Hiking Via Algarviana_ explore the interior of the Algarve, Portugal

Hiking Via Algarviana: explore the interior of the Algarve, Portugal

The Via Algarviana is a long distance trail in the Algarve in the south of Portugal. This is a practical guide for your walking holiday on the Via Algarviana.

Via Algarviana overview

  • Length: 300 kilometers / 186 miles
  • Region: Algarve (Portugal)
  • Stages: 14. From 14 to 30 kilometers
  • Where to stay: hostels, B&Bs, hotels
  • Best time to hike: September to May
  • Navigation: white/red markings

Interested in hiking this beautiful trail? Keep on reading for more detailed information.

One of the many dirtroads op the Via Algarviana

What is the Via Algarviana?

The Via Algarviana (Algarve Way or GR13) is a 300-kilometer (186-mile) long distance trail crossing the entire length of the Algarve, the region in the south of Portugal. The starting point is in the town of Alcoutim at the Spanish border and you hike all the way to Cabo de São Vicente (Cape st. Vincent), the southwesternmost point of continental Europe.

The trail shows you the best places in the interior of the Algarve. It only uses local dirt roads and forest roads that already exist and it’s a bit off the beaten track since most tourists tend to stay near the Algarve coast. You’ll pass forests full of cork trees, olive groves, and beautiful traditional villages where you can still experience the local life. In addition, you’ll climb the highest point in the Algarve: Mount Foía in Serra de Monchique.

Sections of the Via Algarviana

The Via Algarviana trail has 14 sections:

  1. Alcoutim to Balurcos – 24.2 kilometers – Difficulty: Hard
  2. Balurcos to Furnazinhas – 14.3 kilometers – Difficulty: Easy
  3. Furnazinhas to Vaqeiros – 22.6 kilometers – Difficulty: Medium
  4. Vaqeiros to Cachopo – 14.9 kilometers – Difficulty: Hard
  5. Cachopo to Barranco do Velho – 29.5 kilometers – Difficulty: Hard
  6. Barranco do Velho to Salir – 14 kilometers – Difficulty: Medium
  7. Salir to Alte – 16.4 kilometers – Difficulty: Medium
  8. Alte to São Bartolomeu de Messines – 20.6 kilometers – Difficulty: Medium
  9. São Bartolomeu de Messines to Silves – 29 kilometers – Difficulty: Hard
  10. Silves to Monchique – 32.1 kilometers – Difficulty: Hard
  11. Monchique to Marmelete – 14.8 kilometers – Difficulty: Medium
  12. Marmelete to Bensafrim – 30 kilometers – Difficulty: Hard
  13. Bensafrim to Vila do Bispo – 29.7 kilometers – Difficlty: Hard
  14. Vila do Bispo to Cape Saint Vincent – 16.4 kilometers – Difficulty: Easy

You can find more detailed information about the sections on the Via Algarviana website.

Via Algarviana Map

Map by jministro@almargem.org, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Is the Via Algarviana a hard hike?

As you can see, the sections vary a lot. There are some smaller sections, but also very long days. Half of the sections are rated Hard. Since you’re hiking in the Algarve mountains, there are quite a lot of steep climbs. Yes, I would say that hiking this trail is hard work, so prepare yourself and get some training before you head out there.

Connecting Trails

In addition to the sections of the Via Algarviana, there are also seven connecting trails (two more will be added soon). These trails will show you some hidden gems, or connect you to one of the train stations in the Algarve. This is an overview of the connecting trails.

  1. Parises (in section 5) to São Brás de Alportel – 18.4 kilometers – Difficulty: Hard
  2. Ameixial to Barranco do Velho (end of section 5, start of section 6) – 21.9 kilometers – Difficulty: Hard
  3. Train station Loulé to Salir (in section 6) – 27.8 kilometers – Difficulty: Hard
  4. Albufeira to Alte (end of section 7, start of section 8) – 29.3 kilometers – Difficulty: Hard
  5. Train station Mexilhoeira Grande to Monchique (end of section 10, start of section 11) – 25.5 kilometers – Difficulty: Hard
  6. Train station Lagos to Bensafrim (end of section 12, start of section 13) – 10.1 kilometers – Difficulty: Easy
  7. Marmelete (end of section 11, start of section 12) to Aljezur (connection to the Fishermen’s Trail and the Historical Way) – 18.6 kilometers – Difficulty: Medium

Check this page for an overview of all the connecting trails and GPX files. The connecting trails are marked with the same red-white markings as the Via Algarviana.

