The Seven Hanging Valleys route is perhaps the most famous walking trail in the Algarve, and for good reason. The views of the coastline around Benagil and Carvoeiro are fabulous.
Here’s what you need to know about the route before you set off.
How long is the Seven Hanging Valleys walk?
The full, linear trail is 5.7 km (3.5 miles) each way, with start/end points at Praia da Marinha and Praia do Vale de Centeanes. If that’s too much for you, you don’t have to walk the full route.
Bearing in mind that if you come by car, you’ll either need to turn around and walk the same distance back or arrange a transfer, you could instead do what I did the first time around and choose a midway point like Praia do Carvalho, walk to Praia da Marinha and then return to your starting point.
What is there to see on the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail?
As the name suggests, you’ll see hanging valleys, although I didn’t count them and probably missed a few, to be honest.
What’s a hanging valley I hear you ask? Good question and one I had to look up! It’s where the base of the valley ‘hangs’, with one end open, above the main valley floor, or the ocean in this case.
We started off with a view of Praia da Marinha and the crumbly yellow cliff stacks that surround the golden sands. Not quite the holiday brochure pictures as it was still overcast, although the weather improved as the morning wore on.
We set off along the clifftop trails, stopping to peer down sink holes and take (lots of) pictures of rock formations.
There are information boards at various places along the walk, explaining how the weather and the waves have eroded these limestone cliffs, formed between 16 and 24 million years ago, into uneven clifftsacks riddled with sink holes and caves.
As well as holes in the rocks, the other things in abundance were boats of varying sizes zipping along the coastline on tours of the Benagil caves.
The entrance to Benagil beach, near the Algarve’s most famous cave, was packed with people taking boat and kayak trips. I dread to think what it’s like in the summer months.
At Praia do Carvalho, we went through a secret tunnel to the sandy beach, which was almost completely covered in seaweed after recent storms but this is apparently a secret ‘locals beach’ in the summer. The tunnel is optional so don’t let that put you off if you’re not a fan of confined spaces.
After another short climb back up the cliffs, the next point of interest was the Ladrão Stack, a particularly impressive rock formation with its own legend. In this case, it’s said that a Moorish princess wept by the sea for the loss of her lover, creating the lace-like holes in the rocks.
After a patch of pine trees and juniper bushes we reached Alfanzina lighthouse and another sinkhole before the most impressive of the seven hanging valleys that the walk is named after.
From here, it was a fairly short walk to the end of the official trail at Praia do Vale de Centeanes, which has a beach-front café and a small sandy beach.
Do you need a guide to hike the 7 Hanging Valleys Trail?
Not really. It’s fairly well signposted and as long as you don’t stray too close to the edge of the cliffs, you’ll find your way.
If you do want a guide, you could combine a walk along the cliffs with a boat trip to see Benagil and the other caves nearby. Check out this cliffs and caves combo tour (small group)
How challenging is the hike?
Although it’s a relatively short trail, there are lots of ups and downs and a few of them are steep and rocky so it’s not an ‘easy’ trail, although it’s doable for most people who are reasonably fit, even if you don’t go hiking regularly. It can be challenging for young children and those with less energy or mobility.
Just take your time, keep stopping to admire the views and don’t get too close to the edges!
When you’ve seen the coastline from below, on a boat trip to Benagil caves, you’ll have a better appreciation for how thin some of the surface is, and why there are barriers to stop people from risking their lives for a photo.
I was shocked to see a couple with a small child on the other side of these railings, trying to peer inside Benagil cave from above. Just don’t. This is the best view you’ll get, unless you take a caves tour.
Can you cycle the trail?
Yes, and many people do. If you’re looking for a guided bike tour, take a look at this one.
Best time of year to do the Seven Hanging Valleys walk
The trail is open all year round so unless the weather is very wet and windy, you can do it. Do take extra care after and during wet weather as some parts will be slippery.
On hot days, try to avoid the hottest periods – aim for early morning or late afternoon, once temperatures start to drop again.
What equipment/clothing do I need to walk the 7 Hanging Valleys trail?
You need comfortable, non-slip shoes, like trainers (sneakers) or walking shoes/sandals. Flip flops and flimsy footwear are simply not sturdy enough for the uneven terrain.
While a hiking pole is not essential, if you have one handy, I’d take it with you. See my Amazon shop for hiking gear recommendations.
Make sure you use sun protection and take water with you. You may want to wear a hat but make sure it won’t blow away if there’s a gust of wind!
If you intend to swim at any point on the trail, take your costume and towel.
Is there a trail leaflet?
Yes, see the walk leaflet for more details.
Related: If you’re really into hiking, consider this 1-week walking holiday in the Algarve hinterland.