This trail offers one of the best ways to enjoy the serene lagoons and salt marshes of Ria Formosa, a natural jewel and one of the most important wetland ecosystems in the Iberian Peninsula. Protected from the open sea waters by a wide stretch of sandy islands, those lagoons provide shelter to a variety of waders and long-legged coastal birds, as well as to shellfish and fish species, including two endangered species of seahorses.



Location: Quinta do Lago, Almancil; Loulé municipality; GPS Coordinates (decimal degrees): 37.035242 N, -8.027176 W; Grade: easy; Type: out & back signposted trails; Lenght: 6300 meters/ 3.9 miles; Average Completion Time: 3.0 hours; Best Time to Visit: all year round; Activities: nature walks; cycling; birdwatching;

At the beginning of the trail you will notice, straight ahead, the vast sand dunes that stabilize the barrier islands facing the ocean, and which provide a valuable habitat to a plethora of psammophyte (‘sand loving’) plants, some of them endemic to southern Portugal. Notable among these plants are the Portuguese Thyme, a fragrant and very endangered species (discover more here), and the rare and beautiful Spiny Thrift (Armeria pungens). Besides providing enjoyable panoramas, the bridge – the longest wooden bridge in Europe -that crosses to Quinta do Lago Beach provides a good opportunity to perceive both the dynamic nature of Ria Formosa and the rich plant cover on the dunes.

Here, low tide brings with it the shellfish catchers that painstakingly collect Grooved Carpet Shell, a gastronomic delicacy that has been harvested throughout the Algarvian region since time immemorial. Next, you´ll enter a sparse umbrella pine wood, where it is possible to observe birds like the Iberian Azure-winged Magpie (Cyanopica cooki), and the bright yellow Black-headed Weaver (Ploceus melanocephalus), a species accidentally introduced from the African savannas. If you´re lucky enough, maybe you can even detect the protected chameleons (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) that only live in Portugal along some parts of these forested seashores.

São Lourenço Trail Map Quinta do Lago_2015Shortly after, you’ll reach a small lake covered by reeds, where – depending on the time of the year – it is possible to contemplate a broad array of aquatic birds, including notable species such as the Purple Swamphen, the Glossy Ibis and the Little Bittern (please check the list here). A bird hide will provide unobstructed vistas of the lake, a place also inhabited by terrapins native to Portugal.

Surrounding the lake, in the distance you’ll also see the famous “luxury Algarve villas” of the exquisitely landscaped Quinta do Lago, one of the top luxury destinations in Europe. Further on, in the shadows of a large carob tree, there is a small tank complex built by the Romans around the 2nd century AD in order to produce a special condiment, called ‘garum‘, very popular at the time, which was prepared from the fermented intestines of fishes. After wondering if there was a strong correlation between the ultimate demise of the Roman Empire and the culinary taste of its citizens, you can either make the pleasant way back or converge with the Ludo Trail to observe flamingos strolling quietly in the salt pans.



Further Tips
If you are arriving by car there are a couple of options to consider. Parking lot #1 (please check trail map above) offers free parking; however, during summer it may be more difficult to uncover available space. On the other hand, parking lot #2 charges a small rate between the end of May and the beginning of October  – prices are subjected to sudden changes and it is hard to assert a figure – but, usually, it is much easier to find a space to park. Both lots are available year round. The trail may sometimes be waterlogged due to tidal fluctuations along the golf course. However, that is infrequent and should not be a problem as long as you mind the stray golf balls that sometimes fly around. Please check the interactive map above to get directions. This trail aggregates two well known trails: São Lourenço proper and Quinta do Lago trail. Enjoy.


Planning a Visit to Quinta do Lago?
Vale do Lobo Beach Sunset in Central Algarve You then may want to enjoy the really outstanding, nearby beaches. Stretching west from Quinta do Lago, there is a very long expanse of pristine dunes, soft sand and clear, calm waters. Besides Quinta do Lago Beach, you’ll find Ancão, Garrão and Dunas Douradas beaches (the latter literally meaning “Golden Dunes”), all awarded the Blue Flag for their high standards. In Dunas Douradas (pictured left) and Garrão, near Vale do Lobo, there are two small freshwater lagoons – see Birding Hotspots – where it is possible to encounter birds like the Little Bittern and the Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla). If you are arriving from Quinta do Lago and you do not want to walk all four miles – out and back – it takes to get there, your best option is to use bicycles. However, it is also possible to reach them by car from Almancil. Both free and paid car parks are widely available. There are also some beach side restaurants along the seashore, starting with Gigi’s in Quinta do Lago Beach. Despite being pricey, those are good seafood eateries. Normally, all the fish is freshly caught that same day. Please use the box bellow to find the best deals in Quinta do Lago.