In this piece, Mary from Duas Quintas bed and breakfast in Silves shares her walking notes for a walk between Salir and Alte.
Stretching over 300 km from Alcoutim in the east to Sagres in the West, the Algarve Way or Via Algarviana is an excellent long distance route for anyone who has the time (an average walker will take 14 days to complete the trail) and stamina (some sections are quite difficult in terms of distance and climb).
If you don’t have the time or stamina, and are more interested in day or weekend walks, the Algarve Way still offers a fantastic base from which to plan your walks.
Very little has been written about day walks on the Algarve Way and there are obviously some pros and cons to consider.
The main benefit of using the Algarve Way is that it is well-documented, with maps and routes downloadable in English, French, and Portuguese at www.viaalgarviana.org. The information from the official site is supplemented by many others who have walked the Algarve Way themselves or who are offering self-guided or guided walking holidays, using the Algarve Way.
The sections of the trail are all planned to start and finish in areas where food and lodging are available, so you will find it easy to discover the walk start points as well as local cafes with a cool beer at the end of your walk. Another benefit is that the route is generally well signposted and local people, now used to seeing walkers in the area, are friendly …and often able to offer advice if you have a problem!
There are some disadvantages too. The main disadvantage is that The Algarve Way is a linear route. Although some circular walks are being developed in conjunction with the main trail, you will probably have to get a taxi or public transport (more tricky option) back to your start point. But with a little planning, this won’t be a major hurdle.
Salir to Alte Walk (section 7 of the Algarve Way) – 16km
Here is one of my suggestions for you using Section 7 of the Algarve Way for a 16 km interesting day walk.
The walk goes between two very different Algarve villages, which still use traditional agricultural methods, crosses a ford, and presidents a variety of wild flowers and shrubs, depending on the time of the year you decide to walk.
Note: I have not repeated the route information as this is so easily available from the Via Algarviana site, where you can also download the map of this section. However, where you need additional information, I have included this.
- Distance: This is an easy walk of just over 16 km, with only one steep climb and a second gradual ascent as you finish the walk and approach Alte.
- You will need:
– Good waterproof walking boots after rainy weather.
– A walking stick could be useful when using the stepping stones at the ford.
- Time: You should allow at least 5 hours.
- Eating and drinking: There are cafes en route (after 11km) in the village of Benafim.
The walk begins in Salir, a small typical village, with a ruined castle and few tourists. The section officially starts at the church, but my advice is to park across from the library (follow signs to centro).
Passing two restaurants/cafes walk back the way you came into the village, turning left at the small roundabout. You can pick up the Algarve Way document at the notice board outlining a shorter, circular walk Percurso pedestre de Salir.
This first section of the walk is particularly interesting with its many old waterwheels and irrigation devices. The soil looks rich and fertile, in contrast with what you will see later, and you feel like you have stepped back in time to an era when agricultural practices were simpler. On this section you pass through some small villages and hamlets and you will get a sense of what life in rural Algarve is like today. You cannot help but notice the many abandoned houses and most of the people you meet will be elderly. However there are signs of new life too, often properties renovated by foreigners attracted by the peaceful life and warm climate.
As you walk, you will see the formidable looking Rocha de Pena on your right, a place for another great walk.
After passing the last houses of the small hamlet of Calçada you will join a gravel track which takes you down into a flat valley floor. Here you may well have some difficulty interpreting the signs as a new gravel track has been added which crisscrosses the Algarve Way footpath. Your aim is to get to the top of the small hill ahead of you; the easiest way, and avoiding the mud, is by following the new gravel track which is visible from below.
Initially you will be walking against the Algarve Way signs, but as you ascend the hill, you are back on the official footpath.
At the top of the hill, take a right turn. This is clearly signed. From here to Benafim the views are good, even if the new track is less attractive to walk on!
Continue until the track ends and you join a road and turn right towards the village. The village of Benafim has shops and cafes.
If you have any difficulty in finding the footpath as you approach the village, walk west (i.e. in the direction of Alte) from the roundabout.
After a short distance, bear right, along a small cobbled road and eventually passing the delightful Capela de S. Luis.
Continue walking through the small streets of this little village, which is so much more attractive when visited on foot than when you pass through by car. You are soon out of the village and now turn onto a clear footpath.
(If you want to visit the Hamburgo restaurant for lunch, go straight on here and turn left. You will see the main road in the distance where the restaurant is located. About 1 km.)
Olive tree, carob trees and the occasional almond trees accompany you as walk. The dry stone walls are an amazing feat of strength and design.
Next, you will come to a ford. The level of water in the ford will depend on the amount of rain during the previous days, so be prepared to get your feet wet if it has rained a lot. To find the stepping stones, you will see a worn area on your left as you face the ford. Follow this, going behind the tree, to see the stepping stones ahead.
(As an aside, we had some guests staying with us who were standing at the ford wondering how to cross without getting wet, after a period of rain. As they were standing there a group of Portuguese walkers came by, and built up the stones for them to have a dry crossing! They were lucky. I have never met anyone else when walking here.)
Your first taste of Alte is the area known as The Fontes, where the water of the Alte stream provides an attractive location for locals and visitors. In warmer weather, and especially at weekends, this is a busy area with picnics and barbeques. There is a natural swimming pool, so if the weather is warm enough and you are brave enough, bring a swimsuit.
Alte is quite a popular tourist spot but is still a very pretty village and well worth spending some time here.
Cafés and Restaurants
At the beginning of the walk:
Restaurant/cafe Porto Doce (closed Sundays)
The cafe section is open during the day and has a small selection of pastries as well as other snacks. It is the sort of place where you can ask for what you want and they will probably be able to find it, even if it is not on display. Good coffee too.
Restaurant Hamburgo, Benafim
If you want to have a meal en route, Restaurant Hamburgo in Benafim is a good option if you are passing during lunchtime hours. A few minutes extra walking, away from the footpath, but with a nice outdoor eating area and friendly staff who are helpful if you do not speak Portuguese. Do not be deceived, this is not a hamburger joint; they serve traditional Algarve food here. There are also cafes in Benafim if you just want a snack.
At the end of the walk
Agua Mel in Rua Jose Cavaco Vieira
My suggestion for an end of walk treat is definitely Agua Mel in Rua Jose Cavaco Vieira. This cafe, founded in 1916, has a fantastic selection of pastries and other snacks as well as good coffee and a friendly service. Best of all are the apple dumplings; a whole juicy apple, baked with port and cinnamon and covered in a light pastry. The balcony is a great place to sit and enjoy the wonderful views.
There are many places to eat in Alte, mostly typical Algarve food with a choice of meat and fish dishes. Most restaurants have one day a week when they are closed. It is worth walking around the small village and seeing what is on offer in each place as these changes daily.
O Folclor on Avenue 25 De Abril (open everyday)
One good option for eating is O Folclor on Avenue 25 De Abril. This popular place has a variety of dishes and snacks. Good value and friendly service.
Returning to Salir
There is a rather infrequent bus connection between Alte and Salir (From Sao Bartolomeu de Messines to Loule through Alte and Salir, operated by Eva) but the last bus back to Salir, and probably the only option for people doing this walk, is currently at 15:00 hr.
For information on this and any other public transport queries, have a look at the really helpful site www.algarvebus.info.
The more likely option is that you will take a taxi back to your start point in Salir. As a rough guide, you will pay about €15 depending on the day and time.
Hopefully you will still have enough time to visit the ruin of Salir castle and walk around this unspoilt Algarve village.
In my next post, I give you some ideas on how to combine this with some other walks in the area to make a 2 or 3 day walking weekend, based around the Algarve Way.