Headed to southern Portugal and looking for information on the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail in the Algarve? You’ve come to the right place – I’m sharing everything you need to know! Where to start, how to get there, the best scenic spots, what to bring, and so much more!
As soon as I started planning my Algarve itinerary, I knew I needed to include a day hiking the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail. Why?! Because it’s just so damn impressive!
Imagine a full day exploring the rugged coast, limestone cliffs, picturesque sandy beaches (with turquoise green water!), and natural underground caves. The scenery is absolutely mind-blowing, each view more impressive than the last. It’s the quintessential Algarvian seascape – and I couldn’t get enough!
I’ve lived in Northern California for the past decade or so, and even the beautiful California coastline has got nothing on the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail. It kinda reminds me a bit of Santa Cruz, Point Reyes, and Big Sur all rolled into one, but even more impressive.
If you can’t fathom just hanging on the beach all day and need something a bit more adventurous, I highly recommend this hike! It was easily one of my best days on my entire 10 day Portugal itinerary.
Important Info about the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail
- Location: Algarve (Southern Portugal)
- Trailhead: You can start at either Marinha Beach or Praia do Vale de Centeanes in Carvoeiro.
- Length: ~6km/3.7 miles one way (12km/7.4 miles roundtrip)
- Difficulty: moderate
- Time needed: about 4-5 hours roundtrip, plus beach and photo stops!
- Bring: a hat and sunscreen, sneakers/hiking boots, camera, and about 2L of water per person (you’ll need it!)
Where does the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail start?
Most people and websites state that the trail starts at Marinha Beach. They’re right, and wrong all at the same time. Let me explain…
Since the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail is not a loop and rather an out and back trail, you can start at either end. Meaning there are actually two trailheads for the Seven Hanging Valleys hike – either at Marinha Beach in the East (one of the most beautiful beaches in the entire world, I dare you to challenge me!), or Praia do Vale de Centeanes in Carvoeiro (in the West).
So yes, you can start at either one and then finish at the other.
Most people start at Marinha Beach and continue on to Praia do Vale de Centeanes. I did the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail the opposite way – starting a bit before Praia do Vale de Centeanes in Carvoeiro and making my way towards Marinha Beach. There’s no right or wrong way to hike, but there’s pros and cons to both (which I’ll get into soon).
PS — If you’re starting at Marinha Beach and wanna actually spend time on the beach itself, make sure you head down before you hike. The trail doesn’t technically lead to the beach.
How to get to either trailhead:
Ride Shares (Uber/Bolt/FREENOW): From Lagos, a taxi or rideshare will cost a pretty penny (when I looked it was around 40 euro each way). Unless you’re splitting the cost, I don’t recommend this option. If you’re coming from Albufeira, it’ll be a bit closer – but still almost 30 minutes away.
Public Transport: You can make your way to Marinha Beach via trains and buses from Lagos, but there’s no direct route. You’ll need to take a combo of 2-3 trains and buses, and it’ll take a long time! Think an hour and 45 minutes to almost 3 hours! Not recommended unless you really have NO other way.
Drive: Driving is by far the best way to reach either trailhead, and it’s highly recommended you rent a car if you’re exploring the Algarve. All the best spots are pretty difficult to reach with public transport (and ride shares add up after a while).
If you have a car, make the 40 minute drive over to Marinha Beach. The parking lot is pretty big, but I recommend heading over on the earlier side to ensure you get a spot!
Join a group: Since I was traveling solo around Portugal (Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve), I didn’t feel comfortable hiking alone (nor do I think it’s safe for anyone to do so unless you’re super familiar with the area). Therefore, I decided to sign up for an AirBnb experience hiking the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail with a guide and small group.
This worked out great, since the leader took the group right to the start of the trail from Lagos in his own vehicle, guided us the entire way up and down the cliffs, and made a few extra secret pit stops along the route.
