From the centre of Bensafrim, the route heads in a south-westerly direction towards Barão de São João. This union of civil parishes is the most rural in the municipality of Lagos, where agriculture, especially organic farming, makes up an important part of life. As you head away from the civil parish council building, this route intersects with Connection 4 – Lagos Train Station to the Via Algarviana (Bensafrim) for about 300 m, after which the connection turns left and this sector carries on straight ahead along the paved road for a bit further.
The first stage of this sector takes you through a typical barrocal landscape, with dense mediterranean scrubland filled with kermes oaks, mastic trees, French lavender and Gum Cistus, among other shrubs. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to come across a huge grove of cork oaks here, which brings both shade and beauty to this part of the route.
The land gets hillier here, and you’ll soon find yourself in Barão de São João. There are several local amenities in the village including a grocery store, snack bar and some interesting buildings to see, particularly the main church. The diversity of cultures here is noteworthy, as many foreigners from a vast array of countries have settled here over the years, having fallen in love with its charm. A village that exudes culture and art, many artists have also set up shop here. Delight in the sculptures and paintings you’ll see around the streets.
Once on the other side of the village, the Via Algarviana heads in a north-westerly direction, into the forest that lines the edges of Barão de São João. This stone pine forest is probably the largest in the region, operating as a refuge for animal life and a space for leisure and recreation, where visitors can rest and stop for a picnic. Here, you will come across one of the 12 walking paths complementary to the Via
Algarviana: the PR1 LGS – “Pedra do Galo” Walking Path.
The typical mountain landscape now envelopes the Via Algarviana route once again. Mountains and valleys criss-cross one another constantly along the route, the most notable of which is the Vinha Velha Valley, which contains fertile farmland and where various agritourism activities can be carried out, as well as Monte de São Lourenço, which is next to the Pardieiro trig point, one of the highest spots in the area (144 m).
As you near Sítio das Sesmarias, the landscape starts to change once again. An extensive agricultural plateau now surrounds the route, within which you’ll find Budens Lake, a small wetland that is home to several species of water birds and amphibians, and which is usually filled with the sounds of croaking in the springtime.
Limestone outcrops, scattered scrubland, extensive pastures and agricultural fields signal how close you are to the old “Algarve Storehouse” and the Vincentine Coast.
South of the EN 125 national road lies the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Nature Park, one of the most beautiful protected areas in the country, through which you’ll soon arrive at your destination, Vila do Bispo. This is the first sector along the whole route that provides views of the sea!
As you approach Raposeira, you’ll come across another walking route that complements the Via Algarviana: the PR4 VBP – “Pelas Encostas da Raposeira” Walking Path. Take a break in Raposeira, where you’ll find cafés and a snack bar.
The sector ends in Vila do Bispo, which is also where the last day of this great journey through the unknown Algarve begins.
» HISTORIC, ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND RELIGIOUS HERITAGE
BARÃO DE SÃO JOÃO
VILA DO BISPO
The forest surrounding Barão de São João covers an area of 207.7 hectares and is located within the Natura 2000 Network – Southwest Coast area. It is mainly dominated by stone pines (179 hectares) and acacias (38 hectares), with small patches of Mexican white cedar, Monterey cypress and eucalyptus trees.
Along this sector you will be able to see a diversified landscape made up of farmland, some orchards, cork oak forests and pine forests, coastal scrublands, pine forests, wetlands, limestone cliffs and beaches.
The current landscapes of the municipality of Vila do Bispo are home to the largest concentration of prehistoric monuments in the Iberian Peninsula, which is also the oldest in Western Europe. This exceptional collection is made up of 250 menhirs across an area of 42 km2. Some of the most notable of these menhirs include the Padrão Menhir in Raposeira, and the Megalithic itinerary of Monte dos Amantes (Lovers’ Hill), in Vila do Bispo.
Dating back to the Ancient Neolithic period, some 6,500 years ago, the menhirs of Vila do Bispo may represent a pioneering megalithic phenomenon which had its epicentre in the geography of the Mediterranean finisterra. This megalithic culture developed from south to north, culminating in more complex architectures such as the megalithic enclosure of the Almendres in Évora, the alignments of Carnac in French Brittany, and even Stonehenge in England – a prime example of the megalithic in Europe!
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