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/medium-high difficulty; some stretches can be more difficult for elderly or very young visitors; Type: linear, point-to-point trail (out and back); this trail is signposted; Length: 12.000 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; sightseeing; boat trips; birdwatching; swimming in summer
Notable Stops | Seven Hanging Valleys Trail
Marinha Beach: Widely regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe and well worth the steep climb down the many steps, as you’ll be mesmerized by its shapes and colours. Picture-perfect, particularly at sunset.
Benagil Beach: A small fishing village located at the mouth of a narrow valley. Nowadays, it is one of the main starting points to explore by boat or kayak the stunning sea caves scattered throughout this blessed shoreline. It has a few cafés and restaurants.
Benagil Cave: Risking yet another superlative, we have to say that Benagil Cave must be the most sublime sea cave anywhere in the world. You’ll find a beach within, as well as a ceiling pierced by a huge round hole that lets the sun shine through. You won’t be able to access the cave directly from the trail, though. Discover more about the Benagil Cave and how to visit it.
Carvalho Beach: After a long walk down a narrow tunnel, you’ll be greeted by this sheltered cove with grottoes and an imposing rock outcrop located smack in the middle of the little bay. Very scenic, but the water can be chilly even in summer.
Leixão do Ladrão: Also known as the ‘Eyes of the Devil’, this stretch looks like some sort of lunar landscape. Bare limestone rock, and no shade. Best seen on a boat.
Alfanzina Lighthouse: In the lighthouse’s vicinity, you’ll find a thick forest of hardy Aleppo pine trees. Rest under their shadows before resuming your walk towards Centeanes Beach.
Flora: Varied. Mainly composed of coastal scrubland that becomes particularly fragrant in spring. Here, you’ll see the only species of palm tree native to Europe, the Dwarf Palm.
Fauna: You’ll appreciate the abundant seabirds, as well as a few notable passerines such as the Sardinian Warbler. There are also rabbits, foxes and mongooses (you won’t be able to observe these shy animals, though).
Geology: Stunning. Landforms include both small and massive sinkholes, islets, ravines, confined valleys, and layered cliffs whose vibrant shades of yellow and orange come alive at sundown.
Good to know: The ‘hanging valleys’ were created by the erosive action of seven seasonal streams. These valleys are now ‘hanging’ because the soft, calcareous coastline has receded quite abruptly in the past, leaving the watercourses’ mouth not on the beaches but rather on the cliffs higher above.
For both practical and ‘aesthetic’ reasons, it is best to start the walk from Marinha Beach. You’ll find plenty of parking spaces nearby except maybe during the silly season. Please use the map above to get directions: if you are not staying in Lagoa or Benagil, you’ll likely need a personal vehicle, as public transports are scarce in the Algarve. The trail can be walked in either direction using the markings (see here) painted on posts and rocks along the way. Use sturdy footwear. The main trail becomes steep and rough in a few places, but the most exposed stretches are fenced for safety; sinkholes are fenced as well. However, visitors should always keep a safe distance from the cliffs’ and sinkholes’ edges at all times (most notably when accompanied by children). Do not forget a hat and sunscreen, and always carry enough water with you. There are a number of different access points – at Benagil and Carvalho beaches, for example – that allow a phased visit to each of the segments of the walk. There are also several car parks along the length of the route, and a picnic area slightly to the east of the lighthouse. Enjoy!