After two months in Spain, we had finally recovered from the constant travels of the previous six months enough to take another road trip. We hopped in the car and drove 5 1/2 hours to Portugal.
We are living on a beach in Spain right now, so it seems a little strange that we wanted to drive all that way to go to another beach, on the same coast, with the same weather. However, the Algarve had a few things going for it.
1. Nice sand – none of that rocky stuff we get in Spain
2. Beautiful limestone cliffs
3. A new country, with new food and new places to see
We stayed really busy during our 5 days in the Algarve. I rented an airbnb at the last minute, and I think we may have been the only people in the complex we stayed in. It was kind of old and dark (oh and REALLY cold!), but it worked.
Our first day in Portugal, we spent it doing an amazing, all-day walk along the cliffs. As unspectacular as our accommodation was, it was in an excellent location for all we wanted to do in Portugal, particularly since this 12km (almost 7.5 miles) round-trip hike along the cliff tops started right outside our building.
So, mid-morning on our first full day in Portugal we headed due east along the well-marked trail following the cliff edge. The hike has the unexciting (and un-Portugese sounding) name of The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail.
Not to spoil your reading of the post below, but I will say right now – the hike was amazing! It was fairly flat, with constant wonderful views as we followed along the cliffs, with just enough scrambling over rocks to keep the boys interested.
The trail was well-marked with red and yellow lines, which we thought looked a lot like the markers on The Amazing Race. The boys liked to spot the flags and pretend we were doing an Amazing Race challenge! Watch for our boys on season 800 or so in about 15 years 😉
The walk’s name comes from the seven valleys it crosses over, where, due to the rapid erosion of the coastline, rivers would fall down from the cliff edge into the sea, instead of straight onto the beach, creating these “hanging valleys”.
It also allowed us to be near cliff edges without stressing me out too often about being too close to worry about the boys tumbling off into the sea below.
We got amazing views of the eroding limestone cliffs around every curve.
Every once in a while, there would be a gorgeous little beach hidden along the cliffs.
We stopped at this beach to go down and explore for a bit, which involved walking down stairs carved through the rock.
We couldn’t stay at the beach too long, because spending any more than five minutes would guarantee that the boys would end up soaking wet from playing chicken with the waves, so we had a quick snack and continued on our way.Since this was an out-and-back hike, after 6km we arrived at Praia da Marinha, an amazing beach mentioned as one of Europe’s best. We didn’t head down to the beach (not this day anyway), but took a few minutes to enjoy the view, have a snack (of course!), and get someone to take a family picture for us.
Then, we headed back the way we came, enjoying more views…
…and snacks along the way
As we approached home, more than 5 hours after we started out, rain started to lightly fall. It was good timing, and we were all tired and ready to relax after enjoying the hike. Overall, it was one of our family’s favorite hikes. Safe for kids, scenic, interesting, and fairly level (other than one big hill going down to and back up from a beach mid-way through), and long enough to be a fun challenge.
More on cool stuff we did in Portugal in the next blog post!