Join a walk in the Cork Oak forest of the Algarve mountain area of Serra do Caldeirão and discover its secrets. Discover the animals, plants and the amazing landscapes of the terrestrial habitat with the larger biodiversity in Europe. Get to know how Cork is produced, understand how Cork trees are stripped, and all the processes from the acorn to the neck of the bottle. And understand why this sustainable material with unique characteristics allows the wine to improve its characteristics.

The cork oak, Quercus suber, is a tree from the Mediterranean area, from the Tertiary Era, between the Eocene and the Miocene epoch (20 – 60 MA). Present since the formation of the Mediterranean basin. It is endemic to Southwest Europe and North Africa.
The tree crown can have several rounded shapes, with a maximum height of 20m. The taproot facilitates a deep perforation of the soil after germination, which contributes to the fixation of the tree and the capture of water in the ground’s lower levels. The root also develops robust lateral roots that branch and form an extensive three-dimensional network of root hairs.
The major difference from other oaks is the suberose tissue, the cork, which surrounds the trunk and branches. The cork oak is the only plant species that produces this tissue capable of regenerating itself after each extraction, with high economic importance. Cork extraction takes place every 9 years because it is the average period for the cork to reach an adequate thickness for the production of stoppers. This raw material has unique chemical, physical and mechanical properties, which is why it is used in various sectors of the industry.
The cork oak is a very resistant species, with physiological adaptations to dry environments, which presents a slow growth. Its ability to survive in environments with low water availability is probably related to its deep and extensive root system, capable of obtaining water from the deepest areas of the soil. Given the environmental conditions, and soils poor in nutrients, in which it grows, we can conclude that the cork oak is a very undemanding tree.

Serra do Caldeirão is nestled in the North of the Algarve, it has a very irregular relief where the alternation between elevations and valleys with a sharp slope predominates. In the valleys, a dense hydrographic network of temporary watercourses is formed. The highest point in this mountainous region is 589 meters high. It consists of greywacke rock that gives rise to very infertile soils. The climate tends to be dry and hot in the summer, with little rain during the rest of the year. Temperatures are high during the summer season and mild during the winter. The thermal amplitude in this area is significantly higher when compared
to the coastline.
Despite its modest altitude, it has outstanding mountain landscapes and breathtaking views that reveal a splendid alternation between valleys and peaks. It is also an important condensation barrier to the humid winds coming from the Atlantic Ocean, in the south.
Portugal is the largest producer of cork in the world as it holds more than 50% of the world production of this raw material. In Portugal, cork oak forests are predominantly situated in the southern part of the country. Serra do Caldeirão is one of the important production sites for this material due to the excellent quality of the raw material from this region. Which has already been classified as the best cork in the world.
There are archaeological remains that prove the use of cork dating back to 3000 years BC, by the ancient Egyptians. In Persia, Phoenicia, and Babylon this material was used mainly in floats used in fishing gear. The uses began to diversify and evolved to be used in the soles of sandals, in beehives, and as a lid for amphorae to transport honey, oil, wine, and even water.
Convents began to use cork as a covering for walls for cold and heat protection, due to the great insulating capacity that this material has. This use became widespread and populations also began to use this material in their homes to increase thermal comfort.
In the 17th century, the great development of the glass industry for the production of bottles boosted the industrial progress of cork stoppers and encouraged the joint evolution of these industries over the centuries.

Photo credit: Montuno/

It is due to the set of characteristics of cork, thermal insulation, great durability, low density, reduced weight, moisture insulation, acoustic insulation, compressibility, and viscoelastic properties, that has been used from the soles of the ancient Egyptians to the luxurious shoes of the XXI century. In addition to the enormous use for the production of cork stoppers for the wine sector, it is one of the raw materials incorporated in fashion, construction, sports,
transport, NASA shuttles, and it is under the feet of many people.

Photo credit: Still Epsilon/

A eye opening trip into the Cork world

  • Distance : 8 km

  • Duration : Half day

  • Price : 40€/pax

Includes :

  • Nature guide

  • Binoculars

  • Birds Field guide

  • Fauna and Flora Field guides

  • Transports

  • Insurances

  • Taxes

Timing recommendation: All year round

This activity is suitable for visitors staying in Olhão / Faro area. Visitors staying outside of this area, an alternative meeting point will be arranged.