If you’re familiar with Portugal’s stunning Algarve region, then you’ll already be aware of its showstopping shoreline. The craggy stretch of coast to the west of Faro is home to several of the most beautiful beaches in the Algarve, and hides many more wonderous sights you’ll delight in discovering.
And the best way to explore them? On foot! There are many coastal walks along Portugal’s southern coast, but the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail is among the most impressive. This almost 12km trail takes in some of the most dramatic scenery in the area, with natural arches, caves, and historical manmade attractions all jostling for your attention as you walk.
This is a fantastic way to get your bearings in the area before setting out for further adventures, or just to appreciate the climatic coast away from the bustling beaches.
Before you strap on your hiking shoes though, read on to find out all you need to know before you hike this coastal trail in Portugal.
Algarve Seven Hanging Valleys Walk – Key Information
- Start/End: Praia da Marinha to Praia Vale de Centeanes
- Length: 11.9km (out and back)
- Time to complete: 4 hrs (plus time for stops along the way!)
- Difficulty: Moderate
Although this hike is described as an “out & back” hike, there are of course variations you can take on this route. There are also many places where you can join in to complete a shorter section of the trail.
First, let’s start with the most commonly asked questions.
Where does the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail Start?
The 7 hanging valleys trail officially starts in Praia da Marinha in the East, and goes towards Praia Vale de Centeanes in the West. But in reality, you can start at either end. There are pros and cons either way.
I decided to start in the West at a point before Praia Vale de Centeanes and enjoyed doing it this way around as I felt like the excitement builds up as you go along, with the “reward” being a swim at Praia da Marinha at the end (or half-way point if you’re doubling back).
There are also fewer people doing the hike in this direction, so parking is easy, and the track was less crowded at this end. It also meant I could enjoy the sunset from the Carvoeiro Boardwalk at the end of the day. This is where I parked (a little before the track started).
The benefits of starting at Praia da Marinha include a larger car park, and having the sun behind you as you walk. This isn’t a negligible point if you’re returning to Praia da Marinha late in the day.
Can You Just do this Algarve Hike One Way?
Absolutely! The only obstacle is getting back to your car/accommodation afterward. When I walked the seven valleys trail, I didn’t want to retrace my steps. So I actually ended up walking past the ‘turn-back point’ at Praia da Marinha, and carried on all the way along the coast to Praia Nova, before heading inland and catching a taxi back to my car.
This ended up being around the same distance as if I had doubled back anyway, but I got to see more along the way!
When to Hike the Seven Hanging Valley Trail
Unless you’re a local, I’m guessing you won’t have a lot of flexibility about when to complete this hike. That said, the best time to go is in the shoulder seasons of Spring or Autumn.
Know that if you are visiting in summer, it’s still doable, but I’d suggest starting very early in the morning, and/or taking several swim breaks along the way. There is no shelter on the track, so you’ll be exposed to the sun the whole time.
I completed the walk in October, and it was really ideal. Still very warm (around 23C / 73F), clear blue skies, and just a whisper of wind. The beaches were still amazing for swim breaks, and there were just enough people on the track that I didn’t feel worried as a solo hiker (not that there’s anything to worry about if you’re going solo. Portugal is the 4th safest country in the world).
Other Key Things to Know
Before you set out, there are a few more things you should know.
Take suitable footwear. Something with a good grip. If it’s hot, hiking sandals are fine, but don’t attempt this one in your jandals/flip-flops/city sandals.
Take plenty of water. There are a few stops along the way where you can buy bottles of water, but I’d recommend bringing your own in a reusable water bottle if possible. Plan to need at least 1.5l per person.
Wear a hat/sunglasses/sunscreen. As I mentioned earlier, there’s no shade along the track, so protect yourself from the sun with a hat, glasses, and some sunscreen on exposed areas.
Take a swimsuit & towel! The water here stays at a respectable temperature throughout much of the year, and after working up a sweat on the trail, you’ll appreciate the opportunity to cool off!
Be careful with young children. Although I’d describe this as a family-friendly trail, you’re going to need to keep a close eye on little ones as the trail goes very close to the steep cliffs and caves. There are handrails for some of the track, but they’re not going to be a deterrent for foolhardy kids!
Not all the beaches you pass are accessible. Some of the most incredible-looking beaches along this trail are inaccessible by foot. But don’t worry, there are plenty more that have stairs leading down to them.
Take your phone or a trail map. There are a few areas where the path splits out and there’s no obvious right choice. If you know what to expect (by reading the detailed trail guide below), you’ll quickly right any wrongs along the way. But it helps to have a map, or a phone with GPS so you can easily find your way if you end up too far off track.
Seven Hanging Valleys Trail Overview
I parked my car next to Algar Seco, where there’s a large free car park. There’s also a really beautiful restaurant here, tucked between the cliffs, called Boneco Bar (the perfect place to enjoy dinner after a day’s walking).
The trail starts from the car park and winds around the cliff tops, past luxury hotels and striking private beaches such as Praia do Vale Covo.
Just before you reach the Seven Hanging Valleys starting point at Praia do Vale de Centeanes, don’t miss the lookout point with its perfectly Instagrammable bistro table set up and ready for your shot!
Praia Vale de Centeanes is a large, wide beach that’s perfect for families. There’s a popular cafe right down by the water, and a little SPAR superette nearby should you need to stock up on snacks before heading out on your walk.
