On a sunny afternoon in late December we decided to try one of the walks described in the Guide to Walking Trails in the Algarve, published by the Turismo do Algarve. We chose the ‘Praia Grande Interpretation Trail’, as it combined the wetland lagoon of Lagoa dos Salgados, famous for the variety of birdlife, with sand dunes and a pine forest.
Starting from the large car park to the west of the lagoon we joined the wooden walkway, which allows visitors to easily walk above the reed beds and sand dunes. Following the directions on the map we turned left and came to one of the highlights of the walk, the Lagoa dos Salgados, a lagoon separated from the sea by a sandbar. As its name suggests (salgado means salty) it contains salt water, but it also contains fresh water from two streams that feed into it and it acts as a transitional ecosystem between the land and the sea. The reeds, bulrushes and sedges that grow there make it an important resting and feeding place for a number of bird species, including flamingos, shovelers, mallards, little grebes, kingfishers, coots, spoonbills, avocets, purple gallinules and the three we were excited to see during our walk, black-winged stilts, grey herons and cormorants. The lagoon is popular with birdwatchers and there is even a birdwatching station with an information board. Further along the walkway we came to the first of the two rivers that we saw on our walk that cross the beach and feed into the sea, the Ribeira de Espiche. We left the walkway here, making a U-turn and walking back along the beach towards the car park, passing by an area of sand dunes and noticing the plants that grow on these ridges. An information board listed the plants we might see, including beach grass, sand couch grass, rock samphire, sea rocket, sea daffodil, sand restharrow, spiny thrift, sea medick and curry plant. Unfortunately, in late December the vegetation was not at its best.
We returned to the starting point of the walk in the car park and turned left heading west on an inland path through a shrubby area. There wasn’t much of interest in this area, except the fact that there were absolutely no other walkers around; a complete contrast to the heavy number of walkers, cyclists and rollerbladers we met on the wooden walkway in the first half of the walk. Another curious thing I noticed in this shrubby area was the number of cars and vans, each with just one man in them, parked surreptitiously among the bushes. My imagination starting running a bit wild and I may have the start of a short story! We rejoined the beach, where there were more sand dunes and continued along the beach to the second river that crosses the beach, the Ribeira de Alcantarilha. Here we turned right and walked through a saltmarsh, which led into a pine forest on a fossil cliff. Here we spotted a row of square boxes on the ground, which we discovered were simple but effective beehives. This led into an area of farmland with almond trees. Turning right towards the road we had driven in on, we came across a number of disused mills and granaries. We turned right onto the road and walked back to the car park. This was the least interesting part of the walk, but the road was fairly quiet, as it only leads to and from the car park.
The walk is 5.5km and takes approximately 2 hours. It is moderately easy.
The start of the walk is in the Praia Grande de Pêra car park, south of the village of Pêra. There is no public transport.