The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, or Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos in Portuguese, is the most well-known trek in the Algarve. The hiking route passes stunning cliffs, seaside views, rock arches and viewpoints on Portugal’s beautiful coastline. The spectacular Algarve coast is home to this 6-kilometer (or 12 kilometers if you return to the start) hike along the rugged coastline. It’s one of the best things to do in southern Portugal, and it’s something you don’t want to miss while exploring the Algarve. In this blog, we tell you everything you need to know about the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail and as a bonus, we give you three more beautiful but off the beaten track cliff trails in the Algarve.
Seven Hanging Valleys Trail Map
This hiking trail in the Algarve is also marked with the well-known yellow-red markings that indicate almost all southern Portuguese trails, though we did find them somewhat hard to find this time. That’s not an issue, since you know the path will eventually follow the coast and thus it’ll be impossible to get lost. This map shows you exactly how the trail goes and which lovely places you pass by along the way.
About the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail
What are the Seven Hanging Valleys?
The ‘seven hanging valleys’ are the seven rivers that emerged onto the seaside in ancient times and carved valleys into the soft rock. The flow of those seven rivers had cut canyons into the soft rock of the coast. Those are the seven hanging valleys. At these places you can still see a narrow valley between the otherwise uninterrupted rocky coast, so you will have to descend there and climb up the cliffs again. The map above shows exactly where the hanging valleys are located (with the icon of a valley). The lowest point of such a valley, in fact, no longer reaches sea level because the coast here has retreated rather suddenly in the past. The valleys are therefore now a kind of plateaus. Or hanging valleys.
What can you expect from the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail?
The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail is a clifftop walk between Praia do Vale de Centeanes and Praia de Marinha beaches in the heart of the Algarve. It is one of the most popular hikes in southern Portugal because of the beautiful views over the yellow and orange coastal rocks the Algarve is famous for. It is also very convenient in a warm region like the Algarve that the route is only 6 kilometers – or double the return trip – and the hike is also fairly easy.
The path takes you along the rocky coast and lovely bays with sandy beaches, which means that you descend a few meters every time you pass through one of those bays, then climb back up the rocky coast. You don’t need to be in excellent shape or a major hiker to take this stroll, the altimeters being quite modest. We did the walk with our eight-month-old baby, who was so pigheaded that she wanted to sit on her father’s neck for the majority of the hike. We totally understand why she preferred this front-row seat with this kind of views. And luckily the trail was evendoable under these circumstances. Good walking shoes are definitely recommended. In any case, wear shoes with good grip to avoid slipping.
Whether you can do the trek with children depends on their age. There’s a lot of climbing and scrambling involved. That is not difficult for us, but it may be tough for children. If you can carry them in a baby carrier or sling, the coastal route is doable. A stroller would be quite inconvenient.
When is the best time to do the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail?
In the summer, the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail can be quite tough. There is virtually no shade on the route – only under the trees at the lighthouse – so the heat can play tricks on you. We recommend that you bring a swimsuit for a refreshing dip on one of the beautiful beaches you’ll pass. Furthermore, you might want to bring some water and snacks. Though Praia da Benagil has a number of food stalls and restaurants where you may get something to drink as well as ice cream.
In our opinion, the best time to do the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail is spring, fall or even winter. We did the hiking trail in wintertime and can highly recommend doing the same. It was sunny and warm, but not too warm, so the trail was never too hard at any time because of the weather. We feel summer would be too hot to do the hike. If you do choose to do the trail during the summer months, we recommend you go as early as possible when temperatures are at their lowest.
In which direction are you walking the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail?
There are many opinions about the best direction in which to walk the coastal path. It is not a circular route, so the start point is not the endpoint. The path runs between Praia do Vale de Centeanes and Praia de Marinha beaches. So one of the two is your starting point and the other your ending point, unless you walk it both ways.
Both places have convenient parking spaces, although the one Praia de Marinha is a bit larger. On the other hand, this is a more popular beach and therefore has more visitors. The route is not easier or heavier in a specific direction. You pass the same bays in both directions where you have to descend and climb back up again.
Yet, we have a recommended direction as well, though we didn’t know this when we started the trail. We that you start at Praia do Vale de Centeanes and choose Praia da Marinha as the end point. Why? The views improve as you walk in that direction, culminating with the most magnificent rock formations before Praia da Marinha as a reward for your efforts.
We didn’t do the hike in both ways, but choose to take an Uber back from Praia da Marinha to our camper van in the parking lot at Praia do Vale de Centeanes. This costs about €6.
The highlights of the cliff walk
Sights along the trail
The highlights along the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail are the spectacular vistas, including rock arches, lunar landscapes and jagged cliffs. The most beautiful rock formations can be found near Praia da Marinha, the start or end point of the hike. This is also why this beach is so popular. You’ve got a gorgeous sand beach with lovely formations of rocks and cliffs.
You’ll also pass the Alfanzina Lighthouse, a pine forest, several picnic areas, viewpoints with seats and a variety of sinkholes where you may view or hear the sea rushing in. You can peek inside some of those sinkholes as well. The majority are fenced off for safety, although some of the fences are quite close to the edge. You can see the water coming in there with the waves. If you can’t get that close to the edge, you can still hear the water. The sound of the sea entering is amplified by the walls and echoes loudly upwards.
