On the boardwalk

by Central Magazine

The boardwalk along the Lagoa dos Salgados is a wonderful way to see some wildlife.

Article Cover Photo

When you come to the Algarve in the cooler months, the beaches are pretty much empty and are a wonderful way to walk without stepping over sunbathers. But those who find walking on sand difficult, or would prefer somewhere to ride a bike or take a run, you need to explore the boardwalk at Pera Marsh, which can be found half way between Albufeira and Armação de Pêra. If you’re looking for somewhere nice to escape to ‘blow the cobwebs away’, this could be it -  a wooden boarded walk with a sturdy rope handrail, it’s one of the most important freshwater wetlands in the Algarve, and despite being much smaller than Ria Formosa or even the Alvor Estuary, Lagoa dos Salgados is nonetheless inhabited by a quite large quantity and variety of bird species that include numerous rarities and scarcities. This area has become one of the most rewarding and sought-after nature and wildlife areas.

Otherwise known as Salgados Lagoon, it’s located at the mouth of two little rivers. The coastal stretch surrounding Pera Marsh creates a connection between the fresh and the marine waters, and between the large dunes and the shoreline on both sides of the bay.

It’s an easy/moderate grade of around 3.4 miles and will take 2-3 hours, depending on your personal speed.  The autumn and winter are good times for birdwatching, and because it is a boardwalk, you would be wise to choose trainers – certainly shoes without heels to get caught between the slats.  It’s popular for runners and cyclists too, so if walking or with children or pets, keep an ear and eye out for them, and maybe take a hat and sunscreen as shade is limited, and even insect repellent if you plan to walk at sunset or during early morning, although mosquitoes are not usually an issue between November and February.


Getting started

The trail starts at a parking area just in front of the dunes, and the route immediately diverges into two choices – to the east the boardwalk follows the seaward side of the lagoon, to the south it heads directly to the beach. Here, the flowers can add colour and perfume to the environment, mainly when the Curry Plant and the rare Spiny Thrift might be in full bloom.

Very rich in plankton and bordered by dense vegetation, this area attracts a wide array of terrestrial and aquatic birds: if you are lucky enough, it is one of the best places in the Algarve to observe beautiful species like the Glossy Ibis, the Red-crested Pochard and the Purple Heron.  Among others, scarcer birds like the Ferruginous Duck and the Squacco Heron may also inhabit Pera Marsh at different seasons of the year. A bird ‘hide’ can be accessed, and there are information stations and map markers along the way.

Spiny rush, bulrush, and reeds grow beside the freshwater stream, whereas Mastic, Dwarf Palm, and wild thyme occupy the drier areas. The trail proceeds to the northwest, crossing pastures, almond groves, and a patch of Umbrella Pines implanted on a weathered cliff.

The trail can be walked in either direction. Besides the parking site mentioned above, there’s also another car park at the eastern end of the lagoon. Here the boardwalk crosses a small bridge, where you can peer into the water, to spot fish or turtles.  It’s a great place to bring kids to feed the seabirds that are constantly swooping the area looking for food, or drop tidbits into the water for the fish or to entice the turtles out of the reeds. I must admit I have been guilty of bringing slices of stale bread to fling in the air for the seagulls which they will catch on the wing, but apparently empty carbs like white bread and sugary cereals should be avoided. Regular Cheerios are a good source of vitamins for the birds, as are unshelled and unsalted sunflower seeds, if you wish to feed the wildlife. This paved park gives access both to Praia dos Salgados and to the boardwalk.

The boardwalk is suitable for wheelchairs, pushchairs/prams and bicycles. Pera Marsh is easily accessible from the A22 motorway: take exit 8 towards Algoz/Pêra and then turn left at the junction onto the EM 524 road; at the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto the EN 125 road, continue for about 500 meters, and then turn left onto Rua Alexandre Herculano. Proceed onto Rua Almeida Garrett and onto the EM 526 road; take the 2nd exit at the roundabout and continue onto Rua de Relvas; continue straight ahead and find the parking site near the lagoon.

Location: Salgados, Pera/Praia Grande; Silves and Albufeira Municipalities, Central Algarve. Coordinates: 37° 5’ 41.8086’’ N, -8° 20’ 5.6076’’ W (Lat/Long);  37.094947 N, -8.334891 W (decimal degrees).

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