The trail follows along a network of ancient paths winding between the Barrocal and the Serras which showcase ancestral agricultural traditions of water management and use of raw materials like clay.
In the middle of the countryside, you follow paths lined with dry stone walls and leafy olive trees, carob trees and holm oaks, until you come across an ancient well, the Poço do Monte Negro, built with exquisite details.
The Vale do Bengado is the frontier between the Algarve de prata (the limestone Barrocal) and Algarve pardo (mountainous region of schist and greywacke). The hillsides are covered in groves of monumental cork oaks, a calcifuge tree (not suited for calcareous soil). After you ford the river, you’ll come across local riverside vegetation: brambles, oleanders, ash trees, poplar trees and, on the riverbed,Hart’s pennyroyal.
A little detour will show you one of the numerous water mines in the valley. The mines supply water to the Bengado’s irrigated crops; these easy-togrow vegetable gardens are cultivated with tomatoes, peppers, melons and watermelons, corn, sweet potatoes and cabbages, and citrus orchards are planted nearby.
On the Bárbara Dias Path you cross a stretch of Roman road. You will notice the well-organised network of rural paths connecting fountains, vegetable gardens, mills and towns.
In the Bengado’s terracota sheds, red clays from Grés de Silves are used to craft, by hand, Moorish tiles, glazed tiles and red bricks, common materials in Mediterranean architecture.
Back to Barrocal, the Geoponto da Mesquita is worth a visit. There, you can watch the extraction of limestone blocks rich in marine fossils, mainly sponges, crinoids and corals. It’s the Brecha avermelhada da Mesquita formation, an ornamental rock of singular beauty.
Municipality: São Brás de Alportel
Location: Fonte da Mesquita
Circular trail: yes
Distance: 8,4 km
Average duration: 3h
Cumulative elevation gain: 310 metres D+
Type of path: dirt and asphalt
Start of the trail: 37º 08' 49.16'' N 7º 51' 16.31'' W