This trail follows the border between the land environment and the lagoon system of Ria Formosa and lets you visit different habitats: forest areas, salt marshes and saltpans.
In Vale das Almas, the trail advances through a lush patch of stone pine, where you can also find maritime pine and some eucalyptus. You can also easily spot the great tit, the Eurasian hoopoe and the azure-winged magpie. This is also the habitat of two rare plants exclusive to the Algarve: the Thymus lotocephalus and the Tuberaria major.
The final stretch of the São Lourenço river, north of the dirt path, is the only source of freshwater around. A big floodgate makes sure salt water and freshwater don’t mix. There is a dense, marshy vegetation here, and aquatic birds like ducks, pochards, grebes and coots are common. During the winter there are great gatherings of Eurasian wigeons and northern shovelers.
The view stretches over a large system of creeks and saltpans, from where what was once called white gold is extracted. Next to the path, a large, clear mound of salt shines under the sun; salt production is an industrial activity here. Nevertheless, birds like the flamingo appreciate these hypersaline reservoirs of shallow water, teeming with nutritious invertebrate critters.
To reach the bird observatory, you have to cross the lagoon area and its salt marshes. On the silt banks, during low-tide, it is possible to see Uca tangeri crabs, shorebirds (equipped with special beaks to pick through the silt) and fisherman catching cockles and grooved carpet shells.
Along the path separating Ludo from the lagoon, the view will open to the Ancão peninsula and its dunes. The dunes progressively give away to a small fishing settlement and summer houses. The walls lining the path are covered with a plant exclusive to the south, the Limoniastrum monopetalum, a shrub of exuberant lilac foliage, adapted to the surrounding salinity.
Municipality: Faro and Loulé
Type: walking and cycling
Circular trail: no, linear
Distance: 8,4 km
Average duration: 2h to 3h
Cumulative elevation gain: 40 metres D+ (start near Vale das Almas), 70 metres D+ (start near the airport)
Type of path: dirt paths
Start of the trail: 1 – 37º 01' 45.86'' N 7º 58' 29.71'' W / 1a – 37º 01' 00.59'' N 7º 59' 17.97'' W