Hiking Algarve

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Katie Slater and Diane Tjenos enjoy a Hiking Algarve walk near Alferce

When keen hiker Katie Slater set up a Facebook group in August 2021, she was hoping to meet some like-minded people to explore the Algarve’s hiking trails with her.

Two years on, Hiking Algarve has grown from a handful of members to a thriving, lively and supportive community of 2,200 walkers. Collectively, thousands of kilometres have been covered since those first ten people responded to Katie’s call and met to walk around Quinta do Lago and the Ria Formosa. Afterwards, they sat down to enjoy breakfast together. “I suppose this started the social side of Hiking Algarve,” says Katie. “It’s now a regular thing to have a beer or food after a hike.”


Hikers join the Via Algarviana link route heading from Estombar to Silves Gare

 One early member was Katrien Nachtergaele, originally from Belgium, who regularly leads walks. “Katie is such a born organiser it took me a while to step up my own involvement, but that is the whole point: the more people lead hikes, the more of the Algarve we get to discover and the more people we meet.”

Hiking Algarve is unique in its approach: hikes are free and all members are encouraged to lead if they feel sufficiently confident. The hiking calendar runs throughout the year – the group is more active between September and May – with walks across the entire region. Everyone is welcome – you just need enthusiasm and a reasonable level of fitness.


Hikers stop for a breather near Messines

There is no pressure on any member to lead a walk; however, one man who has been tireless in his efforts to keep members fit and active is John Walker, a retired accountant from the Netherlands who helps Katie to administer the Facebook group. John is one of the most energetic and prolific walk leaders, putting on several events a week last season. It was John who termed the phrase ‘après-walk’ to describe the socialising after a hike.


Walking in the Serra da Monchique – the highest hills in the Algarve

 The length and difficulty of walks vary, with some leaders offering shorter routes on easier terrain and others leading more challenging mountain walks with stunning vistas. Despite everyone’s best efforts, things don’t always go to plan. A sense of adventure – and humour – is essential.

“A particularly funny memory is a hike when we had to climb over a very high wall, or turn back and hike a very long way around,” recalls Katie. “Being nervous of long drops – and only just over five feet tall – I was coaxed over and had to jump onto two strapping guys who then carried me down! Not an experience I’ll forget in a hurry!”

Members come from all over the world, including Europe, the US, Canada, Africa and the UK. The group is administered in English but, as many members are multilingual, conversations are often struck up in other languages.


There are ruined mills dotted around the Algarve – this one is near Alcantarilha Gare

 Real and lasting friendships form, extending beyond the hiking community – and Portugal. Christine and Frank, from Ontario, Canada, spend winters in Alvor.

“We joined in 2022 and have never looked back,” Christine says. “In addition to seeing parts of the Algarve we’d never have found or thought of going, we’ve forged some great friendships. We have visited friends made on the hikes back here in Canada and will be in Tenerife with Hiking Algarve friends next year.”


An especially low tide gave hikers the chance to explore the coastline near Albufeira

 Diane and Bill Tjenos, from Santa Fe, New Mexico, are experienced hikers who spent 31 years hiking around the Rocky Mountains. They moved to Lagos in January 2023.

“Hiking Algarve was an unbelievably lucky find,” says Diane. “Not only were the hikes beautifully described but the comments and photos made us wish we could be included in this lively, funny, smart, group. Katie welcomed us warmly. Now we have the privilege of hiking with this group of people from so many walks of life and so many places. True hiking buddies, true friends.”


The Algarve vistas are simply stunning – this one is near Alferce

Katie encourages anyone who is new here to check out Hiking Algarve. “You’ll have fun hiking with like-minded individuals, make new friends, and explore new and unknown hiking paths across the Algarve.”

This article first appeared in Tomorrow Algarve magazine in October 2023.

Join Hiking Algarve’s Facebook group and click on the Events tab to join a walk.

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