Location: Pedras d’El Rei, Santa Luzia, Tavira municipality; GPS Coordinates (start of the trail): 37º 05′ 35.02” N 7º 40′ 30.79” W; Grade: easy, except on windy or very hot days; Type: linear trail (out & back); Length: 1500 meters/ 0.94 miles (one way); Average Completion Time: up to 45 minutes (one way); Best Time to Visit: year-round; Activities: nature walks and hikes; birdwatching; swimming.
1. Start your walk by immersing yourself in Ria Formosa‘s distinctive salt marshes. The trail keeps you elevated above the marshy terrain, offering a relatively comfortable walking surface while preserving the fragile ecosystem (please, check the map below). Here, you’ll find a complex network of winding watercourses, silt banks, and the salt marsh’s unique vegetation. One of the highlights of this section is the Grand Statice (Limoniastrum monopetalum), a lush shrub native to the Algarve. Keep an eye out for the diverse wildlife that inhabits the area, including the Fiddler Crab (Afruca tangeri) and a wide assortment of aquatic birds such as Terns, Herons, Red Knots, Seagulls, Sanderlings, Ringed Plovers, Pied Avocets and Black-winged Stilts.
2. As you venture deeper into the trail, the vegetation shifts to reed and bulrush beds, a sign of fresh or brackish waters nearby. The path then continues over a vast stretch of dunes. During the hotter months, the Curry Plant (Helichrysum italicum, the yellow flowers depicted below next to the rails of Barril’s little train), takes center stage as it fills the air with its unmistakable curry scent. This section offers lovely views of the surrounding landscape, making it an ideal spot for photography enthusiasts.
3. Upon reaching the beach area, you’ll find several support facilities – including a small café and restrooms – housed within a historic fishing camp. Established in 1841, this camp once provided shelter for fishermen and their families during the summer months, primarily for tuna fishing. Take a moment to appreciate the area and visit the nearby anchor graveyard, a reminder of the pound nets once used by these fishermen.
4. Praia do Barril is a spacious beach with clean, white sand and calm, swimmable waters. The sea is great for kids and families; however, because of that, this beach can easily become a bit overcrowded during high season. It is possible to rent lounge chairs with sun protection at Barril, but you must arrive early to guarantee their availability.