Trekking along the purest Algarve

By: João Chambino

Photo: Carlos Glória/Zen Trekk

Zen Trekk presents the Algarve in its most natural state on walks overlooking the sea and the hills

The Algarve region has a unique natural wealth, with stunning sea and mountain scenery that goes far beyond the usual postcards in tourist guidebooks.

“When walking and appreciating so much beauty, I wanted to share it with other people who had the same passion for discovering new places, but, above all, connecting with themselves and the natural environment,” says Carlos Glória, the Lagos native who founded Zen Trekk, a company dedicated to promoting hikes in the Algarve combined with inspiring programmes based on a Zen attitude of appreciation and contemplation of nature.

Carlos’ idea came about in 2015, “and it grew stronger with a walk through the Caminho de Santiago trail, which cemented it with the certainty that it would be [his] way of life”, he explains, adding that the large number of times he has taken this route to Galicia, in neighbouring Spain, contributed a lot to polishing his experience in these activities. The plans matured and, in March 2016, Zen Trekk held its first hike, and today it is an established company in the area and licensed by Turismo de Portugal.

For Carlos Glória, trekking is not just about walking to collect millage: “What’s more important is to walk in peace and love, aware of the beauty that surrounds us and to able to appreciate it and absorb the energy to nourish our essence, self-discovery and inspiration, to follow our path more happily.” But all this requires a lot of preparation. As the Zen Trekk guide and driver details, there is a whole process of creating the routes. “The ones I like most are those that include water, whether it’s the sea, lakes, waterfalls or streams, and woods, on narrow trails surrounded by nature.”

After selecting the locations, Carlos Glória focuses on various details, making use of what he calls a “sensitivity arising from a passion for the arts, such as drawing, painting and photography”. From here onwards, “it’s all about putting on your backpack, awakening your senses and opening your mind, following the path with a full heart” with whoever wants to accompany you. “I am very happy to share the magic of our planet with anyone who wants to contemplate it,” he says.

When creating programmes, there are other matters that call on Carlos’ attention: “There has to be variety in the landscapes, an alternation between the coast and the inland, between the sea and the mountains and rivers. Although Portugal is a small country, there’s variety aplenty, even in the Algarve. You only have to travel a few kilometres in our region to realise it.”

Whenever possible, the head of Zen Trekk creates partnerships to combine trekking with other activities like kayaking, horse riding, paragliding and bike rides. “It’s a way of showing different perspectives of the same area”, Carlos Glória points out, adding that the company operates “throughout all seasons of the year, with some adaptations. In the summer, for example, the routes include trips along beaches, to take a dip, or along rivers where you can walk in the water and beat the heat.”

And Zen Trekk’s activity is not limited to the Algarve, it is possible, occasionally and always in accordance with the time of year, to find programmes throughout the Portuguese mainland, on the Caminho de Santiago route and even in the Azores. The company’s main clientele is currently made up of Portuguese and also expats living in the Algarve, but Carlos assures that the doors are open to everyone, and promises “healthy group meetings, where each person’s space is always respected”.

Physical limitations are no problem for the practice of this activity. Carlos Glória guarantees that “each registration form mentions the level of difficulty of the route, taking into account factors such as distance, unevenness, ground and obstacles. Each person can choose the routes that best suit their physical shape”. This entry form is published on Zen Trekk’s Facebook page/group, which contains all the other necessary information for those interested, such as the date, time, estimated duration of the hikes and the meeting points.

On the day of the hike, those enrolled go to the location and, once everyone has gathered together, Carlos gives a presentation of the route and some safety recommendations. Prices vary depending on the programme, but he promises that everyone who ventures with him on the trail will enjoy the best of the Algarve, which has a lot of sea but also a lot of inland beauty, in these “Nature Hikes to Meet our Essence”, the motto behind Zen Trekk.

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