You will be met at Faro airport and transferred to Loulé where you will be welcomed at the Loulé Jardim Hotel. Loulé, a mere 16 km north of Faro, is famous for its Saturday morning market. With plenty of cafes and shops on its cobbled streets, the town also has many churches and castles to visit. One stand out church is the Nossa Senhora da Piedade, a domed shaped building that looks like a spaceship
From the centre of Loulé you will head north past the Sta Luzia chapel that provides sweeping views of the region out to the coast. Passing then by traditional farms of carob, olive, almond and fig trees as well as many aromatic plants like rosemary and thyme scenting the air. The ruins of the windmill will mark the highest point of your walk today. From here you will descend through small villages, by natural streams and dense Mediterranean vegetation that is home to many birds and butterflies. Then following a medieval path, you will arrive into Querença with its main church, local Water Museum and traditional snack-bar. The accommodation is 1 km into the valley, north of the main centre.
The walk today will take you through the protected area of “Fonte da Benémola” where you will then join back on the official Via Algarviana. Following the marked track, you will walk among old limestone walls, traditional farm fields, with dense olive, almond and carob trees. Along this route, you will have the opportunity to come into contact with a great diversity of wildflowers – namely orchids in spring. After reaching Salir, visitors can visit the main church, in the top of the village, its castle and the local museum.
Leaving Salir today with its backdrop of the Serra de Caldeirao hills, you will have a pleasant days walking through protected landscape and small villages so perhaps before setting off today you can climb up to the castle and admire the view over where you will be walking. Passing through small hamlets on relatively flat terrain you are accompanied by sweeping views of the countryside. Heading south through the Rocha da Pena Local Protected Landscape on a red earth dirt track where there are over 535 species of flora and fauna you will ascend to the hilltop to enjoy more sweeping views from the ridge top before descending into Bensafim. Meandering through narrow cobbled streets in this charming village, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to stop and sample some local cuisine in a café. Leaving Bensafim the track crosses several dry fruit orchards that are characteristic of this region, heading firstly north and then west towards Alte. Reaching the Alte stream you will be serenaded by the singing of the many birds that call this place home. Just before coming into Alte you will pass the Fonte Grande and Fonte Pequena two natural springs that will be sure to entice you in for a quick dip! Beautifully preserved and well maintained they provide a perfect backdrop for photos. Alte itself is a typical village of the region with its whitewashed houses, traditional chimneys and cobbled alleys. The village is also the main setting in the chapter Algarve in the novel The Drifters by James A. Michener, where it is recommended as the place “to know Portugal at its best”. A hidden gem to find is the waterfall, Queda do Vigário another spot to relax and get some envy-inducing photos!
Walking from Alte to São Bartolomeu de Messines will start with a gentle up and downhill trek before descending to Barrocal before ascending back up to Messines. Trekking through more dry fruit orchards of almond, carob, and olive trees, the way is also dotted with small kitchen farms and country houses. Starting to climb up to Portela you soon get a panoramic view of this agricultural landscape and in spring you will be accompanied by the sweet, fresh smell of orange blossom. A highlight of this section of the walkthrough is the trail along the edge of Ribeiro Meirinho with its riparian vegetation a welcome surprise so close to your destination for the night the town of São Bartolomeu de Messines. Located at the foothills of Penedo Grande’s south slope this town has many houses that go back to the 17th century. A lively growing town, be sure to have a look around the many shops or sit at a café and simply watch the world go by. Near the church, in the main centre, there is the Guesthouse Bartolomeu, a nice place where you will stay the night.
Leaving São Bartolomeu de Messines by crossing the rail track, the walk today will initially be over rolling hillsides of farms and orchards followed by a large open lush green plain between Barradas and Pedreiras. The landscape then changes as you meander through valleys where the pathway brings you to a beautiful section alongside the Arade River. Just before reaching the dam there is a picnic area overlooking the vista and is where your walk will end today. From here a pickup will take you to Vale Fuzeiros village and a very new special place to stay “Casa Vale Fuzeiros – Nature Guest House”.
This circular walk has some archaeology highlights such as the megalithic graves carved in stone and a menhir. The trail starts very close to the accommodation and moves south, into the beautiful farmland valley, full of almond, carob and olive trees and also some vineyards. You will then climb Cerro da Vilarinha, one of the highest hills in this area, with an altitude of 170 m. From the top, you are rewarded with a fantastic view over the valley and the south region. The path ends then back in the village of Vale Fuzeiros where you will spend a second night.
After breakfast we bid you farewell.