The last sector of Via Algarviana is located in the heart of the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Nature Park, one of the most beautiful and valuable protected areas in the country. Along the route you will find several species of flora that are endemic to the area, unique coastal landscapes and, if you’re lucky, you may even spot some rare, iconic local birds, such as the redbilled chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) or peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus).
Setting off from the Vila do Bispo Main Church, the route heads south for approximately 4 km, past the cemetery, before heading into mostly abandoned fields, some of which are slowly being taken over by the region’s typical scrubland. The locals still use these areas for grazing, which is why cattle can also often be seen along some parts of this route.
This stretch is reasonably easy and mostly flat, except for a few hills that you’ll see on the horizon. It is worth noting that the municipality of Vila do Bispo is home to the largest concentration of megalithic monuments in the Iberian Peninsula, which is also the oldest in the Western Europe!
The route takes you close to small rural settlements such as Catalão and Vale Santo, the latter of which is located in one of the most interesting birdwatching areas in the vicinity. The extensive cereal fields and pastures here form the habitats of some uncommon species, such as the Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax). This is still one of the most popular corridors used by birds of prey during the autumn migration period. It is also in the Vale Santo area that the GR13 – Via Algarviana intercepts the GR11 – Rota Vicentina.
With the Cape Saint Vincent Lighthouse already on the horizon, you’ll be able to stop off at Telheiro Beach and feel the salt sea air coming off the Atlantic Ocean for the first time since this adventure began.
Here, in Cabo de São Vicente, the great journey along the Via Algarviana ends. This cape has long been known, being described by Strabão (historian, geographer and philosopher) as the most western point of Iberia. His reports also mention religious rituals, showing that this has been, since time immemorial, a place of pilgrimage and mysticism. Be sure to watch the fantastic sunset over the sea and enjoy the breathtaking and wild landscape.
» HISTORIC, ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND RELIGIOUS HERITAGE
This route takes you through the heart of the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Nature Park, also classified as the “Southwestern Coast” Site of Community Importance, which is a Special Protection Area, Important Bird and Biodiversity Area and also spans the Sagres Bioenergetic Reserve.
Post-nuptial migration is the most relevant ornithological phenomenon on the Sagres Peninsula. Due to its geographical location, a high abundance and diversity of migratory birds can be spotted here between August and November, most of which are gliders and passerines. These birds leave their European nesting territories and fly over the area on their way to sub-Saharan Africa, where they spend the winter. It is therefore normal to see large numbers of birdwatchers in those months, with binoculars held up to their faces and telescopes trained on the sky. For this reason, the Municipality of Vila do Bispo, Almargem Association and SPEA have held the Sagres Birdwatching & Nature Activities Festival on the 1st weekend of October since 2010, where visitors can take part in countless activities.
Sagres is also important as a nesting area for rupicolous birds, such as the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), the alpine swift (Apus melba), the pallid swift (Apus pallidus), the blue rock thrush (Monticola solitarius) and the red-billed chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax). Also noteworthy, as the only place in Europe where the phenomenon can be witnessed, are white storks (Ciconia ciconia) nesting on rocky cliffs and islets. In turn, coastal plateau areas play an important role for some species of steppe birds, such as little bustards (Tetrax tetrax), Eurasian stone-curlews (Burhinus oedicnemus), greater short-toed larks (Calandrella brachydactyla) and tawny pipits (Anthus campestris).
It is impossible not to focus on the notable flora growing here thanks to numerous factors, such as the very specific climate (created by both Atlantic and Mediterranean influences) and the diversity of geological substrates that partly explain the abundance of species endemic to Portugal, as well as those found exclusively along the Vicentine Coast including the following: Astragalus tragacantha, Bellevalia hackelii, Centaurea fraylensis, Daucus halophylus, Hyacinthoides vicentina, Jonopsidium acaule, Linaria algarviana, Silene rothmaleri, Thymus camphoratus and Ulex erinaceus.
Cetaceans, marine mammals, also deserve a mention, as it is not by chance that so many maritime tourism companies operate out of Sagres, taking tourists on boat trips to see these amazing creatures. Some very notable species can be observed, including the common dolphin (Delphinus delphis), the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena), bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus). However, occasionally, orcas (Orcinus orca), minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) and striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) can also be spotted.
So many “treasures” can be found in Sagres that it comes as no surprise that the town’s name derives from the word Sacrum, meaning sacred place.
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