Icons on the map at the top of this blog indicate where sinkholes and rock arches are found along the route.
The best beaches along the trail
Bring your bathing suit since the gorgeous sandy beaches along the route are difficult to resist. You could start right away on one of the best Algarve beaches: the Praia do Vale de Centeanes or Praia de Marinha at the start and endpoint are both beautiful. But along the trail, you will also pass more beautiful sandy beaches.
We visited Praia do Carvalho, a lovely white-sand beach shaped like crescent moon. This beach is accessible via a stairway cut through the rock, making this beach a unique attraction. It is a tiny beach, and it was quite silent here in the winter. However, because of its small size, we can imagine that it will be very crowded during the summer. The trail isn’t the only way to get here either. There is a parking lot and from there you have to walk a bit to get to the beach, so you can expect daytrippers to come here as well.
Praia de Benagil is perhaps best known for the Benagil Caves that have been carved into the rocky coast narby. This beach is also one of the larger ones along the route and because it is so popular for the Benagil Caves, it has restaurants and a beach bar where you can have something to drink or snack.
The Benagil Caves
The trail passes Praia de Benagil, famous for the Benagil Caves, which can only be reached by water. A boat trip or canoe excursion is therefore the only way to see the caves, unless you are an extremely good swimmer and dare to swim from Praia de Benagil to the caves. Make sure to check information about this swim in advance, as it is said to be dangerous because of the strong current.
If you walk the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, you will descend from the rocks to Praia de Benagil. From there the itinerary is a bit odd, as there is no longer a narrow coastal path but you’ll have to take the motorway a bit inland for a short while. Once you’re back up the rocks again, you’ll reach a coastal path and follow the coastline for the rest of the trail. That is also where you walk on top of the well-known Benagil Caves. You walk past the hole in the roof of the caves – you’ve probably seen it on photos – and you can take a look from above into the caves.
Three alternatives: the Ponte da Piedade hike, Trail of Headlands and Falésia Beach Trail
Do you like the lovely Algarve coast, but would rather take a lesser-known walking route? We have three suggestions for you. In addition to the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, we did three more beautiful cliff walks. They may not bring you to the Benagil Caves or the impressive scenery at Praia de Marinha, but had beautiful vistas as well. You’ll also find the walks near the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, so these are great off the beaten track alternatives.
#1 The Ponte da Piedade hike near Lagos
- 10 kilometers
- near Lagos and Ponte da Piedade
The Ponte da Piedade, located near Lagos, is the symbol of the Algarve. You simply can’t visit Lagos without seeing these rocks south of the city. This is a beautiful rock formation with golden yellow rocks that create lovely arches and pointed summits in an appealing blue sea. You may look down from the viewpoint, but going down the stairs gives you the best view of the Ponte da Piedade.
The best way to see this icon is to go there on foot from Luz. You begin in Luz and make your way to the Ponte da Piedade before continuing into Lagos’ historic core. Take an Uber from Lagos to Luz. This is approximately € 7. Luz is a lovely little town with a fine sandy beach. From here you climb to the rock plateau Rocha Negra. It is a tough climb, but from the plateau you have a phenomenal view of the Praia da Luz and the rocky coast. The path then brings you from the Rocha Negra peak along the coast to Ponte da Piedade. You have the beautiful blue sea and orange rocky coast as a backdrop while you walk. From Ponte da Piedade, you walk along the rocky coast to the viewpoint at Praia do Camilo. Then you walk the last part to the old center.
#2 Trail of Headlands
- 6.5 kilometers (or 13 kilometers round trip)
- between Praia do Molhe (Ferragudo) and Praia do Paraiso (Carvoeiro)
The Trail of Headlands, also known as the Caminho dos Promontórios in Portuguese, is essentially a continuation of the Seven Hanging Valleys Walk. The red-yellow signs along the path of more than 6 kilometers provide precise directions, but it’s difficult to get lost on a cliff walk along the coast. This hike runs all the way along the spectacular rock cliffs between the picturesque Ferragudo and beach town Carvoeiro. You pass the Ferragudo lighthouse, large sinkholes where the seawater flows in under the rocks, the ancient lookout point Torre da Lapa and beautiful rock formations. The walk ends near Carvoeiro, where you can take a Uber or walk back to the starting point. Make sure to bring your swimsuit, as you will pass beautiful bays and beaches along the way.
#3 Falesia Beach Trail
- 4 kilometers (or 8 kilometers round trip)
- at Vilamoura
The Falésia Beach Trail runs along the orange rocky coast along Praia da Falésia, so it’s not possible to get lost during this hike either. You walk from the starting point towards the coastal village of Vilamoura, while having the beach of Falésia on your right the whole time. At various places you can also descend from the rocks to the beach, so be sure to bring your swimsuit to take a dip in the sea.
Unlike the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail or the Trail of Headlands, this trail offers a different kind of rocky coast. The trail is located in the area between the well-known orange cliffs in the west and the Ria Formosa mud land nature park in the east of the Algarve. You’ll enjoy white and orange rock formations in beautiful shapes. It’s like a beautiful moonscape, making this hike one not to miss on your Algarve trip.