Exploring Portugal – September 2019

My husband Colin and I have recently returned from a week in the Algarve region of Portugal, to preview the area we plan to tour in October of 2020, with Comfortable Hiking Holidays and a group of enthusiastic Nordic walkers.

Portugal was amazing! We enjoyed time spent on several stunning beaches, which was a top priority after a busy week of cycling along the Danube.  But sampling some of the Rota Vicentina, Portugal’s incredible network of hiking trails was also a priority.   We booked an apartment in Lagos for the week. After arriving at the airport in Lisbon, we made our way down the coast and our first hike was from the beach at Almograve, walking along a costal road and across sand dunes.  It had a long time since I had done much walking in sand so I had forgotten how hard it is to walk in it.  Of course, my Urban poles were a huge help!

Our second walk was a short one to view the dramatic cliffs, arches, sea stacks and caves at Ponta de Piedade, on the outskirts of Lagos, after a morning of enjoying the beach across the street from our apartment.  On our third day in Lagos, we drove east along the coast to the Praia de Centeanes where we booked a 2 hour guided kayak tour to the famous Benagil Cave.  Jostling with motor boats and waves to enter the various grottos and caves along the shore was a little unnerving in a kayak.  Visiting this cave by boat is an included tour on Comfortable Hiking Holiday’s itinerary next year and would be the ideal way to visit this not-to-be-missed location.   On this tour, we spotted a beautiful beach we just had to visit in the afternoon….. Carvalho Beach (banner photo).

Next, we had a pretty full day Nordic walking from the fort at Sagres to Cabo de São Vicente, with the daily beach break, of course.  The route was well marked, the footing was good, the elevation change minimal and the views….. stunning!  The most fascinating thing we observed was an elderly man fishing, while sitting in a precarious spot, right on the edge of the cliffs.  I have no idea how he would have retrieved a big fish if he had one on the line.   We walked about 8 km.  We were unsure whether or not we would have to walk back to our car in Sagres. We weren’t too keen to do that as we were tired enough with the one way trek. But that is a downfall of not walking with a group.  There was no bus there to pick us up and whisk us back to our lodgings.  Luckily, we made an inquiry and the kind staff at the lighthouse called a taxi for our return trip.  Cabo de São Vicente was known as the Finis Terrae, that is, the End of the World for three millennia.  Although Cabo de Sao Vicente itself was a busy tourist destination, we only counted one other hiker on this wonderful day!

As I am a geocacher, I researched geocaches in the Algarve area. I noticed one circular trail, with a number of geocaches to find along the way that looked very interesting so we made that our project for our second last day in Portugal.  It took us to a section of the Rota Vicentina near the village of Arrifana.  As it was overcast and raining for much of the morning, this was an excellent activity choice for the day.  The cliffs here were the tallest we had encountered. Geocaching took us off the main trail and on to some side trails that took us very close to the cliff edge.  This took me to the edge of my comfort zone for heights, but not beyond.  Just as we were ready for a lunch break, the rain suddenly stopped and the sun came out.  We enjoyed our lunch seated near the cliff edge with the most incredible views.  Once again, we saw just a handful of other hikers.

I must add the food and wine were excellent. I enjoyed a few different fish dishes.  The people were friendly. We had no language problems. The towns and villages were beautiful, with many lovely pedestrian zones with endless cafes, restaurants and shopping. We made a point in Lagos of checking out the four star Marina Rio hotel Comfortable Hiking Holidays uses.  Our thoughts….. very, very nice and ideally situated between a fantastic pedestrian zone and the harbor!  As a result of this week of sampling Portugal’s beaches and hiking trails, I can’t wait to be hosting a two week Nordic walking tour next year, under the excellent guiding services of Robert, co-owner of Canada’s experienced and beloved Comfortable Hiking Holidays.   If you are interested in joining us, please contact Jenni Evans ASAP (jenni.evans@visiontravel.ca) as we have several who have already confirmed their reservation and several more who have expressed a strong interest. We would like to have our group confirmed by the end of next month.    For a complete album of photographs from this amazing week, please visit my Facebook page.  For details about the tour provider, itinerary, inclusions, accommodations and costs for this adventure, please visit this page of my website.

Nordic walking along the coast from Sagres
Exploring the cliffs at Ponte de Piedade
Nordic walking the coast near Almograve





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