The fourth sector of the Via Algarviana starts in Vaqueiros, along with Connection 8 – Via Algarviana (Vaqueiros) to Martim Longo and the PR7 ACT – Up hill, Down hill, until these paths all reach a junction, at which the last two routes turn right, towards Pão Duro. The PR8 ACT – In search of the Enchanted Valley heads from Vaqueiros to Monchique, which is about 3 km away.
Once on the other side of the settlement, the route heads in a south-westerly direction, past small traditional vegetable gardens fenced in by old stone walls and watercourses. Along the route, the landscape is dominated by dense rockrose-covered areas (Cistus sp.) and scattered with groves of stone pines, known locally as “projects” as landowners here will have received funding in order to plant them. The relief is rugged and rich in natural viewpoints across the landscape.
This journey will take you through some small, friendly settlements: Monchique, Amoreira and Casas Baixas, ending up in Cachopo.
Between Amoreira and Casas Baixas, the Via Algarviana route intersects two short distance footpaths: The PR1 TAV – D. Quixote Path and the PR3 TAV – Montes Serranos Path. In all of the small settlements along the way you can see family subsistence gardens, wells with wheels, traditional houses and drystone walls or ditches to section off the paths.
The friendliness of the people who live there makes these places particularly beautiful; here, rural traditions are still very present and it’s well worth stopping to talk to the friendly locals. Backyards and gardens here are well-maintained and the relationship these hill folk have with nature is very harmonious. The built heritage here reveals interesting constructions, such as fountains, wells, norias, threshing floors and various ancient architectural details.
The route from Casas Baixas to Cachopo is very pleasant, through a particularly beautiful dense cork oak forest. Cachopo is the main village in the region. The houses here have maintained their traditional features and the Church of Santo Estêvão (Saint Stephen), located in the very centre, is known as a place of pilgrimage.
» HISTORIC, ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND RELIGIOUS HERITAGE
A diversity of fauna can be found in this sector, the most notable of which include: wild boar (Sus scrofa), rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), brown hares (Lepus europaeus), Eurasian eagle owls (Bubo bubo) and Bonelli’s eagles (Aquila fasciata).
Mediterranean vegetation can also be admired throughout, including dense cork oak forests (Quercus suber) and strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo).
» REST STOPS AND SUPPORT SERVICES ALONG THE ROUTE
The only cafés or shops along this route are at the beginning and end. As such, walkers are advised to plan ahead, taking enough food and water with them, taking into account the distance they intend to walk, the weather and the degree of difficulty of the route.
» CASH MACHINE