Portugal - Burgau to Salema


Burgau to Salema - By Alan Garner

A lovely short coastal walk to a sleepy seaside village, with a couple of diversions that can enhance your view of inland Algarve.

We start our walk in Burgau. Refreshments before you start either on the edge of the coast or by the small supermarket in the village centre.

Walk along the road to Salema. past the bus shelter on right, slightly up hill for about half a mile then after the house developments, pick up a path to the left across scrubland towards the coast., going slightly uphill.

The views when you get to the coast path are superb towards Sagres and Cap Vicenta – proceed until you see a small bay and take the right-hand path steeply down to a wide track, turn left to the small bay of Cabanas Velhas.  In the season refreshments are available at the beach café – but only May – September.

Here the going gets a little tricky as the main coast path has been diverted round a large private house – the White House - so look out for a gap in the scrub to the right-hand side of the big house and eventually join the path along the coast again.

Follow on and see an old fort in front of you and climb a little to it – a sign board gives you details of its history. This the fort of Almadena

Here there are two alternatives.

Carry on along the left-hand side of the fort slightly down and then steeply down the hillside.

The path zig zags to the valley below. You will eventually reach the river/stream, this may be dry so crossing is easy, but if it is running, make your way to its mouth with the sea and this can be silted up so crossing is easy- or just paddle across.

Alternatively, take the road that swings downhill and at the sharp left-hand bend, see a path going sharp left- alongside the stream, (Note a track going right at the bend- this is your return should you walk back)

Take this narrow path with lush vegetation and sometimes surprisingly and eventually you will reach the mouth of the stream at Boca do Rio

You are at Boca do Rio - probably plenty of campervans here. There are old buildings here which were probably old storehouses for fishermen’s tuna nets,

There is also evidence of a Roman Settlement though this has yet to be excavated.

Take the left-hand cliff path upwards -there are several interesting interpretation boards giving details of insects and birds that can be seen. Once you have reached the highest point -two choices -carry on the path you are on as it swings right to eventually meet the road to Salema. Or the broad scar of a track which runs parallel to the valley and reaches the new road into Salema.  Either one leads to the road that takes you gently downhill to Salema, passing the typical houses. It’s a good idea to divert left to the sea front – a lovely sandy bay with a wide promenade that takes you to the village centre.

Here are several cafes and shops, plenty of opportunity to rest in the sun, and lunch maybe at one of the superb café/restaurants. The village is easily explored as it is quite small, but uniquely Algarve. Further on, on the cliffs opposite are the many new developments, luckily not yet spoiling the village.

There are buses back to Burgau, but if you return on foot follow the following route.

Return up the hill on the man street- the one you entered the village by -until you reach the top of the hill- walk down this road and at the bottom where the road meets the track to Boca do Rio on your right, turn left for 200 metres then right along the road that leads up to the Fort Almadena- the Burgau road.

When you cross the stream on an attractive bridge, take a left onto a wide track with a stream on your left- walk along on the flat until you cannot proceed further, here you swing right uphill and proceed through scrubland to the main road again.

Turn left for a one-mile road walk into Burgau, or straight ahead to Cabanas Velhas, and take the track uphill – you have descended on the way out, leading to the coast path and follow this back to Burgau.

Burgau to Salema is 4.5 miles – the round trip is 8.5 miles. Little real ascent or descent as the majority of the way is along the coast path which undulates. Just the descent of 80 metres into Salema village and of course out of it if you return by walking.

Salema Village and Beach

History of Fort Almadena

The need for a fort at Almádena was identified during the Philippine Dynasty (1581-1640) as being necessary in order to protect the area’s tuna fishery from the attacks of privateers and pirates. Under the reign of Philip III of Portugal (1621-1665), the fort was built on the orders of Luís de Sousa, 2nd Count of Prado, who served as Governor and Captain General of the Kingdom of Algarve and who also paid for the fort’s construction.


Fort Almadena

The fort of Almádena was constructed on a cliff 78 metres above the sea on the ruins of an older fortification, variously believed to be Roman or a Muslim ribat. It followed a polygonal plan and included two ramparts, a moat with a drawbridge, two batteries, and the barracks. There was also a chapel, which doubled as a watchtower.

Initially, the fort was manned by fishermen.

In contrast to what happened to other forts in the Algarve, Almádena did not suffer too much damage from the earthquake (and consequent tsunami) of November 1, 1755. In 1759 there was a sea battle between the English and the French nearby. It was manned during the Portuguese Civil War (1828-1834) but, after that conflict, and having lost its military function, it was abandoned. In the middle of the nineteenth century, it was used as shelter by some soldiers of the 15th Infantry Regiment, Lagos, for coastal surveillance, including the control of tobacco smuggling.

View of the Fort of Almádena, looking west

The fort was transferred to the Portuguese Ministry of Finance in 1940 and to the Municipality of Vila do Bispo in 1946. It is presently in poor condition although some improvements to the area have been made, in part with European Union funding. An inscription stone at the entrance is now in the Lagos regional museum.

The perfect year-round holiday destination, Salema is a characterful small, sleepy fishing village with a beautiful sandy beach on the sunny south coast of Portugal.  We hope that holidays in Salema are calm, where you’ll find the pace of life slowing down as you relax into your sunny holiday at whatever the time of year. In Salema, friendly locals and holidaymakers mix happily, whilst the fishermen bringing in their catch each morning are all-but celebrities! One of the best things about any day in Salema is watching the fishing boats come and go and the tractor dragging them to and from the seashore. Salema, in the Costa Vicentina National Park, is a place to simply wander, unwind and enjoy the cafés, a place to let time drift slowly away. Salema is laidback. Salema is quiet and peaceful

Transport around this area