From the beach, you’ll find a signpost signaling the start of the trail. Head up the stairs that zigzag up the hill to your first lookout point.
From here the walk is fairly easy to follow. The sights will leave you breathless, but there are several strategically placed benches to pause and take it all in.
As the track winds around the rugged headland, you’ll pass by several caves and sinkholes. These are fenced off for your safety, and you can hear the waves crashing beneath your feet.
Farol de Alfanzina
Before too long, you’ll reach the Farol de Alfanzina (lighthouse). There’s a museum housed within, but the opening hours are sporadic, and infrequent.
Carry on, past another natural cave, and you’ll eventually meet the “Floating Rock”. It’s here that you’ll have a good view of the lighthouse and the cliff it protects.
Praia do Carvalho
Continuing on past the seafront villas, the trail will lead you to Praia do Carvalho. This is one of the most unique beaches in the Algarve, and it’s made all the more special thanks to its relatively secluded location.
To walk down to the beach, you have to follow the stone stairs (they’re signposted) through a narrow tunnel in the rock, and you’ll pop out the other side onto the beach.
If you don’t fancy a dip here, the best views can be appreciated from above. So continue on following the coast. The track is a little less clear as you start, so just be careful not to stray too close to the cliffs.
The famous Benagil cave is still in the distance as you approach the lesser-known Benagil beach. Stroll past the colorful beach apartments and down the staircase to reach the Benagil Bar. This is a good place to use the free toilet facilities if you’ve been holding on!
Do note that it’s not recommended to swim to the Benagil cave from this beach, and forbidden when the red light warning is showing. However, in the busier months, you can catch a boat or kayak tour from here to discover the cave.
From Benagil, the track follows the road uphill and around the bend. Just around the corner, you’ll find the entrance back to the coastal trail. If you miss this entrance (as I did at the time), you can also join back to the trail from the large dirt car park further up the road.
The Algar de Benagil is one of the most spectacular sights in Portugal. But I’m afraid seeing it from above doesn’t really do it justice.
The fences are placed far enough away from the gaping mouth of the cave to save you from strife, but this means you’ll have to really crane your neck, or take a drone, to see what lies beneath.
Praia da Corredoura
As you walk the final leg to Marinha Beach, you’ll pass the inaccessible Praia da Corredoura and wish you had a boat at your disposal! It’s a sublime stretch of sand, completely devoid of human touch in the quieter months. Although in summer, you’ll find keen kayakers taking advantage of the secluded cove.
Wind your way past the hidden beach at Cão Raivoso, and you’ll come across a series of sea caves and a stunning natural double arch reaching out into the ocean.
The paths become less clear again here, so feel free to follow your nose through the lattice of lanes to take in the various viewpoints along the way. Just before you reach Marinha Beach, you’ll approach the petite Praia da Mesquita from above.
The final stop on the seven hanging valleys walk is the magnificent Marinha Beach. As you approach, the landscape appears otherworldly, with deep ravines cutting away at the dusty red escarpment.
If you’re ending your walk here (or taking a break before looping back to the beginning), be sure to take your time to appreciate the views from above, before making your way down to the sand for a well-deserved swim.
Optional Extras / Add-ons
If you would like to extend your coastal walk, there’s no need to stop at the “official” start or endpoints. Here are a couple of ideas if you’d like a longer hike.
Continue walking to Cala Nova
If you continue past Marinha Beach, the coastal trail will lead you past some of the best secret beaches of the Algarve. Immediately after Marinha, there’s a large “clothing optional” beach that provides a discreet place to bath in your birthday suit.
Carry on past countless hidden coves, and underground grottos, and you’ll come to another gem, Albandeira Beach. Here there’s a low-key beach bar, and a large picnic area if you’ve brought your own grub.
Keep going and you’ll find the Algar da Albandeira – a cave less famous, but no less impressive than Benagil. Keep your eyes peeled for the “submarine” rock as you continue past Praia das Fontainhas and Morena Beach. And watch your step as you scale the fairly steep descent to Praia do Barranco.
This walk ends at Praia Nova, but don’t miss a visit to the Chapel Nossa Senhora da Rocha before you call that well-earned cab.
The Carvoeiro Boardwalk
If you park, like I did, near the Boneca Bar, you’ll find the entrance to a paved walkway near the beginning of the car park. This is the Carvoeiro Boardwalk, and it leads you along the cliff face to Praia de Carvoeiro.
It’s fairly short, extending only 570m before it joins the road again, but it’s a beautiful addition if you have the time (and energy) at the end of the day. In particular, there’s a wooden terraced seating area that makes a romantic spot to watch the sunset.
Best Places to Stay Near the Seven Valleys Walk
If you don’t have a car during your stay in the Algarve, or you just want to appreciate the area a little longer, consider booking one of the following seaside hotels.
Tivoli Carvoeiro – this 5-star property boasts its own beach access and stand-out sea views. Located just a few minutes coastal walk from the start of the Seven Hanging Valleys trail (if you do it in reverse), it’s the ideal place to relax after a day’s hiking.
Vila Alba Resort – Located close to Marinha Beach, and the official start of the day hike, this stunning property offers both private rooms and family-sized suites surrounded by nature.
Or use the below map to search for your own ideal accommodation!
Choose to do this stunning coastal hike next time you’re in Portugal and you’ll leave with an exclusive insight into this extraordinary section of the Algarve.
Looking for more things to do near Lagos? Be sure to check out the Ponta da Piedade.