We finished up the day by having a fully prepared sunset meal of Portuguese tapas and some vinho verde – looking right at the crazy rock formations of Praia da Marinha. While the hike was pretty difficult for me (the guide later on told us he took us the extra hard way…), it was one of my best days in Portugal (because of all the stunning scenery).
The guided hike isn’t for everyone, and I honestly think I would have had a better time doing the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail with a friend instead (if I wasn’t traveling solo).
The guide took us off course a bit and went at a pretty fast pace – it was honestly hard to soak up the views and atmosphere without huffing and puffing worried I’d lose the group. At one point we ended up doing some pretty serious rock climbing (not part of the actual trail)… which is not what I signed up for and honestly didn’t appreciate.
Guided tuk tuk Tour from Albufeira: Okay, so…. By taking a tuk tuk you’re obviously not doing much hiking… BUT you still get to see many of the highlights of the Seven Hanging Valleys trail along the way (including Benagil Cave and Praia da Marinha)!
Consider this the lazy man’s Seven Hanging Valleys hike, haha! Something I would have gladly done if I realized how sore I would be the day after hiking the entire trail! Read reviews and book your tuk tuk tour here!
When to Hike the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail
This kinda depends what season you’re hiking in. Visiting in summer? Start early in the morning. Or start around midday and finish with sunset at Praia da Marinha. Visiting any other time of year? You’ve got more flexibility. More info below:
Summer (High Season – June to mid-September)
This is the busiest time of year in the Algarve (and Portugal in general), but also the hottest, so come prepared. You’ll wanna start the hike early on in the day (to ensure you get a spot!), and I recommend only hiking one way (way too hot and tiresome to do the full out and back trail).
Come early to beat the heat – avoid the midday sun at all costs. The sun is super strong and there’s little to no shade on the trail, so slather on that sunscreen and take lots of swimming/beach breaks.
For reference, I hiked the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail in early August, and boy oh boy was it steamy! Unless you’re very comfortable with physical activity in intense heat, I’m not so sure I would recommend this. Whatever you do, bring lots and lots of water – you’ll need it!
Spring and Fall (Shoulder Seasons – April/May and September to November)
In my opinion, shoulder season is the best time to hike the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail. Temps are generally pretty mild and the skies are generally clear. Hiking anywhere in the Algarve during spring (April to May) and fall (mid-September to mid-November) is super pleasant. You still get great weather (mid 70s F or so), but the heat isn’t as high as during summer (thank goodness).
Also, with a visit during the shoulder season, parking lots won’t fill up as quickly. So don’t feel like you need to get there at the crack of dawn. Enjoy that beauty rest!
Winter (Off Season – late-November to early-April)
Despite the mild weather (relative to the rest of Europe), winter in the Algarve is the least crowded.
You can start later in the morning and most likely won’t have a problem with parking or heat. Do note there’s a higher chance of rain and moodier, overcast weather, but you may get lucky with a sunny day in the Algarve in winter.
Crowds on the Trail
Surprisingly, given how gorgeous the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail is, we didn’t find it to be super over-crowded. With that being said, it does get much more crowded in areas that are easily accessible by car (like Praia da Marinha and Benagil Beach). You’ll most definitely see the most people between Praia da Marinha and Praia de Benagil.
Many of the lots over here are taken up by beach-goers instead of hikers, so keep that in mind when planning out your day.
Where to Stay Near the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail
Carvoeiro: This is the largest town closest to the trailhead, and you can then walk all the way to Praia da Marinha from here! In Carvoeiro, you’ll find plenty of hotels and guesthouses, cafes, and restaurants. Your typical picturesque Portuguese beach town, albeit kinda small.
