The fifth sector affords breathtaking views. This stretch provides the pleasure of walking through the very heart of the Mú (also known as Caldeirão) Hills, making this one of the most difficult and demanding sectors, the very windy path taking you through landscapes with a rugged relief. Uphill stretches will take you to the very tops of hills, providing panoramic views sure to leave their mark on you, where you’ll want to take deep breaths of the fresh air, whereas downhill stretches will present you with green valleys and streams.
Setting off from the centre of Cachopo, head west. As you leave the village, you’ll be greeted by a beautiful forest landscape filled with cork oaks and dense strawberry tree bushes, heather and rockrose. The route takes you through several settlements, such as Currais, where you can buy some typical upland produce, including “medronho” brandy (made from the fruit of the strawberry tree) and honey; Alcaria Alta, which provides fascinating views over the uplands and, later, Castelão, which is notable for its traditional architecture.
Once you’ve reached the other side of this friendly place, you’ll come across the Odeleite Stream, a place of undeniable natural beauty that’s perfect for a well-deserved rest before you set off on the long ascent to Parises.
You should definitely stop at Parises to recharge your batteries. From here, you can also set off on Connection 1 – Via Algarviana (Parises) to São Brás de Alportel. Tradition reigns supreme in the beautiful town of São Brás de Alportel – a place that’s definitely worth a visit!
Heading west, cross the Bufo, Javali and Corgo de Loulé gorges. You’ll then reach Cerro da Relva (Grassy Hill), which provides sweeping views: Montes Novos to the north, Parises to the east and Barranco do Velho to the west.
The path takes you to the mouth of the Vale Formoso Stream, a tributary of the Odeleite Stream. On the dividing line between the municipalities of São Brás de Alportel and Loulé, you’ll come across the PR5 LLE – Montes Novos Walking Path, which you’ll now follow for about 1 kilometre and, at the point where they diverge, the sector intersects with Connection 6 – Ameixial to the Via Algarviana (Barranco do Velho). Some uphill stretches stand between this point and Barranco do Velho, but they’re worth tackling to take in the beauty of this hill range.
In the hamlet of Barranco do Velho, near the headquarters of the APFSC – Forest Producers Association of the Serra do Caldeirão, the sector intersects with the PR17 LLE – Barranco do Velho Walking Path, taking you along a very pretty path with plenty of shade, where cork oaks fill the landscape.
Cork is still an important part of the economy here. It is well worth exploring the hamlet, where you can buy local produce, eat at the restaurant, and visit the craft store and “medronho” brandy distillery.
» HISTORIC, ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND RELIGIOUS HERITAGE
Located within the Natura 2000 Network (“Caldeirão” PTCON0057 Site), this was one of the most important areas in the Algarve for iconic species such as the wildcat (Felis silvestris) and Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus).
Among many other plants, the natural vegetation here consists of dense cork oak forests (Quercus suber), under which rockrose bushes (Cistus ladanifer), strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo) and heather (Erica sp.) can be found growing.
Cork oak forests are one of the richest areas in terms of biodiversity. Cork extraction continues to be particularly important to the economy of the municipality of São Brás de Alportel, and the cork extracted here is of the best quality in the country.
The most notable avifauna here includes Bonelli’s eagle (Aquila fasciata), the Eurasian eagle-owl (Bubo bubo), the short-toed snake eagle (Circaetus gallicus) and the Eurasian sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus). Several species of passerines also live here, such as the Iberian chiffchaff (Phylloscopus ibericus), the European crested tit (Lophophanes cristatus) and the Dartford warbler (Sylvia undata).
This is also an important area for several mammals, such as beech martens (Martes foina) and badgers (Meles meles).
You may be able to spot mushrooms growing in winter, but you should never pick and/or cook them if you don’t know the type of mushroom they are, and cannot be 100% sure they aren’t poisonous.
» REST STOPS AND SUPPORT SERVICES ALONG THE ROUTE
NOTE: This sector may be divided into shorter stretches, from Cachopo to Feiteira on the first day, and Feiteira to Barranco do Velho on the second.
» CASH MACHINE