Walking in Portugal : The Hidden Algarve
(Moderately Easy walking, from £807 per person)
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20-27 April 2013
Eight days in the hidden Algarve, a walker’s paradise with amazingly varied scenery: totally unspoilt countryside, pretty villages and beautiful beaches. We’re a world away from the crowded and overdeveloped coastal resorts often associated with the Algarve. Here, from our delightful luxury Pousada in Estoi, you will discover the indigenous and rural character of the Eastern Algarve as we follow scenic paths through picturesque landscapes, the air heavy with the scent of wild flowers and herbs.
- Relaxing as you walk in the company of friendly groups personally led by Aubrey and June
- All the creature comforts of an elegant luxury hilltop Pousada, quietly situated in the heart of rural Estoi
- Soaking up the sun as you walk through beautiful varied landscapes and spectacular coastal scenery
- Unspoilt picturesque villages of honey-coloured stone; exotic flora and fauna
- Swimming opportunities on some walks and in the hotel pool
- Unwinding as you sip a glass of something cool on the terrace as you watch the sun go down
- Making lasting friendships, one of the benefits of our holidays which attract like-minded people; our groups comprise a mix of couples, friends and singles
- Learning about the island’s historical and cultural legacy and sampling excellent authentic cuisine
What to Expect
Climate: April is an ideal time to enjoy walking holidays on the Algarve, when days are warm and meals can be enjoyed al fresco. The island has a typical Mediterranean climate, with mild winters and hot summers tempered by sea breezes. The average temperature in April is 20 C with an average of 9 hours of sunshine daily; very little rain is expected during the month.
Our base: Estoi is a small, quiet village on the side of a hill only 10 kilometres from Faro. It’s a world away from the traditional tourist towns and resorts of the Algarve, having just a few local shops, a bank, some bars and restaurants. On the second Sunday of the month Estoi’s market attracts traders from all over Southern Portugal. Here they trade livestock, horses, farm produce along with clothing and handmade crafts.
Grading of Walks: The walks in our programme are moderately easy, suitable for people of average fitness.
Hotel: The Pousada (or Palacio de Estoi) is a 4-star luxury hotel, a pink rococo pastiche, recently restored. It is a sophisticated blend of tastefully restored Baroque palace with cutting-edge contemporary-designed accommodation. Relax in delightful gardens, complete with statues and terraces of palms and orange trees. You can indulge in the hotel spa and pool (indoor and outdoor). The hotel is noted for its authentic Portuguese cuisine served in the Pousada’s excellent restaurant. For more details see www.pousadas.pt
Accommodation: Large comfortable en-suite double rooms with balconies or terraces with garden views. Bathrooms contain bathtubs as well as showers. (There are no single rooms, only large double rooms for single occupancy)
Price: £807 per person for 2 people sharing a double or twin room (all with balcony); £245 (£35 per night) supplement for single occupancy of a spacious double room with balcony or terrace (8 singles only). The euro component of this holiday is based on an exchange rate of 1.21 euros to the pound, the prevailing rate in November 2012; should this rate fall, a small supplement may be payable one month before departure.
Included in your holiday:
- Coach transfers to and from Faro Airport
- Guided walks on 5 days
- Luxury hotel accommodation as described above
- Coach or mini-bus transport on most days
- Buffet breakfasts, three-course dinners
- Services of two guide/hosts throughout
- Flights (see below)
- Local bus and ferry fares (allow approx 50 euros)
- Lunches in local restaurants and bars (allow 10-15 euros a day)
- Items of a personal nature
- Gratuities (optional)
EasyJet offers reasonable fares and departure times; you can book online at www.easyjet.com or call 0843 104 5000 to book by phone. Please note that if you book by phone, there is an additional charge of £15 per flight.
Saturday 20 April depart London Gatwick 1620, arrive Faro 1910, Flight No 8925; current fare (mid-March) £67.99.
Saturday 27 April depart Faro 1125, arrive London Gatwick 1410, Flight No 8918; current fare (mid-March) £66.99
Please be aware that flight times could change before April and the above fares will certainly increase over time. The fares quoted exclude taxes and luggage. Please do not book flights until availability has been confirmed and you are advised to do so.
We meet you at Faro airport to transfer you by coach to Estoi and your Pousada (20 minutes). An informal Welcome Meeting with a complimentary drink and briefing will take place before dinner.
Tavira and Ilha de Tavira (Easy: 7 miles)
An easy 7-mile route down to the sea to enjoy the cry of the gull and the salt-sea spray. We visit Tavira, the ‘Pearl of the Algarve’, architecturally-attractive, pictorially placed in a beautiful riverside setting complete with fishing boats and Roman bridge. Twisting cobbled streets lined with blue-and-white tiled houses, reflect Tavira’s Moorish past and there’s an ancient castle with beautiful gardens. A pause for coffee where you may like to try a traditional pastry, the ‘Pastel de Nata’.