Cork trees along the Via Algarviana

When is the best time to hike the Via Algarviana?

Good months to hike the Via Algarviana are September and October and February to May. During these months, the weather is usually pretty mild, not too hot, and not too cold. There’s also not too much rain. The wettest (and coldest) months are from November to January. Between June and August, it can get really hot.

Be prepared for all weather types, especially in the higher mountains. Although the highest mountain in the Algarve is “only” 902 meters (2959 feet), it can be covered in clouds which can result in rainfall.

How to navigate the Via Algarviana

Marking of the Via Algarviana trail

The Via Agarviana is very well-marked with red and white signs. Sometimes yellow and red, when there are more trails in the area.

In addition, you can get this Via Algarviana Guidebook. This is a German guide, but the maps are very convenient. You can also download the GPX files from the official website and upload them to your GPS device or an app on your phone. I myself use the app GPX Viewer Pro.

Transportation to and from the trail

If you travel from abroad and need to travel to the south of Portugal by plane, make sure to fly to Faro Airport. From here, you can make your way to the trail. Check WayAway to find the best deals on plane tickets.

How to get from Faro to the start of the trail in Alcoutim?

From the airport take the bus or an Uber to the Faro bus or train station (they’re pretty much right next to each other). From there you either take the train or a bus to Vila Real de Santo António, a coastal town on the border of Spain. From here, you can either take the bus or an Uber to Alcoutim.

How to get from Cabo São Vicente back to Faro?

From Cabo São Vicente you can take a bus to Lagos. There are only a few buses a day that depart from Cape st. Vincent, you can also opt to continue your hike to Sagres with more transportation options to Lagos. From Lagos, you can get on a train to Faro or take a direct bus to Faro Airport.

Extra transportation tips

Use Google Maps or Rome2Rio to find schedules, bus stops, and train stations. Trains go every 2 to 3 hours, and buses usually only a few times a day. Even less on weekends, so make sure to plan ahead!

You can get train tickets at the station, and get there early because the lines can be long. You can also buy train tickets on the CP app or website, do this at least 15 minutes before departure time.

Bus tickets can be bought by the driver. Bring cash, and preferably coins or a €5 bill. I couldn’t even get enough change for my €10 bill the other day, so the smaller, the better.

Marker of the Via Algarviana near Barao de Sao Joao

Where to stay?

Most of the towns along the main route have a pension or a B&B where you can stay in. Don’t expect very luxurious resort hotels (you can find those at the coast), but more a local experience with friendly people. This is the charm of the trail!

The more you hike to the west coast, the easier it gets to find a good place to stay. I recommend checking Booking.com to find a place to stay. On this website, you’ll find a lot of options, and it’s also easy to cancel (if necessary).

Here are some accommodation suggestions:

  • Alcoutim: Hotel D’Alcoutim (3⭐) – Nice hotel with a swimming pool overlooking the river.
  • Balurcos: Casa do vale das Hortas – Cute country house where you can stay in one of the small rooms.
  • Furnazinhas: Unfortunately, there’s no pension or hotel in this village. If possible, continue hiking to the next town or use Uber to get to your accommodation.
  • Vaqeiros: Casa de Pasto Teixeria – Nice rooms in the center of town. Call for reservations: +351 281498162.
  • Cachopo: Aldeia de Cachopo Suítes – Room in a country house with a kitchenette.
  • Barranco do Velho: There are no places to stay in Barranco do Velho, but you can hike a little further to Cortelha. Here you can stay in Casa De Campo Cantinho Da Serra, which is only 1 kilometer of trail.
  • Salir: Casa da Mae – Beautiful rooms in a nice house. It has an outdoor pool and a garden.
  • São Bartolomeu de Messines: Guia Guest House – Nice pension in a good location in the center of the town.
  • Silves: Mosaiko 5 Suites – Uniquely decorated and colorful rooms in the center of town.
  • Monchique: Hospedaria Descansa Pernas – Nice guesthouse in a beautiful part of town.
  • Marmelete: Unfortunately there are no places to stay in Marmelete. However, about four kilometers before you reach Marmelete, you’ll pass Horta do Zé Miguel. Here you can rent a room in a farmhouse.
  • Bensafrim: Agua de Sonho 2 – Small guesthouse/hostel in the center of town.
  • Vila do Bispo: Pure Fonte Velha B&B – Great B&B in the center of town.
  • Sagres (Cape St. Vincent): This is the only place where you can find a luxurious hotel! Memmo Baleeira (4⭐) is a fantastic place to end your hike. It’s in a great location with views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Hiking the Via Algarviana with a tent

