Celebrating the fact that I got through all my courses at university this year, I decided to get my country-count up and go on a holiday to Portugal. The trip took off in Porto in the north and finished in Faro in the south, stopping at many historical towns and sites. However, the trip’s highlight was definitely hiking the Fisherman’s Trail along the Vicentina Coastline in the southwest.
The Fisherman’s Trail is a four section and five circuits trail with a total length of 120 km/74.6 miles situated in Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina. I decided to hike the four legs, which is a 75 km/46.6 miles hike. Since the majority of the trail extends over sand dunes and sandy trails, I chose to only bring a day-pack and have my big 55L backpack (filled with three weeks worth of clothing) transferred between the small towns. It sure would have been amazing to bring my gear along and put up a tent at night, but since the area is protected by the Portuguese National Park Services and constantly exposed to erosion, it is however illegal to camp along the trail. To have the luggage transferred was never an issue for the hostels. Either they transferred it themselves (€10) or arranged a taxi to pick it up (€20).
The trail can be hiked in both directions, I however started in Porto Covo in the north. The easiest way get to Porto Covo or Odeceixe from Lisbon or Lagos is to take the bus. It inexpensive, comfortable and not too time-consuming. I used Rede Expressos throughout my whole trip in Portugal and never had any issues.
Porto Covo – Vila Nova de Milfontes [20 km, 6-7 h]
Definitely the toughest part of the trail, with 5 km/3 miles of is just plain dunes. It is however one of the prettiest stretches with plenty of accessible beaches. Really like Praia do Malhão, which is about halfway.
Vila Nova de Milfontes – Almograve [15 km, 4-5 h]
The shortest leg of the trail. Goes first along the Rio Mira and later next to fields, which offers a new scenery. Nevertheless, still plenty of beaches, many of them with no other visitors. Spend half of the day at Praia do Brejo Largo and was only passed by once by a local couple and their dogs.
Almograve – Zambujeira do Mar [22 km, 6-7 h]
In my opinion the most beautiful part of the whole trail (at least the stretch between Almograve and Cavaleiro). Rustic orange, blue ocean and green cactuses and aloe plants. Halfway is a lighthouse (Farol Cabo Sardão) and the town of Cavaleiro where you can stop for a coffee and a Pastel de nata (which is the national pastry of Portugal). Most of the hike is along dirt road, making it easy to pick up the pace if you want to cut your trip short.
Zambujeira do Mar – Odeceixe [18 km, 7 h]
The whole trail is generally flat, but this part offers a few hills and valleys. A few km/miles takes you through pine woods and dense forest, offering shade from the sun. Couldn’t find access to any private beach, just Odeceixe Beach which is occupied by tourist.
Feel inspired to hike the trail yourself? Here are some useful tips and links:
- Make sure to carry enough water with you – at least 1.5 L per day
- Bring fresh fruit (such as oranges, peaches, cherries etc.) which also contains much-needed fluids
- Don’t hike the trail in July or August, it will be way too hot! Even doing it in June, like I did, the temperature mid-day reached 38°C/100°F.
- Make sure to bring sunscreen and your bathing suit. The beaches along the trail are gorgeous and you’re going to wanna cool down in the turquoise ocean.
- Wear mid- or high-cut hiking boots. That way the amount of sand in your shoes will be less and reduces the risk of gaining blisters.
If you need additional information and maps, check out the Fisherman’s Trail Official Website. The following hostels I recommend you staying at (all had friendly staff, clean rooms, situated close to the trail and are affordable); Ahoy Porto Covo Hostel, Hostel Milfontes and Hakuna Matata Hostel.