Four 2024 walking festivals in Southern Portugal

Algarve portugal Monchique
Monchique in the Faro region of Portugal, is one of the hosts of a walking festival in the south of the country. Photo: beccaJane/Pixabay

The Algarve, or the Faro Region, is the southernmost district in Portugal.

Its weather and beaches attract plenty of tourists looking for sun and sand, and let’s be honest, little else other than alcohol and food, but for walkers, this is a region with so much to see and do.

Rugged coastlines, caves, rivers, lakes and a hilly interior – coupled with that good weather – make for a potentially spectacular walking holiday.

The region also boasts some walking festivals during the Algarve Walking Season, a concept that came into existence in 2017. It is run by the QRER cooperative.

The location at the south of the country, which extends from the Atlantic coast to the Spanish border, could be said to be a place where that walking season extends from January to December. After all, temperatures of 16 in January aren’t too bad.

The Faro region – depending on which part you’re headed to – can be reached in about two hours by car from either Lisbon or Seville airports. Public transport takes a little longer, it can take up to 6 hours to reach some of the smaller communities in the area.

There are four main festivals that fall under the QRER’s umbrella.

Caminheiros (March 15 to 17)

The first of those events is centred on Alcoutim, from March 15 to March 17. Alcoutim is on the border with Spain, about 30km from the coast, on the Guadiana river. Called the Caminheiros, the festival kicks off with a walk and kayaking opportunity called Senderkayak, which takes place in Sanlúcar de Guadiana, on the Spanish side of the border.

Depending on the tide, the route can start or end with the 8km walk along the Spanish bank of the Guadiana, or kayaking down the Guadiana. While the two communities on the border are separated only by the river, there is no bridge.

Later that day, at 4pm, there is a 10km sunset walk, also on the Spanish side, which takes in a part of the Guadiana Natural Way along the Spanish bank of the Guadiana.

While there is a 9:30pm architecture walk in Alcoutim, this event is already fully booked.

Several of the six Saturday events are already sold out. However, there is still space for a 12.5km walk that includes a bread-making workshop, and participants can also register for an 8km walk.

The event ends on Sunday, with all walks already fully booked. Booking and more information can be found at the event’s website (in Portuguese).

Walking Festival Ameixial (April 26 to 28)

The next opportunity is the Walking Festival Ameixial, the 11th anniversary of which takes place from April 26 to 28.

The small central Algarve community’s festival takes in more than 50 activities over the three days. It starts with a sunset walk and a night walk. And then it’s a bright and early start the next day, with walk registration followed by many different hikes at 9am, including local, nature, art, botany and archaeology walks. Later in the day, there are theatre presentations, workshops, street food, yoga, music, and an area for massages. Later in the day, there’s even a walk led by a local shepherd.

The final day includes more local walks, and more themed walks, including mindfulness, nature, archaeology, bird sounds, local history, macro photography and more.

Walk & Art Fest (November 1 to 3)

This festival – the seventh time it has taken place – is located in Barrão de São João, in the Lagos municipality, in the southwest of the region. The program is long and diverse, with dozens of activities for all ages and interests: long, short and themed walks (geology, botany, bird watching, history, drawing), workshops in both English and Portuguese, activities for children and families, mountain biking and wellness activities.

The website hasn’t been updated with the 2024 details yet, however more information can be found here.

Last year’s version included almost 50 walks.

Festival de Caminhadas Monchique (November 29 to December 1)

In 2021, a new festival joined the Algarve Walking Season, the Monchique Hiking Festival, which takes place this year from November 29 to December 1.

As with the Walk & Art Fest, the schedule for the Monchique festival has not yet been finalised. However, you can get a good idea of the kind of events taking place by perusing the 2023 website.

Each day, there are many hikes, with many of them free. Most are in Portuguese, however there are some in English, as well. Some are themed, such as a mushroom walk, or those related to plants, bird song, geology, olive oil, local history or the night sky. There was a 17km waterfall hike, and a host of other activities and workshops to choose from across the three days.

Of course, while all of these events are only three days, the region is full of other opportunities, and the events’ organisers can also suggest other places to go hiking in the region to extend the visit.