Central Way

Ameixial (Algarve) < > Santa Cruz

Stage 1

“… the traces identified witness the transit of pilgrims through the old roman route which crosses the Serra do Caldeirão in Santa Cruz de Almodôvar; formerly one of the most used routes in the connection between Algarve and Alentejo, from where arrived, in 1249, D. Afonso III, at the head of his army, to conquer Faro and Albufeira.” (José António Falcão, “O Caminho e o Culto de Santiago no Alentejo Meridional”, in No Caminho sob as Estrelas – Santiago e a Peregrinação a Compostela, pp. 97-141)Coming from Ameixial (Algarve), we enter Alentejo via overlying Ribeira do Vascão, a reverse route of the one once used by the Grandmaster Paio Peres Correia and his Knights of Santiago, integrated in the host of D. Afonso III, to conquer central Algarve.

Not only a strategic region for its importance as a place of passage between the Algarve and Alentejo, it was also the place where the terrible Remexido set the last bastion of King Miguel’s guerrilla, which followed the civil war in the mid 19th century, leaving a trail of terror and violence that contributed to the exodus of populations.

With the “weight” of History hidden in each step of the Way, we leave behind the biggest slopes of Serra do Caldeirão and we discover the valley of Ribeira do Vascão, a well-kept affluent of the Guadiana river, exuberant in biodiversity and freshness, even in Summer, inviting you to take a desirable break on the hidden pebble beaches.

On the way to Monte Branco, we witness the transition from the Mediterranean scrubland landscape, typical from Caldeirão, to the cork and holm oak forest, with some disperse olive groves, foreseeing the next wavy plain of Alentejo. A small orchard gave us the oranges that Mr. Diamantino and his wife, D. Maria José, offered to us, with the modesty and satisfaction of those who live from earth’s generosity, which has been providing for their subsistence for more than 80 years. The public fountains of Monte Branco remind us to refill the canteens before getting back on the Way in the direction of Santa Cruz, more exposed and dry at that time.

Three kilometers later, “fitted” on the landscape in an unusual place, the magnificent Igreja de Santa Cruz appears, bounded to the commendation of Mértola by the Order of Santiago.

As mentioned by José António Falcão, the grandeur of the church, rare in rural parishes, denotes its influence as a pilgrimage pole. The pilgrims’ houses were contiguous and they would also go to an alleged sacred fountain that flows from a cliff nearby.

The whole is complete with the ruins of the chapels of São Bento and Nossa Senhora da Lapa… and with the “hole” in a slab nearby, which the people believe to heal headaches!…

Santa Cruz

This stage ends in the village of Santa Cruz, the first village of the Central Way in Alentejo, around 15 km after exiting Ameixial.The visitor’s accommodation is provided in social infrastructures managed by the Parish Council, which should be previously contacted for proper reservation, as well as a deserved visit to the church.

The civil parish of Santa Cruz, in the municipality of Almodôvar, with an area of 123,82 km2 and around 650 inhabitants (data from 2011), is the first village of the Central Way of the Caminho de Santiago Alentejo and Ribatejo.

Church of Santa Cruz

The construction of this Manueline church is credited to the patronage by the family of D. Fernão Mascarenhas, a noble who received the commendations of the Order of Santiago in Mértola and Almodôvar in the transition to the 16th century. The coat of arms of Dona Violante Henriques, wife of D. Fernão Mascarenhas, is stored in the main chapel, framed by a Renaissance sgraffito. The church was bounded to the Order of Santiago since the beginning, as we can see by the cross in the main façade, above the temple’s access portal, in the first keystone of the main chapel, which includes the cross with the two scallops, and the emblem of Santiago in the vestry’s washbasin.

The Alentejo begins at the Ribeira do Vascão stream, but the traveler will probably come from the Algarve, specifically from the village of Ameixial, where ends the previous stage of those who took the Path from Faro.

From here, the route stretches along pleasant trails between the successive hills until Ribeira do Vascão. We pass through the village of Revezes and continue along the valley to the old water mill called Cascalheira, for a total of about ten kilometers.

Once we have dipped our feet in the stream or crossed the pedestrian bridge next to the mill, we continue straight through the Vascão valley until we reach the site of Monte Branco, where the friendly resident couple always welcomes the visitors!

  • Alternatively, you can arrive there in other ways:
    • Leaving Ameixial, where the previous stage, coming from Faro, ends, the route extends in easy trails to the valley of Ribeira do Vascão, passing through Revezes village and continuing to Cascalheira mill, for a total of about ten kilometers;
    • By the municipal road 1029, which connects Ameixial to Revezes, proceeding on a trail from there, intersecting with the Caminho Algarvio that will follow for three kilometers until the entrance to the Alentejo;
    • Coming from the north, by the road that leaves the village of Santa Cruz in the direction of Alcoutim, Martim Longo and Cachoupo, taking the right on a nearby crossroad and following the signs of Cerro das Águias and Monte Branco do Vascão, on a dirt road. Arriving at Monte, the road gives easy access to the trail’s beginning at the Ribeira do Vascão.


Always carry water, supplies, sunscreen, a hat, waterproof, comfortable shoes, and a map.

Where to Sleep

  Monte dos Três Moinhos, Santa Cruz

Where to Eat

  Café Colmeia do Vicente, Santa Cruz

Public Entities

Santa Cruz Parish Council
+351 963 713 025

São Barnabé Parish Council
+351 286 463 134


 CTT, Santa Cruz


In Santa Cruz village there is no commerce to supply the traveler, and the only local coffee shop (A Colmeia do Vicente, D. Paula, Phone No.. 965 836 403) should be contacted before the start of the day so that they can be prepared to serve meals to those who will spend the night there. Prior contact is also essential with the parish council, Junta de Freguesia (Phone No. 286 453 119, from 8.30am to 4.30pm, or President of the parish council, Mr. Eduardo Gonçalves, Phone No. 963713025), so that you can arrange accommodation and any other support you may need. All the usual resources for supply and continuation of the trip can only be found at the end of the next stage, in Almodôvar.

Points of interest

 Santa Cruz Parish Church

 Vascão Stream


Emergency: 112
Forest Fires: 117
GNR – Almodôvar Territorial Station:+351 286 660 051


Do not leave the marked and signaled route. Do not approach cliffs. Pay attention to the markings. Do not dispose of organic or inorganic waste during the trail, take a bag for this purpose. If you see garbage, collect it, help us to keep the Paths clean. Beware of livestock, don’t bother the animals. Leave Nature intact. Do not collect plants, animals or rocks. Avoid making noise. Respect private property, close gates and barriers. Don’t light fires and be careful with cigarettes. Do not vandalize the Paths signage.