Location: Lagoa, encompassing the coastline between Marinha Beach and Vale Centeanes Beach; Lagoa municipality; GPS Coordinates : 37°05’24.635″N / 8°24’46.181″W (start); 37º05’28.799″N / 8º27’14.762″W (finish); Grade: moderate; some stretches can be more difficult for elderly or very young visitors; Type: linear trail (out and back); this trail is signposted; Lenght: 12000 meters/ 7.46 miles (out and back, total); Average Completion Time: up to 4-6 hours; Best Time to Visit: all year round; may not be advisable on stormy or windy days; Activities: nature walks and hikes; birdwatching; swimming in summer
This scenic route runs from Praia da Marinha in the east to Praia de Vale Centeanes in the west. Among others, it offers a string of notable stops at the Alfanzina lighthouse, and at Benagil and Carvalho beaches. The walk itself takes place along the top of coastal cliffs characterized by their deeply sculpted shapes and beautiful ocher and golden hues. Crowning the cliffs near Praia da Marinha, the dense juniper and mastic undergrowth provides shelter to a variety of animals that include rabbits, foxes, mongooses, warblers, owls, and several species of butterflies.
Praia da Marinha is widely considered as one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe; the sweeping view over this famous beach reveals a rich array of notable landforms comprising arches, natural bridges, grottoes, and precarious sea stacks. Seagulls and cormorants are seen crisscrossing the blue atmosphere above before landing accurately on the vertical rocky walls; this very meandering hike then uncovers a series of hidden surprises like deep gorges, secluded coves, forested patches, and huge sinkholes where it is possible to hear the waves reverberating down below. At Benagil, visitors can take a traditional boat that ferries them to various stopovers inside the spectacular caves and sinkholes throughout this remarkable coastline. Seeing sinkholes as natural skylights within a sea-sculpted cathedral really is a rare and profoundly gratifying experience. These boats depart from most of the major beaches between Praia da Marinha and Carvoeiro.
The trail is sliced by seven seasonal streams which over time originated the appropriately named ‘hanging valleys’. The narrow valleys are now ‘perched’ because the calcareous coastline has receded quite quickly in the past, leaving the watercourses’ mouth not on the beach but instead higher above, on the cliffs. Before Centeanes there is one last hanging valley where visitors can rest and take in the blissful scenery on a wooden belvedere.
The trail can be walked in either direction using the markings (see here) painted on posts and on rocks along the way. Sturdy and adequate footwear is necessary for a comfortable walk. The main dirt path is steep and rough in a few places but the most exposed stretches are fenced for safety; sinkholes are fenced as well. However, visitors should keep a safe distance from the cliffs’ and sinkholes’ edges at all times (most notably when accompanied by children). In summer, do not forget a hat and sunscreen, and always carry enough water with you. A one-time return trip will take about 4-6 hours, but there are a number of different access points (at Benagil and Carvalho, for instance) that allow a phased visit to each of the segments of the walk. There are several car parks along the length of the route, and there’s also a picnic area slightly to the east of the Alfanzina lighthouse. Enjoy!