The Seven Hanging Valleys Hiking Route is probably the most beautiful hiking route in the Algarve, and even in the whole of Europe, according to European Best Destinations. It is also one of our favourites. In fact, we think it’s so beautiful that we’ve walked it 3 times in one year.
And since YOU can’t visit Portugal right now, WE did the hike again last week to bring you a video of this amazing trail. Hopefully it will inspire you to go yourself, when you get the chance. enjoy!
The walking route is about 12 kilometres in total, from Praia da Marinha to Praia do Vale de Centeanes and back. Although it is not a circular walk, the views in each direction are breathtaking and amazing. The trail is not very demanding, but at some points you have to climb on a rocky surface, so you will need to be steady on your feet.
We recommend that you start the hike at Praia da Marinha, or Marinha Beach. The parking lot is new and fits a lot of cars and also has a bus stop, so if you don’t have a car, you can hop on the #77 bus and end up here.
Figure 4-6 hours for the hike, depending on your fitness, your desire for a dip or your need to take photos of this beautiful stretch of coastline, the latter I can attest to myself!
Bring food, water and snacks. Depending on the time of year you visit, there may not be any restaurants open along the route, as they tend to close during the winter. If you are visiting in late spring or summer, there may be cafes/chiringuitos/restaurants open at Praia da Marinha, at Benagil and at the finishing point: Praia do Vale de Centeanes.
If you fancy a water adventure, you can visit the Benagil caves from Praia de Benagil. There are organised boat trips and sit-on-top kayak rentals, so be sure to bring some cash. And a freezer bag or something similar to keep your electronics dry and comfortable.
The Seven Hanging Valleys walk is emblematic of the incredible seascape of the Algarve.
The movement of fresh and salt water over limestone over thousands of years resulted in the formation of a jagged coastline, called the karst landscape, with a remarkable diversity of geoforms that can be seen along the way: arches, caves and these incredible sinkholes.
The highly fissured limestone rocks allow water to infiltrate quickly. Rainwater, which is acidic because of its carbon dioxide content, causes the limestone – which is basically calcium carbonate – to dissolve, deepening the cracks in the rocks and infiltrating them over great distances, creating underground rivers. As the rock weathers away, the cracks and cavities deepen, creating a complex network of shafts, galleries and caves.
A hanging valley is a ravine that is not completely connected to the sea, meaning that if the stream that created it-and probably cascaded into the sea-had continued to flow and slowly erode the rocks, it would have eventually reached the ocean. But the stream dried up and left the valley hanging.
Around the Alfanzina lighthouse you can see these pristine shell fossils embedded in the sandstone. They probably date from the Miocene, so they are between 5 and 23 MILLION years old – and they look like they were made yesterday!
On this route you will have the opportunity to dip your toes in the Atlantic Ocean at four of the most beautiful beaches in the Algarve. The first (or the last) is Praia da Marinha, which is my favourite. Although it’s a tedious walk there, it’s worth it just to be surrounded by the incredible geoforms and witness the grandeur of the cliffs at close range.
Praia de Benagil sits at the mouth of an ancient stream that carved a narrow ravine into the cliff. The beach has been home to a community of fishermen, but today, the boats are mainly dedicated to visiting the impressive Benagil caves. To visit the caves you can take a boat ride or go kayaking. It’s really not that far from the beach.
The next accessible beach is Praia do Carvalho. You can reach the beach through a tunnel when you go through the path, and it is also a treasure. Here you can imagine that you are alone on an island, having the beach all to yourself (or at least until the next hikers arrive).
The last and great beach; Praia do Vale de Centeanes embraces sun seekers with its sheer cliffs, protecting you from the north wind. But not from falling rocks, so don’t camp too close to the cliffs! It’s an amazing beach to enjoy the magnificence of the Algarve coast.
The best hiking trail in Europe?
The Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos, as the trail is called in Portuguese, has recently been chosen as one of Europe’s Best Hiking Destinations. The ranking of the best European destinations was voted by almost 30,000 travellers from 153 countries. But they may have got it wrong… I guess you’ll have to go there yourself to find out!
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