The coastal hiking route “Path of the Headlands” was inaugurated in 2018. Like its sister route, the route of the seven hanging valleys, this route offers incredible views of the unique seascape of southern Portugal.
It’s our 2nd favourite hike in the Algarve and will bring you up close to dramatic cliffs, pristine beaches and natural sculptures. It may be an exaggeration to say it’s a walk in the clouds, but it will certainly bring you closer to heaven.
The Cabos Trail follows the contour of the coastline and stretches for 6 km, between the car park at Praia do Molhe, next to the mouth of the Arade River, and Paraíso beach, near the village of Carvoeiro. However, the last stretch of the trail, just before Carvoeiro, is inaccessible due to unstable cliffs. In the video I make the mistake of saying that the trail starts in Portimão, which is incorrect, as it starts from Praia do Molhe in Ferragudo, southeast of Portimão.
Although it’s not a circular walk, we didn’t get bored with the trail, nor the views which are magnificent. You’ll traverse over 300 vertical meters, and at the highest point you’ll be looking 49 meters down into the crashing waves.
Spend 3-5 hours hiking and bring food, water and snacks. There are not many restaurants open in the low season. However, we discovered that the beachfront restaurant Rei das Praias (translated as King of the Beaches) in Praia dos Caneiros is also open in winter. Here, just 500 metres from your car, you can contemplate your successful hike while savouring lunch, with a hot cup of coffee or a cool drink in hand.
A rugged coastline
The coastline of the Lagoa areas is rugged, with a continuous line of steep cliffs down to the ocean. This morphology is defined by a very peculiar geology, slowly shaped by rain, waves and wind.
First, the cape of Ponta do Altar advances 260 metres towards the sea. From here, towards the east, a succession of headlands alternates with rocky ravines that shelter small beaches or rocks resulting from ancient landslides. However, the cliffs are the dominant element of the landscape, revealing surprising reliefs of unique beauty.
These cliffs are carved out of a Miocene limestone massif, easily chiselled by fresh and salt water, creating the so-called karst landscape. In this stretch of the Algarve coastline, you will find geoforms, caves and grottoes resulting from the underground circulation of fresh water.
Along the route you will find information on panels about the geology of the area, marine ecosystems and coastal vegetation, along with testimonies of the ancient human occupation of the coast.
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Pirate precautions and bird shelters.
The Torre da Lapa was built in the 17th century, in stone and mortar, as a precaution against pirates and privateers. It was used to watch over the sea, especially the mouth of the Arade River. In case of danger, torchbearers would make smoke during the day and light bonfires at night, alerting the towns and other fortifications in the region.
While the sharp cliffs may have been a danger to sailors, it is a sanctuary for the winged beasts of the Algarve. The limestone cliffs, heavily fissured and inaccessible to land predators, offer refuge to birds such as the rock pigeon, yellow-legged gull, kestrel and even the peregrine falcon.
The thickets that dominate these limestone beds are defined by juniper and kermes oak shrubs. Along the edge of the cliffs, there are plants such as the Mediterranean salicorn, which have adapted to the maritime influence.
Most of the beaches along the way are inaccessible, which makes them seem pristine and paradisiacal. However, there are a couple of beaches that CAN be accessed, and which are close to the car park at the beginning (or end) of the trail: Praia do Pintadinho and Praia dos Caneiros.
This lack of accessible beaches does not affect the appeal of this trail, but compared to the Seven Hanging Valleys Hiking Route, this route is a bit more desolate. Depending on your preferences, you’ll either find it more stunning or more austere. And although we still think that the Seven Hanging Valleys Hiking Route is the most beautiful in the Algarve, it comes in second place.
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