The great journey that is the Via Algarviana starts next to Alcoutim Pier, with the beautiful River Guadiana as a backdrop and a statue erected in honour of smugglers demonstrating the importance smuggling once had in the area. The route crosses the town and heads north. It then intersects with the PR3 ACT – The Charms of Alcoutim Path, both running alongside one another for about 300 m until they diverge, and then meeting again for about another 300 m before diverging for good. You will also come across sector 5 of the GR15 – Guadiana Long Distance Path in Alcoutim, which you will then follow for about 3 kilometres.
This first sector and your first day of adventuring and discovery will start off along the banks of the River Guadiana, along a flat path at low altitude, where you can appreciate the beauty of the valley through which this impressive river flows. The landscape is dominated by rural dryland orchards (carob, almond, fig and olive), many of which are still active.
Keep to the main path as the route veers away from the river soon after, heading west until it reaches Cortes Pereiras. Head into town along an almost abandoned path flanked on both sides by old drystone walls. Head north from there, crossing the hamlet and then heading west/northwest and crossing Municipal Road (EM) 1054.
The route will soon come to the Lavajo Menhirs, going on to head southwest to Afonso Vicente.
You’ll find some old houses in this hamlet, some of which were built using schist and greywacke, as well as small traditional vegetable gardens fenced off with drystone walls that are very typical of the region. Heading south, the path crosses Municipal Road (EM) 507. Keep to the main trail, which will take you into a large forest area where the relief is more pronounced.
Once you’ve gone up and down several hills in a southerly direction, you’ll reach Alcoutenejo Gorge; the stream here flows into Ladrões Gorge further downstream to form the Cadavais Stream. From there, the route heads almost always to the southeast to Corte Tabelião, through the village and then down to Ladrões Gorge. As you follow the main route to the southeast, Corte Seda will soon appear on the horizon. When you reach the village, make your way through the streets until you reach the EN 122-1 road to Alcoutim.
Once you’ve crossed the road, the route carries on southwards, crossing small gullies and streams until you reach Torneiro, where your path will intersect with another short distance path, the PR2 ACT – Ladeiras do Pontal, which is duly signposted. From here, both routes carry on together until they reach Balurcos, where the first sector of the Via Algarviana comes to an end.
» HISTORIC, ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND RELIGIOUS HERITAGE
Note: To visit the Dr João Dias Museum and Sacred Art Museum, book in advance at the Alcoutim Town Castle.
Part of the route takes you through the “Guadiana” Site (PTCON0036) of the Natura 2000 Network, which is home to several endangered animal and plant species, specifically endemic fish species such as the Spanish minnowcarp (Anaecypris hispanica) and an Iberian species of cyprinid fish (Chondrostoma willkommii).
Of the various species of birds that can be seen along the route, highlights include the Bonelli’s eagle (Aquila fasciata), the Eurasian eagle owl (Bubo bubo), the rufous-tailed scrub robin (Cercothricas galactotes), the Eurasian golden oriole (Oriolus oriolus), the red-rumped swallow (Cecropis daurica) and the azure-winged magpie (Cyanopica cyanus).
The most notable mammals include otters (Lutra lutra) which, though very difficult to spot, can be tracked by their droppings, and several species of bats such as the greater mouse-eared bat (Myotis myotis) and the common bent-wing bat (Miniopterus schreibersii).
REST STOPS AND SUPPORT SERVICES ALONG THE ROUTE
Line 34: Balurcos de Cima - Vila Real de Santo António (this bus stops in Alcoutim).
More information: Vamus Algarve.