Portugal is one of these countries where I arrive and feel home instantly. No matter in which part of the country I am. My last trip to Portugal took me to the Rota Vicentina. Originally, the Rota Vicentina was a network of long-distance hiking trails, today it is much more. What you can do and experience along the Rota Vicentina, which accommodations I recommend and much background information you can find in this blog post.
What is the Rota Vicentina?
The Rota Vicentina – or Rota for short – is located in the southwest of Portugal, in the regions of Alentejo and the Algarve. Hiking holidays, day hikes and especially long distance hiking are the main things to do along the Rota Vicentina. The two main long-distance hiking trails are the Historical Trail and the Fishermen's Trail:
- The Historical Way stretches from Santiago do Cacém to Cabo de São Vicente inland. The network of the long-distance trail is 262 km long and can be hiked from north to south as well as from south to north and in parts.
- The Fishermen's Trail leads along the Atlantic coast from São Torpes near Sines via Cabo de São Vicente to Lagos. The trail is 226 km long and can also be walked in individually in day hikes and long distance hikes in both directions.
For some years now, the tourism board of the Rota Vicentina has been working on rebranding the area and has been adding many activities. In addition to the classic long-distance hiking trails, small circular hiking trails and various activities have been integrated throughout the Rota Vicentina.
Activities along the Rota Vicentina
Not everyone likes hiking or is looking for trails in the region. Don't worry, there are many other things to do along the Rota Vicentina. Here are my personal highlights of activities – from north to south:
Canoeing on the river Mira
Where there's water, I'm comfortable. And that's exactly why I decided to go canoeing on the Mira River. In the small village Vila Nova de Milfontes the Mira flows into the sea and that's exactly where we started our canoe trip. At high tide, you can even paddle upstream and so we paddled through the valley in a canoe that fits three. The landscape was lush green and on the shore, we spotted little crabs again and again, which at first looked at us curiously and then hid from us. It took us about 2.5 hours until we arrived at Casa Branca from Vila Nova de Milfontes.
Surfing in Odeceixe
To be honest, I had already given up surfing. It just didn't work and I didn't have any fun at all. Since my last try at surfing was a few years ago, I decided to give the sport one last chance. Where if not in Portugal to try surfing, right?
After the two-hour introductory course with surf instructor João, my attitude towards surfing changed by 180°. With his enthusiasm and the many practical tips, I have managed to stand on the board several times and ride the waves.
Hiking with Donkeys in Aljezur
Anyone can hike with alpacas and llamas – in Portugal, you hike with donkeys. Sofia lives with her donkeys on a secluded farm in Vale das Amoreiras near Aljezur.
Before heading off to hiking with the donkeys, they have to be called back to the farm from their meadow. Turns out, it's quite easy as the animals are looking forward to our visit and are curious. Afterwards, we brush and pet the donkeys and then we start our short hike. Sometimes they are quite stubborn and like to have it their way, but we manoeuvre them along the trail and enjoy being outdoors with them.
Scuba Diving in Sagres*
Of course, I couldn't travel to Portugal without going scuba diving. The first days of my trip I spent in the town of Sagres at Pura Vida Divehouse. The owner and diving instructor Cris has come up with a great concept: the dive shop and some rooms for guests are on the same property.
We dived together for two days and he showed me the most beautiful dive sites, which are very close by in the bay and can be reached by boat in just a few minutes. The water temperatures are cool and the dives are long, so diving in dry suits is recommended.
The underwater world in Sagres surprised me a lot: many small nudis, caves and beautiful gorgonians. My verdict: simply beautiful!
* please note that this activity is currently not an associate of Rota Vicentina. However, I have included scuba diving in this list as it is a focus on my blog and many of you are interested in this water sport.
Most common questions about Rota Vicentina
During my trip through the southwest of Portugal and along the Rota Vicentina I've gathered the answers to some questions that came up during my trip:
When is the best time for the Rota Vicentina?
Generally speaking, you can visit and enjoy the Rota Vicentina all year round depending on the kind of activities you wish to do. As the summer months can get very hot especially in the south of Portugal, don't plan any hikes particularly in July and August when temperatures reach their peak and when many activities are fully booked. It is advisable to do long hikes between September and June. The very best time to hike and make most of your time along the Rota Vicentina is spring with its most pleasant warm not yet hot temperatures.
Which hiking routes are there along the Rota Vicentina?
The Historical Way (Caminho Histórico) and the Fishermen's Trail (Trilho dos Pescadores) are the two longest long-distance trails belonging to the Rota Vicentina. There are also circular routes scattered throughout the two regions of Alentejo and the Algarve, with a total of 258 km of signposted routes. This interactive map shows all hiking trails of the Rota Vicentina. Or simply download the latest version of the hiking trails here:
Can the long-distance hiking trails be hiked in both directions?
Yes, the hiking trails are signposted in both directions.
What are the circular trails along the Rota Vicentina?
At the moment there are 24 circular trails that are part of the Rota Vicentina. The various routes range in length from 3.5 km to 16 km. Here you will find information and tips on some of the circular trails.
Is it possible to explore the Rota Vicentina by bike?
Yes! Along the Rota Vicentina there are many stretches that are suitable for a bicycle tour. But not all of them. Contact the staff at the Rota Vicentina office directly or get in touch with the tour operators in the region.
Are there transfers for luggage?
There are some tour operators who pick up your luggage in the morning and take it to the next one during the day. So you can walk or cycle relaxed without luggage.
What goes in the backpack?
Good hiking boots, walking sticks, sun cream, reusable water bottles and a hat or cap should be on every hiker's packing list.
How to get to the Rota Vicentina?
To reach the Rota Vicentina, fly either to Lisbon or to Faro. From there you can get to the desired starting point either by rental car, train or organized transport.
Where to stay along the Rota Vicentina?
Along the Rota Vicentina there are various hotels and accommodations. I have stayed in some of the most beautiful accommodations and can highly recommend any of them:
- Santiago Hotel Cooking & Nature in Santiago do Cacem
- Herdade do Touril in Zambujeira do Mar
- Memmo Baleeira Hotel in Sagres
- Aldeia da Pedralva in Pedralva
My trip to Portugal was simply amazing and full of diverse activities. Travelling along the Rota Vicentina has shown me a different side of the country and I will definitely be back. Portugal is and will always remain very special to me. Have you been there? What are your favourite parts of the country? Share it in the comments below.
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