Crossing the "Portuguese desert"

A trip to one of the most curious and unexpected landscapes of the Upper Algarve: a very sparsely populated area that extends from Alcoutim to Martim Longo, to which some have called 'the Portuguese desert'.

This tour unfolds by the northern stretch of EN124, between Martim Longo and Alcoutim. The length of this itinerary comprises less than 30 km through this road and the two roundtrips to the villages of Vaqueiros and Giões. After visiting Alcoutim and its medieval castle over the village and the Guadiana, go westwards in the direction of Martin Longo. This road represents a non administrative border between the Alentejo and the Algarve. Indeed, the separation between the two regions occurs some half-dozen kilometers further to the north along the valley of Vascão river, a tributary of the right bank of the Guadiana. It can be said that in this part of the tour the only village worthy of this name that we will cross is Pereiro, with an interesting Parish Church and very traditional houses. To visit the next and most populated village, Giões, closer to Martim Longo, you must leave the main road to the right and go a bit north to get there. Giões is a village of whitewashed houses that gleams in the sun. The church deserves a visit, with its interesting images from the sixteenth century. It also keeps a small museum, housed in the former primary school at the village of Farelo, dedicated to weaving, an activity which had strong expression in the municipality of Alcoutim and in the Caldeirão mountain. After Giões and continuing north for 3 kms, you reach the banks of Vascão river which, as noted above, borders the Alentejo. The Cerro das Relíquias, an ancient pre-Roman settlement, is located near by. Returning to EN124, go to the right and continue until Martim Longo. It is a village on the border between the Algarve and Alentejo, and its surprising dimension is an evidence of how the ancestral difficulties of survival forced a most dense settlement. It's worth seeing the church with a number of decorative Gothic elements, altarpieces of the seventeenth century and some curious murals. To the south, you can travel down to Cachopo and link to the itinerary from Tavira, also described in this chapter. The first kilometers are relatively flat and with no significant curves, only to change as you approach Cachopo, when the ground becomes a bit harsh. Thence southwards, it is the Algarve mountain in all its charm. Access By EN122 to Alcoutim To have into account You can link this itinerary to others herein suggested, such as the tour Tavira-Cachopo or Vila Real- Alcoutim. When Spring or Summero Primavera Length Some 50 km In the vicinity Town-Museum of Mértola; Cachopo village

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