GR13 Via Algarviana, Monchique - Cabo São Vicente
The completing stage for our Via Algarviana crossing takes us from Monchique to Cabo São Vicente. This means from Algarve's highest mountain area to the south west coastal tip, a predominantly down hill stage. However to begin with we continue yesterday's suffering in the steep cobled streets of pretty Monchique up to the Desterro monastery. This is followed by great, not easy, single track almost until the Foía summit. We remain a little lower on the northern side. Unfortunely we are deprived from views for still being closed in by famous Foía fogs. The mountain trails are following out of use agricultural terraces, and in use forestry trails for eucalyptus and cork industry. Slowly we start descending and it is near Marmelete that we get the first magnificent views overlooking the mountain landscape to the south until the Bravura dam and beyond.
We leave the charming mountain town of Marmelete on main road 267 to the west. Soon we turn of left and dip into the dense forest for some serious descending. The wide forestry trails swiftly bring us down and as the terrain is getting flatter the forest opens up into wider fertile valleys with more farms and habitation showing up. The valleys make very comfortable cruising passing the outer tentacles of the Bravura reservoir and idyllic villages such as Romeiras and Pincho. The increasing presence of rosemary, lavender and rock rose witness our return to lower areas. Scenery keeps changing. At the village of Barão de São João we enter a beautiful dense pine tree forest. Summer trekkers will find welcome shade here. The forest makes a romantic reminder of how large parts of Algarve may have looked like before the introduction of eucalyptus. Also a habitat for many species including the big birds of prey circling above us, on whose visits the wind mills from the generator park are brought to a stand still.
Leaving the forest the terrain opens up again, turns rougher, dryer and rockier with lower vegetation. The wide and fast tracks bring Vila do Bispo quickly closer, but before we get there we cross main road 125 to the south side at Raposeira. This is where we enter the Vicentina Natural Park (PNSACV) where the pretty trails make some surprising turns with great views before arriving at Vila do Bispo for a last café stop.
The last stretch to Cabo São Vicente is some 16 km, flat and excellent scenery to finish with. The little used and rocky trails take us cross country through the wide open windswept plains until we bump into the St. Vincent lighthouse where our Via Algarviana comes to an end.
We had 3 tremendous days of mountain biking through Algarve's backyard fom east to west. An experience to strongly recommend and definately to repeat. With just a few improvements in the signposting the Via Algarviana makes a very suitable itinerary for self guided adventures that prepared mountain bikers will truly enjoy.
Distance: 98,48 km.
Accumulated ascent: 1351 m.
- Technical difficulty: 3/5
- Physical difficulty: 3/5
- Scenery: 4/5
Points of interest:
- Monchique, Natura 2000 PTCON0037, http://www.icnb.pt/
- 17th century monastery of Nossa Senhora do Desterro in Monchique
- Syenite geology of volcanic origin at Foía
- Marmelete's 17th century main church
- Fonte dos Namorados spring in Marmelete
- Jurassic lime stone cliffs at Bensafrim
- Barão de São João's 17th century main church
- Boat museum in Barão de São João
- Protected pine tree forest of the perímetro florestal de Barão de São João
- Concentration of menhirs near Vila do Bispo from 8th to 5th century BC
- 14th century romano gothic chapel of Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe at Raposeira
- Rich flora and geological diversity in the Vicentina Natural Park (PNSACV), Natura 2000 PTZPE0015, PTCON0012, http://www.icnb.pt/
- Vila do Bispo's 18th century main church
- Cabo de São Vicente, a strategic and sacred site for many centuries with groups of menhirs dating back to neolithic times, 15th and 16th century fortress and 15th century windrose.
Food & drinks:
Doing this stage trekkers pass through the villages of Marmelete, Romeiras, Pincho, Bensafrim, Barão de São João and Vila do Bispo where it is not difficult to find can find local cafés, restaurants or small supermarkets to get necessary supplies.
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