Carvoeiro isn’t far from where I started the trail at Boneca’s Cave. Most people don’t stay here (since there’s more to do in nearby Lagos and Albufeira), but a good option if you’d like to spend your days hiking and taking advantage of the stunning beaches on this part of the coast. Recommended hotels:
Albufeira: This is another popular resort-y town in the Algarve, and although I didn’t stay here, I visited for a day (and loved it beyond words). Albufeira is about 30 minutes east from Praia da Marinha (where you can start the Seven Hanging Valleys hike), and it’s recommended you rent a car to get yourself here. Some recommended hotels:
Lagos: I stayed in Lagos, which is about a 40 minute drive west of the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail. Lagos has all the tourist facilities you need (and way bigger than Carvoeiro), plus tons of walkable beaches, accessible caves, the oh so gorgeous Ponta da Piedade, as well as plenty of boat tours. Highly recommended!
Lagos is the furthest on this list of where to stay near the hike, but it’s only 10 minutes further than Albufeira. Recommended hotels
- Carvi Beach Hotel Algarve
- Belmar Spa & Beach Resort
- Casa Mae (where I wanted to stay SO badly but couldn’t justify the cost since I was traveling solo)
You’ve got options (all along the same trail), ranging from 1.1 miles (1.8km) all the way to 7.4 miles (12km). As noted above, you can hike the entire trail one way, round trip, or only do a small section of the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail. I’d come with a plan in advance.
- Full Hike, Roundtrip (12km/7.4 miles roundtrip, moderate elevation gain): Hike the entire trail, then turn around and hike back out! I only recommend this if you start in the AM and it’s not scorching hot out. Dehydration and heat stroke are real!
- Full Hike, One Way (6km/3.7 miles one way, minimal elevation gain): Complete the entirety of the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, but just one way! Just know you’ll need to find a way back to your starting point if you drove.
- Full Hike, One Way with Add-Ons (8km/4.7 miles, moderate elevation gain): This is what I did! We parked at Algar Seca (Boneca Cave), and walked to the official start at Praia do Vale de Centeanes. Adds on about a mile or so, but the extra views are well worth it!
- Partial Hike: If it’s crazy hot and you don’t have much time and/or energy, I’d focus on the eastern portion of the hike, from Praia da Marinha to Benagil Beach (~1.1 Miles / 1.8 km). In my opinion, this is the most scenic and stunning portion of the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail (but in reality, it’s all gorgeous).
Can You Do The Hike One Way?
Yes, of course you can! The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail is linear, meaning that it’s not a loop. You can go from one end of the hike to the other. That’s what I did!
Unless you’re a serious hiker and wanna hike almost 10 miles in the scorching hot sun, I actually recommend only hiking one way anyways.
Plus, you’re there for the views, right (and maybe some exercise)?! Don’t rush this hike – you’ll be upset you did. Savor all the stunning cliffs, sandy beaches, and hidden caves – and remember to turn your head back every so often. Sometimes the best views are behind you!
Wait – but what about getting back to your car? If you’re only hiking one way, you’ll need to find a way back to where you parked. You can either walk back (essentially NOT doing the hike only one way, haha, but roundtrip), or you can take a quick Uber ride back to your car.
Uber in Portugal (and the Algarve in particular) is cheap and easy! Way less expensive than here in the States. It should only cost you about 5 euro or so to get from one end of the trail to the other (it’s only a few km afterall).
I’d also check out other ride share apps found in Portugal, like Bolt and FreeNow, which I actually found to be even less expensive than Uber most days.
Which Way to Walk?
Honestly, there’s no better place to start (they’ve both got their pros and cons). There’s no right or wrong way to walk, but most people start at Praia da Marinha. It has the most spectacular scenery after all!
If you want the most stunning views right away (or possibly worried you won’t make it here), start at Praia da Marinha. It’ll be the most crowded over here, but you can guarantee you’ll see the best of the best without much effort.
Starting at Praia da Marinha:
- Larger parking lot
- Way more crowded
- Views right away
- Can go for a swim beforehand if you’d like
- Sun is behind you as you walk
Starting at Praia do Vale de Centeanes:
- Least crowded, and by the time you reach Benagil and Praia da Marinha, that part of the hike will have cleared out a bit
- Way more peaceful
- Get to “earn” your views
- Optional add on to Boneca Cave (can park over here)
- Can watch sunset from Praia da Marinha
We started hiking the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail mid-day from Boneca Cave (not officially part of the trail but well worth the extra few km). This meant we reached Praia da Marinha just before sunset. I kind of wish I got to see this beach while the sun was overhead, since the sea and surrounding cliffs didn’t look as turquoise and impressive since it was mostly in the shade.
