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The Algarve, that Portuguese paradise that everyone talks about, and to which everyone returns. For the beaches, for gastronomy, for the weather, for wine or for all of them.
Do you need any more reason? We have it: the Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos, which owes its name to the seven valleys formed by the force of water. It is a route with panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean through cliffs, beaches, lighthouses, caves and other geological formations.
Let yourself be enchanted by the wonders of a path that will lead you to fall asleep to the particular Stendhal syndrome that only nature manages to provoke (with the permission of the Uffizi).
The complete route covers 11.5 kilometers and lasts between 4 and 6 hours. You can also do a part of the tour and stop at the beach that you most want (although the choice is difficult).
Shades of turquoise and orange converge on Benagil beach © Getty Images
You can travel starting at the Praia de Vale Centeanes and ending at Praia da Marinha or vice versa and all you need is your sneakers, water and - very important - camera.
Avoid the hot hours as there is no shade and get ready to enjoy one of the most impressive landscapes of the Peninsula!
An advice? If you decide to do it with a guide, you will discover countless curiosities about the region, the plant species that live there - many of them used in the Algarve kitchen - as well as the stories, legends and anecdotes that occurred in this Atlantic paradise.
The Tivoli Carvoeiro Algarve Resort offers this activity in two modalities: the complete itinerary (with picnic included halfway) and the short one, which lasts two hours and is a good way to start hiking.
The impressive arches of Marinha Beach © Getty Images
DEPARTURE: PRAIA DO VALE CENTEANES
We begin our tour with a keyword, which also gives its name to the region: algar, from the Arabic Al-gar, which means cave or cave.
The algars are natural cavities formed vertically by the force of the water, both because of the rain and the sea, so that erosion is forming a hole as a well that gradually increases its size.
Our starting point is the Praia de Vale Centeanes. The first challenge of the road is to climb a ladder that will make you wonder if the plan has been good. Do not look back: when you reach the top of the cliff you will realize that the route promises, and much.
Vale Centeanes Beach: our starting point © María Casbas
The cliffs that flank the Praia de Vale Centeanes are the highest point of the route (45 meters). A long staircase goes down to this beach ideal for walking, diving or recovering strength enjoying the views of the O Stop restaurant.
In the rocky wall of the west we find a cave excavated by the sea that, next to the landscape that is contemplated from above, offers one of the most impressive snapshots of the percorso: Lagos, Portimão, Carvoeiro …
A table overlooking the Atlantic © María Casbas
We continue walking by going up and down, surrounded by the Algarve vegetation: palm, estivinhas, carob, juniper, prickly pear, sea fennel …
And we arrive at the Alfanzina Lighthouse, another of the most photographed points of the Sete Vales route. In the shadow of the lighthouse, the Espiahao Praia awaits us , a small but wonderful cove, with very difficult access - and impossible when the tide rises - that we can see from the top of the cliff.
But let's not stop, there is still a long way to go and many places to discover, like the Carvoeiro cavo, our next stop.
To the east of the cape, the line of cliffs is interrupted by a deep valley, in what was once the mouth of the river. The coast line recedes faster than the water course forming a suspended valley.
On both sides of the valley, we find again the typical vegetation of the limestone cliffs, highlighting the Aleppo pine area , one of the few trees that can grow in arid soils.
The Alfanzina Lighthouse, one of the most photographed places on the route © María Casbas
PRAIA DO CARVALHO
And we arrive at one of the most photographed, instagrammed, visited and well-known places in the Algarve: Carvalho beach, guarded from the water by a rock, the hallmark of this hidden paradise.
To access it you must cross a tunnel carved into the rock whose stairs will transport you to another dimension.
The beach is protected by high rock walls molded by erosion that protect from the wind creating a microclimate that allows even sunbathing in winter.
Turquoise waters dotted with white foam that will make you not want to cross the tunnel again to return to reality.
Carvalho beach: paradise at the end of the tunnel © Getty Images
PRAIA DE BENAGIL
From beach to beach and shot because it's my turn. Hardly a kilometer separates the beaches of Carvalho and Benagil, both ideal for a technical stop, regain strength and take a refreshing swim in Atlantic waters.
And suddenly, when we thought that the Algarve cliffs could no longer surprise us, we found another phenomenon of nature: the Benagil Cave, also known as the 'Algarve Cathedral'.
A rock vault that has its own beach, illuminated by the light that enters through the hole of the highest part.
You can reach the grotto by boat or by swimming, but tourist boats only enter to take the famous photograph, without giving the option to get off. You can also look out from above.
The best time to visit it is between 12 and 14 hours, as the light illuminates the entire cave. Near the beach of Benagil you can eat in O Pescador or Casa Lamy: fresh fish, skewers, cheese, the famous cataplana … The Portuguese gastronomic offer is endless and delicious!
Benagil Cave, also known as the 'Algarve Cathedral' © Getty Images
PRAIA DA MARINHA
We start our way again through hidden coves between the cliffs, inhaling the aroma of the vegetation and letting ourselves be caressed by the Atlantic breeze and the sun's rays.
We pass through the beaches of Corredoura, Cao Rabioso and a spectacular natural arch welcomes us, revealing the beach of Mesquita, where orange and turquoise paint a landscape that we could be contemplating for hours.
Praia de Marinha: the end of a tour you will never forget (and you will surely repeat!) © Getty Images
And finally, five and a half hours later, we reached the goal: Praia da Marinha (although remember that you can start the route here and finish it on the beach of Vale Centeanes).
Flanked by stones, rocks, arches, pines and algars, Marinha Beach makes its appearance inviting us to dive into its waters and lay on its fine sand letting the dream catch us.
Disoriented, we open our eyes to the contact of the foam with our feet and review the images that are around our head: cliffs that seem to lead to the end of the world, algaries formed by the force of the sea, a vaulted cave with a beach inside …
Has it been a dream? No, it has been the extraordinary magic of the Algarve.
The cliffs of the Algarve will bring you into a trance © Getty Images
The Tivoli Carvoeiro, located on the cliff of Vale Covo, offers one of the best views in the area © Tivoli Carvoeiro Algarve Resort