A ferry takes us to Ilha de Tavira, the largest of the barrier islands, accessible only by boat. A memorable beach walk follows; we are at one with the ocean, the wind, the wild seabirds, the only sound that of the waves gently lapping over soft, warm sand. We visit a tuna-fishing village in the Rio Formosa Natural Park and so-called ‘octopus capital’, full of colourful boats and fishermen’s huts. Lunch today is rather special, at the acclaimed Quatro Aguas, on the jetty.
Fonte de Mesquita and Sao Bras de l’Aportel (Easy: 6 miles)
An easy, deeply rural route exploring the rocky countryside of the Barrocal at the foot of the Serra do Caldeirao. The vast network of paths and tracks we use today were all originally constructed to lead to the well or to a vegetable patch, a mill or a village. Some are very ancient and today we walk on routes dating back to Roman times. We will see the wells and the threshing floor, the cork trees and the drystone walls and, everywhere we walk, an abundance of colourful spring flowers.
Some of the houses we encounter in remote hamlets are very beautiful, immaculately white to reflect the heat of the sun and keep them cool inside. Some have saddle roofs for collecting the rain water; others, the more modern ones, are embellished with floral or geometric motifs.
Following lunch at a traditional restaurant, we visit Sao Bras de l’Aportel’s old town with its narrow streets and fascinating buildings. We walk along a stretch of the Roman Road before finally visiting the fascinating Museo do Trajo housed in a beautiful 19th century mansion house, once the home of a wealthy cork merchant.
Monte Seco Circuit (Moderate: 6 miles)
Set in the hills and valleys of the limestone Barrocal this is a very scenic circuit at any season but particularly in spring when wild flowers carpet the ground. Paeoni and poppies populate the lower regions while the seemingly-dry hillsides abound with wild orchids. From the Ribeira de Algibre we make our way up to village of Monte Seco for a coffee at an authentic little bar where the proprietor may well send his wife next door to borrow some cups to cater for us all!
As we ascend further the views over the Algibre Valley will become more and more extensive until finally we reach the summit of Monte Seco itself at 1,000 feet. Here you may well see buzzards circling above and most certainly you will find more wild flowers among the almond and olive groves.
Lunch today is late, at the Monte da Eira restaurant, near Loule where you can sit out on the terrace soaking up the sun and enjoying some excellent Algarvian cuisine. Spend the afternoon relaxing back at the Pousada or, if you still have energy left, visit the important Roman remains at Milreu at Estoi.
Free Day Today no walks are organised, allowing you to explore the village of Estoi. Or just relax in the hotel, a wonderful location for sunbathing, reading under arbours and lunching on the terrace with stunning views across the hills to the coast.
You may wish to visit Faro for the day, with its unhurried, historic charm and jumble of narrow residential streets and pedestrianised shopping area. We can arrange transport, a guided tour and a visit to the excellent Archeological Museum. Alternatively, if you love the sea, you can take a boat trip to the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa with its wonderful bird and marine life, flowers and islands. Faro is easily accessible by bus or taxi, being only 10 kilometres from Estoi.
The Two Rivers: Rio Guadiana and Ribeira de Odeleite (Moderate: 10 miles) We walk along the biggest and prettiest river of the Algarve at the Algarve’s unknown eastern-most end. Here you will find one of the Algarve’s best hidden secrets, unspoilt quiet beauty, lush riverbanks, panoramic hills and unspoilt villages.
The Guardiana river marks the eastern boundary of the Algarve and the border between Portugal and Spain. At times the river bank will be only a stone’s throw from Spain. The river is tidal all this way and as far north as Mértola. This tranquil river valley is a very different world to much of the Algarvian coast: hidden away, silent, sparsely populated, and ever more remote the farther north you travel.
After lunch in the village of Foz de Odeleite, our route takes us along a second river, the Ribeira de Odeleite, bordered by richly cultivated fields and vineyards where the only sounds you will hear are the hushed flow of the river and birdsong, even the nightingale if you are lucky!
Praia do Benagil to Senhora da Rocha (Moderate: 7 miles).
Today we explore the essence of the Algarve’s famous Barlavento coastline, renowned for beautiful beaches backed by crumbling ochre cliffs and onamented with surreally eroded rocks, arches, grottoes and stacks. Add a few fishing boats and you have a picture-postcard scene that couldn’t be anywhere else in the world. Make sure you bring your camera!
Needless to say our walk takes us to the best of this region, from a tiny fishing village to a coastal path with a wealth of wild flowers including hyacinths and orchids, to spectacular beaches. A favourite is Praia da Marinha, a superb sandy beach in a beautiful natural setting, perhaps the best in the Algarve with tall sun-trap cliffs, fishing boats and huts. Apart from a couple of restaurants and bars there are thankfully no other signs of development and so long as these beaches remain accessible only to walkers, they are likely to remain so.
Departure for Faro airport after breakfast and our flight back to Gatwick.
Please note that we reserve the right to change the above itinerary if circumstances dictate.
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