It gets kinda confusing depending on when you start the Seven Hanging Valleys trail. BUT you always want the sun behind you!
- Starting in the early AM? Begin the hike at Marinha Beach.
- Starting later in the day? Hike from Boneca Cave to Marinha Beach (the sun will be behind you).
What to Pack and Wear for the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail
Wear proper footwear: You’ll be hiking on a lot of uneven and loose, rocky ground. To say you need actual sneakers is an understatement (although a few people in my group wore sport sandals and did okay…). And to think I almost wore flimsy sandals, haha.
I actually bought a cheap pair of sneakers in Lisbon a few days before, and then left them in Lagos after I was finished with the hike. They were filthy and I had no room in my suitcase for them anyways. Perfect for the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail though!
A small backpack to hold all your necessities (water, towel, snacks, etc)
Water, and lots of it: Especially if you’re hiking in the heat of summer! Our guide ensured everyone had AT LEAST 2 liters of water, and while it was a pain to carry along, we most definitely needed it.
There’s only one place to replenish your water along the way (at Benagil Beach). Depending where you’re starting, it’ll either be towards the very beginning or towards the end… Not ideal when you need a refill in the middle of the hike!
Snacks/Food: There’s not many places to grab food along the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, so you wanna be prepared! Around Benagil Beach there’s a few snack stands, as well as a stand at Boneca Cave if you start in Carvoeiro. Besides this there’s not much, especially in the off-season.
Sun protection: This means a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses! The sun is crazy strong over here – turning into a lobster isn’t at all sexy. Protect your skin! There’s very little shade on the trail. Come prepared.
Wear or bring a bathing suit and small travel towel: You’ll be passing by some of the most spectacular beaches you’ve ever seen! Of course you’ll wanna jump in and take a dip! I recommend packing a small quick-dry travel towel as well (carry it in your day pack).
You don’t wanna carry anything sopping wet after the fact!
Hiking/moisture-wicking clothes: I stupidly wore jean shorts for the first half of the hike… and let’s just say those were NOT the comfiest things to wear in the scorching hot sun. Why? I have no idea. I kinda just thought The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail would be flat and a piece of cake. Nope! Totally wish I had this Seven Hanging Valleys Trail guide beforehand!
Other important FAQS:
- Not all the beaches you see are accessible: Some beaches are only accessible via boat or kayak, meaning if you’re up above, you cannot access them without literally scaling down the side of the cliff. Not safe! There’s a few beaches along the way with stairs directly to the beach. Go to those instead!
- You cannot access Benagil Cave from the trail: While you can peek into the cave from above, it’s difficult to do so unless you really stretch your neck. I held my camera out to take photos, but I was unable to see the inside of the cave with my own eyes. Wanna go into the cave? You’ll need to either swim from Benagil Beach (more on that below), or take a guided kayak or boat trip another day.
- Be extra careful hiking with children: While some sections of the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail are guarded, there’s plenty without any rails/fences. Keep a close eye on kids as the cliffs can be slippery. And always keep a safe distance to the cliff edge, no matter who you’re with. One wrong step and that’s it!
- The route is well marked: You’ll see red and yellow markings painted on wooden poles or on large rocks from end to end. If you miss one, just keep walking along the coast – as long as you keep going, it’s kinda hard to get lost. You’ll eventually find the actual path again.
- Look out for sinkholes: There’s a few sinkholes (natural wells) in the area – do not cross the fencing that surrounds them as this can be extremely dangerous.
- There’s no cost to hike: It’s completely FREE to hike the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail!
