Aurora in de Algarve
Never knew how beautiful the Algarve coast is. And there are many opportunities for walking. In January it is wonderfully warm during the day in this Mediterranean climate and there are hardly any tourists. Palm trees, bougainvillea, flowering almond trees and oranges, especially many oranges. The trees in this region are full of it.
Early in the morning we take a walk through the nature reserve Pera March / Salgados Lagoon. Parallel to the beach, which is called Praia Grande de Pera here, and Praia de Salgados further on, there is a path of wooden planks.
When we start at eight, everything that grows on the bottom, grass and low plants, is covered with a layer of frost. At night it is cold here, but the sun quickly provides warmth. In the hour we walk here, the sky changes color. First light blue with pink. Then more pink and orange, in varying patterns. Aurora, the pink-fingered dawn. The morning will have gold in its mouth, a cliché that is true. Around eight o’clock we see the sun rising directly in front of us. Sunglasses are not an unnecessary luxury with such a sun that is still low.
This nature reserve is located between the estuaries of two rivers, where there is a marsh and a freshwater lake where it is full of birds. The Lagao dos Salgados. Birds rest on their way to and from Africa. It seems to include flamingos, storks and spoonbills. I don’t see them here, but small twittering birds with multiple colors. And a beautiful brightly colored bird with green, blue and red, perhaps a bee-eater. It is an ecologically important area.
The platform runs smoothly. Of course it is nice to walk on unpaved paths, but on a paved path you can look around and still keep pace. On the left nature with low scrub and high white grass-like plumes. On the right the intense blue sea. Straight ahead the sun is rising higher and higher. You can hear both the bird sounds and the sound of the surf. After about half an hour we return, with the sun behind us. In the distance the white high-rise of Armacao de Pera rises. There are several walking possibilities in this area, including on the beach.
A few days later we hike along the seven hanging valleys. We start at Praia da Marinha. On top of the rocks we have a beautiful view over the rock formations. In whimsical shapes they rise steeply from the deep blue sea. They are white, pale yellow, ocher and copper-colored. The view is like a postcard. We walk along the coast, over the rocks, to the west. High above the sea. Below us, in the distance, there are several small beaches. There the shallow sea is turquoise. The waves are sparkling white. The view is constantly changing and is always spectacular.
Along the path are low junipers and mastic berries. Pines and cypresses in the distance. All kinds of flowers, yellow calyxes and small white flowers. In the middle of the day it is more than eighteen degrees, great temperature for walking.
A day later we return to the area of the seven valleys, but now we go to Praia de Benagil to take a boat trip along the coast. The sun is shining again. What a luck. Benagil is a small fishing village with white and blue houses. When we walk onto the small sandy beach, in a cove of the rocks, we suddenly see a dolphin emerge from the water. From head to tail above water, so we can see it well. Just a minute. We’ll see a few more after that, but not as clear as the first.
Then we get into an open boat and there we go, out to sea. We now see the cliffs and caves that we looked out for during the walk. We enter every cave. Some have natural light because there are openings in the rock above, some are completely dark. The stone is weathered at the bottom where the water comes. The rock contains minerals that give color: at the bottom dark red, purplish, then a bit lighter, to pink, and then orange, yellow and white. It took thousands of years for the sea to cut these shapes out of the stone. The sea is intense blue, and turquoise. The sky is also radiantly blue. What colors. Undoubtedly, in those beautiful colors of blue, the inspiration was found to paint the houses white with blue. We pass several small beaches between the rocks. We cover the coast in 45 minutes. A high rock with a lighthouse on it is our end point.
In the Algarve you can not only enjoy hiking in nature, there are also beautiful cities. We take a city walk through Silves, the former capital of the Algarve when it was still called Al-Gharb. The Moorish castle from the early Middle Ages dominates the city. We walk up through narrow streets. Many houses are white with blue. Others are pink, green, or bright orange. The bougainvillea is in full bloom, in that hard pink color that contrasts so beautifully with the blue of the sky and the houses. In trees along the wider streets, orange trees are full of fruit.
We visit the castle, the walls of which have been completely restored, so that you can walk around it. The stone is red in color, the red sandstone from this region. We have a beautiful view of the surroundings. Below we see the fifteenth century bridge over the river Arade. The buildings have not been restored inside the castle, but you can see where the walls were.
Outside the gate of the castle is a larger-than-life bronze statue of King Sancho I, whom Silves captured from the Moors in 1189 with the help of crusaders. Next to it is a shop where they sell wine, port and other products of the region, with a lovely terrace. The sofas are covered with woven rugs in beautiful colors. We have a view of the old Moorish city wall.
We descend again via another route. Now through streets where there are no shops, only residential houses. Several houses have a two-part front door with a metal knocker shaped like a hand on each narrow door. Painted houses here too. Some of the paint is peeling, revealing previous paint colors. Also beautiful.
More information about hiking at Salgados and the seven hanging valleys: walkalgarve.com.
February 15, 2019