Can you bring your tent and go camping while you’re hiking? Unfortunately, there are hardly any campgrounds along the Via Algarviana. Wildcamping in Portugal is illegal, so if you get caught, you can expect a hefty fine.

However, I have met some people that hiked the Via Algarviana with a tent and they didn’t have any problems. It might actually be smart to pack a tent because in some places there just are not that many places to stay. In that case, you’ll always have a backup. Make sure to pitch far away from towns and villages and leave no trace. Be careful, there are some wild boars in the area.

hiking over the highest mountains near Monchique
Hiking over the highest mountains in the Algarve near Monchique.

What to pack?

What to pack when you’re hiking the Via Algarviana? First things first, make sure to bring a good backpack. A 30 to 45-liter pack should be more than enough.

These are some great packs for the Via Algarviana:

Ok, you now have the perfect backpack for the Via Algarviana. What do you put in your bag?

  • refillable water bottle – there are not too many water taps along the way, so make sure to bring enough water. You can always ask a cafe or restaurant if they can refill your bottle. You don’t need to bring a water filter. You can safely drink tap water in Portugal.
  • Snacks – since you’re hiking a rural route, you won’t pass too many cafes or restaurants. So make sure to bring some snacks.
  • Small first aid kit – including band-aids, aspirin, nail clipper, and tweezers.
  • A lightweight rain jacket – it doesn’t rain a lot in the Algarve, but it’s always smart to bring one. You can also use it as a wind stopper.
  • sun hat or a buff. There’s not a lot of shade and it can get really sunny.
  • Are you planning on staying in hostels? Don’t forget to bring earplugs.
  • toiletry bag for shampoo, sun lotion, makeup, etcetera.
  • quick-drying travel towel. Comes in handy when you’re staying in hostels or if you want to relax on the beach when you’re hiking.
  • Extra clothes so you don’t have to wear your hiking clothes all day and night.
  • Optional: Trekking poles. I personally didn’t use them during my section hikes on the Via Algarviana, but they could’ve been really useful on some of the steeper sections.
  • Chargers and a power bank so you can always charge your electronics if you need to.

If you’d like to check out a more detailed list, read this post: What’s in my pack? Day hike packing list

More beautiful long-distance hikes

I hope you have now learned everything you needed to know about the beautiful Via Algarviana in Portugal.

Would you like to read more about long-distance trails? These are some great books filled with inspiration:

100 Hikes of a Lifetime: The World’s Ultimate Scenic Trails

100 Hikes of a Lifetime: The World's Ultimate Scenic Trails

This ultimate hiker's bucket list, from the celebrated Appalachian Trail to Micronesia's off-the-beaten-path Six Waterfalls Hike, treks through 100 energizing experiences for all levels.

Get it now
12/05/2023 04:30 pm GMT

Great Hiking Trails of the World: 80 Trails, 75,000 Miles, 38 Countries, 6 Continents

You can also read more about hiking in Portugal and other European countries on this website. You might like to read one of these articles as well:

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Hiking Via Algarviana explore the interior of the Algarve, Portugal

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As a girl from a small town in the Netherlands, I always dreamed of traveling. I thought it would always be a dream, but nowadays, I travel 6 to 8 months a year and I hike thousands of miles on the most beautiful hiking trails. On this website you can read all about my favorite destinations.

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