Boa Vista Magazine discovered the Pontal da Carrapateira hiking trail on the wild Algarvean Atlantic shore.
Regarded as one of the most unspoilt coastal areas in
Europe, lined with rugged cliffs alternating with romantic sandy bays, the Algarve’s west coast is a unique hiking destination. Autumn and Spring are the ideal time of year to discover the beautiful Costa Vicentina (west coast), as the winter can be too stormy and cold, while July and August get too hot.
We were told about a circular route, offering magniﬁcent views, leading along the 25-metre-high Pontal da Carrapateira peninsula, is located near the village bearing the same name, in the Aljezur district. To get there we took the A22 motorway, right to the end, and then the EN120, heading towards Aljezur. After about 12 kilometres we turned left towards Bordeira/ Carrapateira, and after a further ten kilometres down the EN 268 we got to Carrapateira, the starting point of our hike.
Even though most hiking guides name Sítio do Rio as the hike’s starting point, we decided to walk in the opposite
direction in order to have the sun in our backs, which is better for taking pictures. So we drove through Carrapateira and parked the car before the trafﬁc lights before the village’s exit. From here a path lead us to the right, trailing up a slight slope. We are right inside the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e da Costa Vicentina nature park. A unique landscape, with great biological variety.
Heading towards the coast, we hike through a large grassland, strewn with agaves. We can’t see the sea yet, but we can hear the waves breaking. After about 25 minutes we come to Sítio do Forno, which looks like a little village but is actually storage space for ﬁshermen. And then we see it: the large, wide Atlantic Ocean. Right above the cliffs, there’s a boardwalk leading to a lookout point from where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the ocean. A ﬁrst reward for the hike thus far and a taste of what is yet to come.
Looking south, we see Amado beach, a ﬁshing port to the left and the ruins of an ancient Roman settlement. On top of the cliffs sits the Sítio do Forno restaurant and its charming terrace with views over the Atlantic.
We follow the gravel road, past the restaurant and head north. We discover the mixture of Mediterranean, North Atlantic and particularly African ﬂora which grows throughout the nature park. There are about 750 species, more than one hundred of which are endemic, rare or even only local; twelve of these don’t exist anywhere else in the world.
Seagulls, common and lesser kestrels and ospreys circle high up in the sky, joined by other birds. In winter this area is a primary corridor for migrating birds. This is why the Costa Vicentina has been named an IBA (Important Bird Area) by BirdLife International. The west coast is also the only place in the world where white storks build their nests on the rocks.
After a few more lookout points we come to a fork in the road, where one of the road leads down to the left. From here we see traditional ﬁshermen’s huts down on the slope and decide to take a closer look. We are at Porto da Zimbreirinha, Carrapateira’s oldest and most spectacular ﬁshing port. Although the descent down to the water is very dangerous, this used to be the most popular port among ﬁshermen. But in March 2010, the port was destroyed after a storm, causing rock falls. However, the huts on the steep slopes managed to withstand the storm. A little further down from the huts on the right, steep wooden stairs, from which a few steps are missing, descend into the dark water. The waves crash tirelessly against the rocks. We’re astonished to see a fragile little wooden boat tied down there and wonder what kind of men dare to go out into these seething waters in such a nutshell.
Back up on the cliffs and on the road, we pick up our northward hike and eventually come to the tip of the Pontal da Carrapateira. From here we can see the coast extending out towards the horizon to the north and Bordeira’s enormous sandy beach. It is quite obvious why this peninsula was among the ﬁnalists when Portugal voted for its seven natural wonders in 2010.
A few more lookout points later we come to the car park at Bordeira beach, from where a wooden boardwalk leads down to the beach. To the left we have the sea and to the right we see the Ribeira da Carrapateira river, one of Europe’s last natural, maritime habitats in which otters can be found. Between the two, an enormous beach with ﬁne white sand that we simply can’t resist.
After a short break we put our shoes back on and set off for the last two and a half kilometres. We turn our backs on the coast and head inland on a tarmac road, through the village of Carrapateira and back to our starting point. We arrive four and a half hours after we set off. Instead of the eight kilometres indicated, we must have easily walked twelve. We take a break at one of the village square’s terraces, next to the market hall, and ate a well-deserved bifana (beef sandwich).
The Pontal da Carrapateira hiking trail is part of the Rota Vicentina hiking trail, which consists of two routes: the Caminho Histórico, which leads from Sagres to Santiago de Cacém, in 12 stages, through the hinterland, and the coastal route called Trilho dos Pescadores, linking Porto Covo in the Alentejo with Odeceixe in the Algarve. There are ﬁve more stages further south, among which we ﬁnd the Pontal da Carrapateira trail.
More information visit: www.rotavicentina.com www.rotavicentinablogspot.pt