The Algarve Way (or Via Algarviana) is a 300 km walk that starts in Alcoutim beside the River Guadiana near the Spanish border and continues until Cabo de São Vicente near Sagres on the far Western tip of the Algarve. It is part of the European Footpath Network (Route GR13).
Although the walk is based on a pilgrimage (relics of St. Vincente were found in Sagres), the walking route has only been open since 2009. While it has had some international coverage, it’s nowhere near as popular as other walks in Portugal – especially the Portuguese Camino de Santiago.
The Algarve Way takes you into the “real Algarve,” far from the bustling beach resorts and golf courses that the region is often associated with. It’s perfect for those in search of an authentic taste of traditional Algarve life.
Highlights along the route include the Serra do Caldeirão and Serra de Monchique, two mountainous ranges, the towns of Alte and Silves, and the Costa Vicentina Natural Park at the end of the route.
Because the walk starts on the Portuguese-Spanish border, this route gives walkers a chance to spend some time in Spain at the start of their trip and combine two countries into one trip.
If you have even more time, you could consider walking a little bit of the Rota Vicentina, which begins where the Algarve Way ends.
The Algarve Way is normally split into 14 sectors, and most people complete the walk over 14 days. The distances vary each day, but there are quite a few days where you’ll be walking around 30 km per day (around 18.6 miles).
- Sector 1 Alcoutim – Balurcos (24.2 km)
- Sector 2 Balurcos – Furnazinhas (14.3 km)
- Sector 3 Furnazinhas – Vaqueiros (20.3 km)
- Sector 4 Vaqueiros – Cachopo (14.9 km)
- Sector 5 Cachopo – Barranco do Velho (29.1 km)
- Sector 6 Barranco do Velho – Salir (14.9 km)
- Sector 7 Salir – Alte (16.2 km)
- Sector 8 Alte – Messines (19.3 km)
- Sector 9 Messines – Silves (27.6 km)
- Sector 10 Silves – Monchique (28.6 km)
- Sector 11 Monchique – Marmelete (14.7 km)
- Sector 12 Marmelete – Bensafrim (30.0 km)
- Sector 13 Bensafrim – Vila do Bispo (30.2 km)
- Sector 14 Vila do Bispo – Sagres (17.7 km)
When to go
The best time of the year to walk The Algarve Way is probably spring, when the flowers are blooming and the weather is milder. Winters in the Algarve are also usually quite mild, and February and March can be good months to walk the trail.
It’s worth mentioning that, although the weather varies from year to year, April is known to be one of the wetter months as evidenced by sayings like “Abril de águas mil” (April of a thousand waters).
Autumn and winter are also good times to visit, although September and October can still be very hot. By November, however, the temperatures will have cooled and will usually be much more pleasant for walking.
Unexpected warm weather is better than unexpected rain: if it’s too hot, just get up earlier and do the majority of the walking in the morning. If it’s raining, unfortunately there’s not a lot you can do apart from pause the trip for a few days to let the rains pass.
Although many people take a GPS device with them, The Algarve Way is well-signposted with signs that show you which turns to take as well as signs that show you if you’ve gone the wrong way.
Getting to Alcoutim
Most people will fly to Faro Airport, the Algarve’s regional airport, which is located around 95 km or just over an hour from Alcoutim by car.
Alcoutim is a little out of the way and, to get to Alcoutim from Faro Airport, you’ll need to:
- Take the airport bus (bus #16) or a taxi into Faro
- Take the train or bus from Faro to Vila Real de Santo António
- Take a bus or taxi from Vila Real de Santo António to Alcoutim
If you’re coming from Lisbon or another part of Portugal, take a train or bus (tickets available on rede-expressos.pt) to Faro and then follow the steps above to get to Alcoutim.
Cycling the Algarve Way
It’s possible to cycle at least 90% of The Algarve Way, and the route normally takes most cyclists around 5 days. You’ll need a good mountain bike for the route, which can be strenuous at times.
If you need to rent a mountain bike, you’ll probably need to go to a bike rental shop in Faro and then cycle onto the starting point in Alcoutim. Alternatively, you can take the bike on the train.
The Algarve Way is very much a do-it-yourself walk. Some walking companies do offer walking tours that cover sections of the walk but, if you want to cover the entire 300 km, you’ll need to organise the trip yourself.
- Ramblers Holidays – Offers a walking holiday that covers a section of the Algarve Way.
- Portugal Walks – Offers a walking holiday that covers a section of the Algarve Way.
- Via Algarviana Website
- The Via Algarviana: An English guide to the ‘Algarve Way‘ – Available for Kindle and Amazon, this a self-published book is a guidebook to the Algarve Way.