around it. There is actually a tricky little trail from Cova Redonda through/past the Pestana Viking Resort to Praia de Nossa Senhora da Rocha, if you want to fully maximize your cliff time. Look for the trail on the other side of the fence along the stairs to Cova Redonda and then at Pestana Viking you pass through a public gate to reach the trail along the edge.

What to Take

It is always important to be prepared when venturing out hiking, especially in the mountains. Obviously, long, challenging hikes require more advance planning and safety gear but even for short hikes you still need to be properly equipped. Dressing properly will make the experience much more enjoyable and carrying useful safety supplies can ensure you are prepared in case mishaps take place (as they tend to). Here is a quick checklist of items we alway carry, wear or use while hiking:

A good day pack is essential. We have recently become big fans of Gregory packs and would recommend the Gregory Miwok 18 for short hikes or when your gear is split between two people. And the Gregory Optic 48 for longer hikes. I know 48L sounds big but it is a super-light and comfortable pack that cinches down smaller when it isn’t full.

Water is obviously important and we go back and forth between using a Camelbak bladder and just a couple of water bottles. We also keep a few Aquatabs with us at all times just in case we ever run low and want to treat some river or lake water. They are tiny and every now and then come in quite handy. It is always a good idea to carry some snacks as well. It never hurts and sometimes hikes end up taking longer than planned.

Good socks! Everyone understands good shoes or boots are essential (my current favourites are Salomon Cross Hikes) but wearing good wool socks can make just as much of a difference:

Laynni always hikes in compression leggings that she swears by for the extra knee, hip and muscle support.

Layers, baby! You never know what kind of weather nature will throw at you so it pays to be ready for anything. Obviously, the forecast might change what you carry but if there is any doubt (and there almost always is in the mountains), bring extra.

Northface Canyonlands full zip fleece

Northface Venture rain jacket

Arc’teryx Incendo hooded wind jacket

Quechua 40L rain poncho

And just in case we are so impressed by the scenery that we decide it’s worth a photo with both of us in it we always carry the tiny, extremely handy octopus tripod.

Of course, a comprehensive first-aid kit is key to make sure those “mishaps” are simply inconvenient and don’t ruin your whole day.

Other useful items that we sometimes carry and sometimes don’t, depending on the hike:

Hiker Hunger Aluminum trekking poles

Auhike Stainless Steel Crampons

Sabre bear spray

Well, that probably covers most of it, although somehow we have even more to say on the matter in our Day Hike Packing List post. Check it out if you’re looking for even more detailed info.

Summary

With movement between towns severely limited and plenty of time on our hands, we were determined to choose a location that would offer us a good range of walking each day and a sampling of the best of Portugal’s hiking trails. It turns out that Armação de Pera – a place we hadn’t even heard of until a few days before we showed up there – offered the perfect mix of supplies (5 different grocery stores) and scenery (in every direction) and great walks in the Algarve area. Boasting the Algarve’s typically perfect weather, even in early spring, we were very happy with our choice and would highly recommend it to people looking for a quiet, affordable base with good walking, beautiful beaches and amazing scenery nearby.

Other useful articles you may want to check out:

Universal Packing List

Slow Travel – Settling in for the Long Haul

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