- You may lose service along the way: Because of this, I recommend taking a photo of the trail map before you start.
- Leave no trace: Whatever you bring onto the trail (snack wrappers, water bottles, toilet paper, napkins, etc), take out with you. Let’s leave this place as pristine as possible for people to enjoy it years down the road. Plus, all this harms the environment and causes erosion quicker than normal.
- Remember – if you go down to the beach, you gotta come back up! And trust me – there’s a lot of stairs! Before you go down, make sure you’ll have enough energy to walk back up the cliffs.
Hiking the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail (Highlights)
I’m sharing my experience of the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail – meaning I’m documenting my hike from Praia do Vale de Centeanes to Praia da Marinha (west to east).
Remember, you can do this hike in either direction, it’s totally up to you!
Wanna see some of the most impressive scenery of your life? You gotta spend a day on the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail. Here are the main highlights:
EXTRA ADD-ON: Algar Seco and Boneca Bar
My guide parked his van at Algar Seco (where there’s a decent sized FREE parking lot), and this is where we started the Seven Hanging Valleys hike.
Not officially part of the hike, but if you have extra energy, add this on! Since we parked around here in Algar Seco, we were able to pop into Boneca Cave, buy a few extra waters (which were very needed!), and walk the boardwalks! Well worth the extra few km or so! This is what I did on my group hiking trip, and we ended up hiking almost 5 miles because of this.
I think this additional walk is well worth the extra km if you’ve got the time (and aren’t planning on walking round trip).
Stop 1: Praia do Vale de Centeanes
If you’re completing the hike from east to west, Praia do Vale de Centeanes is the official start of the trail. As soon as I laid eyes on this beach and all its colorful umbrellas on the golden sand amongst the towering cliffs, I knew I was in for a treat.
I swear, the beaches look even more impressive from up here on the trail! Just look at those limestone cliffs – wow!
Stop 2: Farol de Alfanzina
After heading up plenty of stairs and coming across the perfectly positioned bistro table and chairs (so random!), you’ll come across Farol de Alfanzina – a lighthouse with a particularly beautiful view! There’s actually a small museum housed within but the opening hours are super infrequent anyways.
I honestly think the views of the lighthouse from further on in the hike are more impressive than seeing it up close.
Stop 3: Praia do Carvalho
After some more walking and more impeccable scenery, you’ll come across Praia do Carvalho.
And it’s one of the most unique beaches in the Algarve! To access the beach, head down the stairs and climb through a narrow man made tunnel/cave in the rock. You then pop out onto the beach on the other side! Be careful if there’s sand on the rocky steps – this makes them slippery; go slow and steady.
Expect to find tons of locals here, as it’s not as well-known to tourists as others nearby (namely Benagil Beach right next door). And of course it’s gorgeous – this is the Algarve we’re talking about!
Definitely one of the Algarve’s best kept secret beaches! I mean, you need to climb through a rock to get here! Expect soft, golden sand and crystal clear water. Surrounded by cliffs it’s typically sheltered from the wind.
I’d definitely spend a bit of time here before heading off to the next beach on the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail – Benagil.
Psst: Google Maps shows two different locations for Praia do Carvalho. Good to be aware of this in case you’re using Google Maps to determine where you are and what you have left to see/walk. The correct location of Praia do Carvalho is west of Benagil Beach.
Stop 4: Benagil Beach
Benagil Beach is super popular, most notably because of its location right next to Benagil Cave (up next on this guide to the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail).
I highly recommend making a pit stop here for some ice cream and beer (from the little shop) – you earned it! Spend some time on the beach, go swimming, relax, and soak in all the Portuguese vibes. There’s also a relatively clean bathroom here if you need it (and a great place to change out of your wet bathing suit for the remainder of the hike).
Benagil Beach is one of the most touristy beaches in this area of the Algarve, so expect it to be pretty crowded.
