The trail runs along a dune strand - the western sandbank of the Ria de Alvor - that protects the lagoon from the sea.
Ria de Alvor is the most important estuary in the Algarve; it is a space conducive to the growth of young fish and larvae of crustaceans and molluscs, serving as a breeding ground for many commercially valuable marine species. Activities traditionally linked to ria, such as hatching bivalves, attest to the productivity of the lagoon and its socioeconomic interest. The fishing community keeps artisanal fishing alive, using such gear as encircling net and pots for octopuses.
Several salty habitats exist here. In salt marshes grow salt-tolerant plants, which shelter living beings and sustain complex trophic relationships. In addition to protecting the coast, marshes retain nutrients and degrade pollutants, and are therefore considered the earth’s kidneys.
Life in the estuary runs with the tidal cycle. When the tide falls, and while shellfish gatherers pick up cockles and grooved carpet shells, the water birds (especially herons and waders, such as sandpipers or plovers) feast on the organisms found in the tidal flats.
Two iconic birds of these dunes are the little tern and the Kentish plover. These habitual residents of the area nest in the sand dunes. When they want to nest, these birds dig a small hole in the sand and gather small pieces of shells.
The dune systems are very dynamic habitats in which the sand and the plants are in permanent equilibrium. The vegetation exhibits a typical sequence along the dune: sand couch-grass and the European searocket are pioneering plants that grow in the tideline, while the showy sea daffodil and European beachgrass colonise the dune crest, fixing and stabilizing the sands.
Location: Praia de Alvor
Type: walking and cyclable
Circular trail: yes
Distance: 4,8 km
Average duration: 2h
Cumulative elevation gain: 30 metres D+
Type of path: dirt paths and wooden
Start of the trail: 37º 07' 35.26'' N 8º 35' 45.26'' W