The hills (serra) The hills (serra), Eastern Algarve, Portugal


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Beyond the narrow coastal strip, the Serra makes up most of the Eastern Algarve. It is a land of hills and valleys, of clear streams, clean air, dishevelled and even abandoned villages, dirt tracks, cork oaks, the wonderful smell of the cistus scrub - and that rarest of commodities in the modern world - silence. If you really want to 'get away', pack a picnic and something to sit on, and head for the hills. Its a very sparsely populated area and you're unlikely to encounter many other cars. From hill tops there are views all the way back down to the coast. The river valleys make fabulous picnic spots amongst lush vegetation,where you can swim in the crystal clear deep pools or pegos. And wherever you stop, you're likely to find that the silence is only broken by the wind, by running water or by birdsong.

The Serra is best visited in the cooler months of the year - October to April/May. Then, you'll find the streams running and the hillsides cloaked in green. From January onwards, the wild flowers start growing and can present a fabulous display. The butterflies can be equally fabulous, with Swallowtails, Scarce swallowtails and Two-tailed pasha, amongst many others. As for birdlife, Bee eaters and Golden oriels are both summer visitors with stunning plumage and beautiful songs. Year round, you'll hear the clacking and see the skudding flight of Red-legged partridge. Two animals you are unlikely to see are Wild boar and the Iberian lynx, the former as they are very secretive and nocturnal (though they are huge and there in numbers) and the lynx because of its extreme rarity.

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