Finding the silver lining in an otherwise uncertain situation is among the best tools for enjoying life and travel. While COVID-19 has created innumerable hardships, it is how we ended up with one of the most beautiful beaches in the world to ourselves.
During our recent trip to Portugal, we had originally planned to slide a visit to Seville, Spain in between Porto and Lisbon; however, we decided hopping international borders several times could lead to more chances at something going wrong (more tests, more chances to get stuck somewhere, etc.) In need of a new place to stay, we decided the Algarve was our top choice for a number of reasons:
- It was the southern-most region in Portugal, meaning it might give us a few warm days. Lisbon turned out to be warmer.
- Faro, the capital of the region and where we stayed, had an easily accessible train station the we could arrive and depart from.
- We heard about a hiking trail along the famous seaside cliffs called the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail.
How To Get To The Seven hanging Valleys Trail
The trail is an out-and-back trail with two heads, one at Carvoeiro and the other at Praia da Marinha. We started at the latter
As we researched the area, we saw there was plenty of public transportation near Faro, with a plethora of bus and train routes. What we didn’t realize was that they are not lined up for getting to either of those beaches with any amount of ease.
The train from Faro would take you to another town where you’d either have to wait for a few hours until another bus arrived that would take you to the last bus stop that would have already been gone and only runs twice-a-day. We were also trying to navigate this without cell service and no guarantee of Wifi. The way back from Praia de Vale Centianes was even more complicated, with each bus stop seeming it arrived just a few minutes too late to make the trip feasible.
Our solution to this headache? We paid a hefty €120 (53 to and 67 from) to take an Uber from our Airbnb to the beach and from the end of the trail back to our Airbnb. This provided a few benefits, namely, we didn’t have to fret about the public transportation time schedules, and more importantly, we arrived there very early.
As our driver dropped us off in an empty parking lot, we thanked him and set foot towards the cliff that overlooked the beach. Wow. This was gorgeous. The sun had already been up for an hour or so, but the rays that bounced off the water were still soft, illuminating the calm waves below. A lengthy staircase takes you down the cliff and puts you onto the nice, white sand of Praia da Marinha, a beach that the Michelin Guide has called one of the 100 most beautiful in the world, and I definitely agree with them.
The sand is easy to walk on (as easy as sand can be to walk on) and there’s a small belt of sea stones between the dry sand and the tide. Tall cliffs surround the beach and a few large rock outcrops separate it into two halves. Somehow, we had this slice of paradise to ourselves. Another couple had arrived earlier, but they had already put their kayaks in the water and paddled out around one of the cliffs. The beach was ours.
Walking The Trail
The trail picks up at the top of the cliff where you’ll have to make sure you get all of the sand off of your feet or risk feeling the grit in your shoes for the whole hike. At most of the beaches, and other interesting stops, you’ll find signs that give information on the location or fauna and flora nearby. The first one highlights the length of the trail along with how the coast line was created over millions of years.
Arriving early, you get the trail to yourself (or mostly to yourself) for a lengthy stretch of time before the rest of the crowds start coming. The first few couple beaches, despite being the more well-known beaches have the least amount of beach-front property visible. When you get towards the end of the trail, there will be more resorts attached to the beaches and trail.
If you are staying in the area or have access to a car, I highly recommend bringing your swimsuit and lounging at a few of the beaches or renting a kayak
The views from the trail are hard to describe. Beautiful, incredible, amazing – these words came out of my mouth more times than I can count.
The trail is listed as a moderate hike. I’d say 92% of it is easy with a minimal gradient, but there are a few areas you’ll need to climb over a wall of rocks making it unfortunately inaccessible to those who can’t do a few rock scales.
At the far end, by Praida de Vale Centianes, we finished our hike at a restaurant called Restaurante O Stop, where we found coffee and wifi to call our Uber back. Like I said in the beginning, there is public transportation to reduce costs, but the time tables and number of transfers make it much harder than may be worth it.
In hindsight, I’d like to spend more time in the Algarve during the traditional summer months, where we could enjoy a typical beach trip at a far better than typical beach.
What do you think? Would you do the hike if you were in the Algarve?