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

Alte – Julia – Benafim – Alte

Walk Two. Alte – Julia – Benafim – Alte. 17.8k Ascent: 556metres.

GPS: 37/ 14 00 90 8/ 10 44 06

This is a very pleasant and not very demanding walk from one of the prettiest small towns in the Algarve, through open and cultivated land, taking in both active communities and the remains of others no longer inhabited. It ends with a stroll past the famous Fontes of Alte. A halfway refreshment stop is included at Benafim, another of the larger settlements strung out along the N124 road.

Getting to Alte.

From the south, take the A22 motorway or the IC1 north to São Bartolomeu de Messines. From there, follow the N124 east, signed to Alte and Salir. Alte is about 8k from the motorway junction. At Alte, take the first exit from the roundabout, and park on the right. The bar for coffee at start and finish is just up the road on the right (Bar Folclore). Coming from the west, use the N124 all the way from Silves if you prefer not to use the motorway. From the east, use the M525 from Loule to Tor, turning left at the traffic lights and following the M524 to Ribeira de Algibre, turning right at the T junction to follow the same road to Benafim, bearing left through Benafim to reach the N124 to Alte.

The Walk.

- With your back to the bar, (1) turn right and walk up the main street of Alte. (300m) Walk up to the left of the church and then turn right along the back of the building and continue for around 340m down a long narrow street past the Farmácia (Chemist). Pass a small shop selling hand-made soaps on the left and a small bar and find a turn to the right leading across a stream on a narrow bridge.(2) Cross over and turn right, walking past a car park and turning immediately left uphill. Follow this road as it climbs quite steeply past houses.

- After leaving the built-up area behind, it levels out, passing through pleasant open countryside. About 700m from the last house in Alte, come to the hamlet of Julia. Walk through the first set of houses and follow the road as it turns quite sharply right and heads southwest, now with houses on the right.

- Arrive at a second cluster of houses and continue on the south-westerly line, ignoring a turn to the left. Leaving the houses behind, walk down the remainder of the Rua 25 Abril to reach the main road (N124) about 270m from the last house.

- Cross the main road and join a wide dirt track on the opposite side, leading off south-easterly. After around 530m, find a track on the right, going downhill into the valley and rising up the hill on the other side. Ignore a turn to the right as the path begins to rise, and after around 380m, bear left with the track as it turns south-east and climbs steadily towards the ridge for a further 560m.

- At this point the track turns more towards the south and wanders, still rising gently through the scrub. Reaching level ground it straightens out and heads almost due south to meet a wider track after some 660m. Here on the left are the ruins of a completely deserted village, one of a number that were totally abandoned in the flight from the land after the revolution of the seventies.

- Turn left to walk past the ruins, and follow the clear track along the broad ridge, climbing very gently towards the end of 1.22k. Come to a sharp left-hand turn, and start to descend, passing another smaller set of ruins on the left. Another sharp left-hander is followed by a right-hand hairpin, leading down to a junction with a metalled road. (770m from the first left-hander).

- Turn left here, and almost immediately turn left again on a much narrower dirt path leading down to another junction – with a wider dirt track – after some 330m. Now at the valley floor, turn left and immediately right to walk north-eastwards across the valley. Ignore a fairly obvious turn to the right and arrive at a fork on a tarmac road after around 560m.

- To your left is the tiny settlement of Charneca, with a sausage factory, from where you can get fresh produce if it is open. The walk continues to the right. - Pass a junction on the left and after 330m turn very sharply left off the tarmac onto a dirt-track heading first north-west but quickly turning north-east. It joins a tarmac road, on which continue in a generally northerly direction until, after around 1.4k, come to a cleared area on the right, with a couple of buildings and probably one or two lorries.

- Turn right to cross this area and find a path on the other side, and follow this in a generally easterly direction. After around 350m, the track turns sharp left. Very soon afterwards, turn right across open land towards a building about 100m away, which is the sewage treatment plant for Benafim – the small town visible on the left. Pass the installation on the left, and follow the track beyond it as it rises to a main road after a further 400m.

- Turn left up the road, carrying straight on at the junction, to reach a roundabout on the eastern outskirts of Benafim. There are two bars here on the right if refreshment is required.

- To continue the walk, turn left from the roundabout and take the first turn on the right, which runs diagonally away from the main road. The Rua de Sa. Carneiro runs due west for a time, then turns more north-west, running into the Rua das Bicas Velhas. Follow this round a curve to the right and then take the first left, a short connecting alley down to a crossroads. Cross over into the Rua da Igreja (Church Street) and follow this road as it continues northwest and then due west, past the small parish church and out into open country.

- The cobbles (or calçadas as they are called in Portugal) give way to tarmac at the exit from the village. Take the first turn on the right after the tarmac begins, a narrow footpath leading over a low hill to join another metalled road after 150m. Go straight ahead here and follow the road as it dips and then rises gently over another low hill before starting to descend. After around 520m come to a junction and take the right hand road. The tarmac runs out soon after this, replaced by a dirt track.

- At the next junction, after a further 550m, turn left and walk down to cross a stream or dry bed, heading off now more or less westerly on a rising track. It peaks after around 1.35k, then stays level for a time before turning quite sharply south after another 580m, to come down quite soon to a junction. Turn right here and continue to descend, rather more steeply.

- After around 870m, another wide track joins from the left. Continue straight ahead and follow the track round into a gorge. About 400m after the last junction the track becomes paved, and leads down past the Fontes (springs), which are a popular attraction for local people and tourists alike. The road leads down to the small bridge that you walked over early in the walk. Stay right to walk up through the town, retracing your steps back to the bar and your car. (About 1k from the start of the paving.)

fonte grande

Fonte Grande, Alte.

Orientation normal. 37/8

GPS Points.

1. Car park, Alte. 14 02 07   10 42 91  
2.  Bridge crossing  14  14  74    10 24  85     600m
3.  At Julia  13  53 70     09 41   71    1.38k
4.  Turn off right  13 38  24    09  45 46    1.11k
5.  Deserted village  12  51 41    09 38 35    1.57k
6.   Track junction  12  40 95    08 36 79    1.94k
7.   Charneca  12  58  16    08  07  92    970m
8..   Nr sewage farm  13 37 80    07  37 60    1.78k
9.   Benafim  13  58  31    07  20  54    1.39k
10.   Turn off tarmac  14  05 81    07 49   50    780m
11.   Stream crossing  14  39  16    07 59  56     1.28k
12. Main track to Alte 14 18 00   09 09 89   2k
13.   Calcada starts  14  18 36     10  02  70    1.51k
14.   End                  1.23k

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