Location: Praia da Cordoama, Vila do Bispo municipality; GPS Coordinates to Praia da Cordoama : 37° 7’ 7.38” N 8° 55’ 46.76” W; Grade: medium/medium-high difficulty; some stretches can be more difficult for elderly or very young visitors; Type: circuit (double loop) trail; this trail is partially signposted; Length: Up to 17.200 meters/10.7 miles, depending on the chosen route; Average Completion Time: 3.5-5.5 hours; Best Time to Visit: between September and June; may not be advisable on stormy or windy days; Activities: nature walks and hikes; birdwatching; surfing.
This very uneven loop trail crosses some of the tallest cliffs and coastal plateaus in the Algarve. The landscape is rugged and dramatic.
In Autumn, the cliffs’ peaks and troughs also provide much needed resting spaces to migratory birds such as the Tawny Pipit or the endangered Ortolan Bunting. Between September and October, the skies above are patrolled by larger species like Booted and Short-toed Eagles.
A haven for surfers, Praia da Cordoama is a large beach populated by dark rocks at low tide. One would think that some of these surfers are engaging in risky behaviours by challenging Cordoama’s sharp rocks and powerful breakers.
However, surfing is way less dangerous than catching goose barnacles, a local delicacy that can only be harvested on the exact frontier between the crashing waves and the jagged rock faces. Cordoama is often frequented by goose barnacle catchers, a hardened kind of men that routinely engage in what is widely considered as the most hazardous job in Portugal.
With their lives literally hanging by a thread (they use ropes to climb down the cliffs), the 80 or so licensed catchers are relentlessly pummelled by the incoming waves; being crushed against the rocks (or being swept out to the sea) is part of their lives and part of their deaths. But ask them if they would rather do something else instead for a living, and all you’ll get is a resounding ‘no’.
In winter, a small freshwater stream cuts across the sand before merging with the sea – when flowing, this stream is a magnet for birds like the Dunlin, the Sanderling and the Kentish Plover. Both the trail and the beach can be reached by car via a tarmac road, but parking can be difficult during July and August. In summer, try to arrive early in the day to secure a parking place. There’s a small seasonal restaurant in Cordoama, but not much more (apart from raw nature).
Please note: due to its strong waves and fast currents, Cordoama is not the best location to go swimming with children. See also Castelejo Trail. Enjoy!