Stop 5: Benagil Cave
Up next – everyone’s favorite! Benagil Cave, the striking sea cave you’ve seen all over IG and pinterest. The natural hole in the ceiling makes it all that much more impressive and distinct than other cave formations in the area (trust me – there are a lot of sea caves around here)!
Note that you can only access the inside of the cave from swimming from Benagil Beach or via kayak/boat. There are no stairs descending into the cave from up here. There’s a guardrail on one side that prevents you from looking directly into the cave, but if you walk around that, you can go as close as you’d like (at your own risk).
From the left hand side of the beach, you can swim to Benagil Cave if you’d like (it takes about 10 minutes each way). A word of warning: there’ll be tons of boats here midday, so be extremely careful. Stay close to the rocks so you aren’t in the boat’s way. You’ll need to swim through the currents, but if you’re a strong swimmer you shouldn’t have any problems at high tide. But still, be extra careful please!
Parents – I’d advise against swimming with kids here. I’ve heard stories about people panicking and getting frightened and essentially getting stranded in the cave. Know your limits and don’t do anything you’re not sure you can handle.
Don’t wanna swim? I don’t blame you.
Instead, you can rent a kayak or stand up paddle from Benagil Beach (at I Love SUP Benagil or one of the kayak providers near the beach) and make the 10 minute paddle. You’ll need to add a bit more time to your Seven Hanging Valleys Trail time if you wanna do this, but it’s possible if you start early! The cave kinda reminded me of the open-air cave I saw in the Marietas Islands near Sayulita in Mexico!
If you don’t wanna head into the water, you can see the cave from above which I thought was pretty cool! Definitely not the same experience though. As mentioned above, I was able to peek into the cave from above, but I had to really stretch my neck. Using my outstretched arm I was able to take a few photos from above.
This next portion of the hike (between Benagil Beach and Praia da Marinha) will be the absolute busiest, especially if you’re walking the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail in summer. Since we were walking later in the day we didn’t run into many people though. One of the benefits of starting mid-day (if you can survive the heat).
Stop 6: Praia da Corredoura
On the way to our last official stop, you’ll come across the “secret beach” of Praia da Corredoura. It’s only accessible from the sea, either by kayak, SUP, or boat.
If you’re renting a kayak/SUP to get into Benagil Cave and aren’t pressed for time, head to the right of the cave and you’ll end up at Praia da Corredoura in a few minutes. There’s only a small strip of sand but there’s typically hardly anyone here (and way less crowded than nearby Benagil Beach).
Of course, it’s gorgeous from above on the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail. We simply admired the golden sandy beach from afar.
Stop 7: Arco Natural
As you’re making your way to Praia da Marinha, you’ll come across a magnificent double sea arch (located on the west side of the beach). The fact that it’s all natural is mindblowing to me!
Well worth a few minutes to soak it all in and take a few photos.
Stop 8: Praia da Marinha
We finally reached Praia da Marinha – one of the 100 most beautiful beaches in the world. I mean, just look at it! EASILY one of the most picturesque beaches in Portugal, if not in all of Europe! And yes, I’ve been to Greece and these sun-kissed cliffs really blow everything I’ve ever seen outta the water.
From the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, you’ll get a sweeping panoramic view of natural brides, sea stacks, huge sinkholes, hidden grottoes, and stony arches. The whole scene is absolutely remarkable. One of the prettiest places in all of Portugal in my opinion!
We caught the last few glimpses of sunset here, and then went on with our feast of traditional Portuguese tapas and wine. Lots of wine. Hey – we deserved it!
The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail doesn’t lead directly to Marinha Beach. From the trail, you’ll need to find the stairs down to the beach – which are located on the left-hand side of the Marinha Beach Parking lot. It’s a great place to go for a swim once you’ve finished hiking (if you finish in daylight).
Psst – Starting the hike from Praia da Marinha? Head down to the beach before starting the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail instead!
So there ya have it! A super comprehensive guide to hiking the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail in the Algarve – one of the prettiest places in all of Portugal! Are you headed to the Algarve soon?!