A series of longer walks in the southernmost province of Portugal.

Walking in the Algarve

There is one great disadvantage to walking in this beautiful area, and that is the lack of really good maps – hence the need for detailed directions of the kind used on this site. Maps do exist, produced by the Geographical Institute in Lisbon, and these are adequate for public roads and some of the off-road tracks, but the fine detail of, for example, the British Ordnance Survey, is lacking. On the long-distance trails, better quality maps are now available, and the local authority in Monchique has recently produced an improved map of their area with some walks marked.

The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages, however. One can walk here for at least nine months of the year knowing that it will be reasonably warm, probably sunny and, although it does rain, sometimes very heavily, there are few days when getting out is impossible. During the hot months, especially July and August, walking during the day is not recommended. There is no law of trespass in Portugal, so, unless stopped by a wall or fence, or specifically asked by a landowner not to cross an area, you may walk where you will. Finally, although there are quite large areas of wilderness, getting lost is not a huge problem. Within the Algarve, if you are not sure of your location, walk south – you will eventually find a road or settlement, or you will walk into the sea!

´Dos and Donts´

The ´rules´about walking here fall into two categories – those that apply to walking anywhere, and those peculiar to this area.

General Rules.

Respect the countryside and those who live in it. Don´t leave litter, obey instructions written or verbal, be polite (a raised arm and ´bom dia /boa tarde` - good morning/afternoon – will usually get a smile and a response), and don´t interfere with the flora and fauna.

In the Algarve

Do NOT start fires for any reason. In recent years, there have been devastating forest and brush fires that have claimed many lives and millions in property. Between June and September, and beyond these limits if the temperature is high, lighting any fire is forbidden, and there are heavy punishments for infringements.

Take care around stray or loose dogs. There are huge numbers of dogs here, most of them behind fences or, sadly, chained up, but the occasional problem can arise. If you walk with your own dog, you can let it run free if you have it under control. There are flocks of sheep, cows and goats wandering around, and chickens running loose in some villages.

After heavy rain, there can be flash floods, and the streams turn into torrents. If the route you have chosen involves crossing a stream, you may find the way impassable. Better to turn back than drown. Watch the weather forecast carefully in the days before you walk.

Dangerous plants and animals. Just about everything growing wild here scratches or stings. Be prepared for scratched legs, wear long trousers and /or take antiseptic cream in your pack. There are snakes and scorpions, but they are rare, and the snakes are not venomous. Wild boar could be more of a danger, but they are again quite rare and will generally keep out of your way. Bees can be a problem, take antihistamine and tweezers with you, especially if you are allergic. Watch where you sit for lunch, as ants are everywhere! Finally, between January and March, if you walk near or among pine trees, look out for the processionary caterpillars. These live in nests in the trees which look like dirty cotton wool. They then come down and walk around nose to tail in long lines – hence the name. The fine hairs on their backs can cause severe allergic reactions, especially in dogs that might be curious and sniff them.

Hunting. Hunting is permitted here on Sundays, Thursdays and Public Holidays during the season, which lasts from late August through to the end of February. There is less shooting recently, primarily because of the economic situation, but you do need to be on your guard if you walk in open country on those days.

Remember to tell someone where you are going and when to expect your return.


What to carry and wear

Clothing. Layers of light clothing and in the winter months the lightest waterproofs you can find. Long trousers unless you want scratched legs. Light walking boots with a really good gripping sole, to cope with steep descents on loose gravel. A hat with a broad brim. Sunglasses.

In the pack Spare warm layer – it can feel cold on the hilltops in winter. Space blanket. Water – this is a warm country, but only you know how much you need to carry. Food, with an emergency energy bar or similar. GPS device if you use one. Compass. Whistle. Sunscreen. Medication for e.g. bee stings, blisters etc. Mobile phone – mobiles will not work in more remote areas, especially in the valleys. Emergency number in Portugal is 112. Money as cash.

© 2016 onfootinthealgarve.com