Vigario Falls, Alte
Returning to Tavira from a cycling weekend in Silves, we stumbled across this beautiful 24-metre waterfall which was, thankfully, in full cascade. After the dry months the waterfall can sometimes be reduced to a disappointing trickle. Recently, however, it’s falling strong and fast and is well worth a visit. If you need a reprieve from the heat, the lagoon is great for a bracing swim. And it is rather chilly, bearing in mind that the water comes straight from the surrounding hills. With plenty of space around the lagoon, this is a great spot for a shady picnic away from the madding crowds, or you can choose to soak up the sun on the large expanse of grassed area.
Literally tucked away behind the town’s cemetery, access from the parking takes around 20 minutes and you can choose the slightly shorter route on the path which traverses the hill, or you can walk around the hill on the paved area – a little longer, but easier for the less mobile. Both parts get a little steep, but not scarily so.
And while you’re there, a drink/snack/meal and walk around the unspoilt white-washed village of Alte is a treat. Make sure to stop off at the natural springs of Fonte Grande and Fonte Pequena, which is where village women used to do their laundry.
You can meander along the Alte River banks, join the resident water bird population for a dip or simply sit quietly and watch the world go by.
Pego do Inferno, Tavira
Not as high as Vigario at only three metres, but equally as enchanting, this waterfall is definitely one of Tavira’s hidden gems. Well off the beaten tourist track, it is not well sign-posted, but Google Maps gets you there easily..
Choosing to reach the waterfall by cycling along Tavira’s Gilao River, through poppy fields and fruit orchards was a lovely way to go, making this a perfect half-day outing. There is parking, so driving is an option.
The walk down is relatively easy and will take you around 15 minutes. Once you reach the waterfall, which is fed by the Asseca River, you will no doubt wonder about its name which roughly translates to ‘Pit of Hell’.
There is nothing hellish about it, but, according to locals, legend has it that way back a carriage fell into the lagoon and it and its occupants were never found. It was then believed that anyone who fell into the lagoon would go straight to hell.
Today, it’s more like a little piece of heaven and we seriously regretted not packing a picnic lunch so we could chill out there a little longer.
On our visit, a couple of youngsters were having great fun using a swing to launch themselves into the emerald-green water, proclaiming how “frio” it was. Sadly, the area has not been as well preserved as it should, following a fire in 2012 after which the municipality chose not to restore its facilities.
Personally, the fact that it is not overrun with people makes its more alluring.
Fonte do Cadoico – Loule
Having done the social media search for this supposed waterfall in the heart of Loule, we were sceptical it existed, or that we would even find it. So, we were suitably surprised when we found it relatively easily and exactly where it was said to be.
Pictures do it a lot of justice as it is smaller than it looks and the area surrounding is also quite cramped, but it is still there – almost in the middle of the town and still as pretty as, well, a picture.
Head for Avenida Marcal Pacheco, turn down a cobbled road opposite the auto repair shop, and take the bougainvillea-covered stairs between two buildings and you’ll find the Cadoico river in front of you, the waterfall to your left.
To get up close to the fall you have to cross over some stepping-stones which can get slippery, so take care. The waterfall is formed from where the Cadoico River tunnel, which runs under Loule, emerges.
It’s an unexpected cool, leafy oasis worth an add-on visit if you’re doing a Loule historical or market trip.
Barbelote – Monchique
Close to the Foia, which is the highest point of the Algarve, I’m told that this is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the area. Probably also one of the most difficult to find – which is why I still haven’t actually seen it.
A day out in the hills away from the incessant Algarve sun seemed like a great idea, so, with pooch in tow, we set off for Monchique with great expectations.
With location co-ordinates plugged in, we chugged through the pretty little village of Monchique winding our way up to Foia. Almost at the top, we got the instruction to turn left and that’s where it went pear-shaped. What looked like it should have been a road was inaccessible (even if you have a 4X4), so we parked and decided to walk instead.
We walked and walked, finally saw a sign saying that Barbelote was 250m away, and walked some more. No more signage and no waterfall to be seen. We did, however, encounter several other day trippers all looking for the same waterfall with no luck. Later we were told the road which would have taken us closer was washed away, or maybe the falls had just dried up.
Never mind, it was a great walk in the country and a lovely lunch under the trees in Monchique. So, if you’re the adventurous type, finding this waterfall could be exactly the challenge you fancy. Good luck!
Words: Debbie Reynolds