Looking to experience the beauty of Rota Vicentina on the Portuguese coast?
With 450km of walking trails and many options to choose from, here is a guide to help you make the best choice: whether you are looking to complete a multi-day walk or enjoy a more relaxed half-day walk.
See Best hikes in Europe for a complete list of hiking trails.
Rota Vicentina Hikes' Overview
Rota Vicentina is a network of walking trails in south-western Portugal along the most beautiful and best-preserved coastline of Southern Europe fully within SW Alentejo and Vicentina National Park.
Rota Vicentina is one of the leading destinations in natural, sustainable tourism. It is home to some of the most well-preserved coastlines in Europe and its natural beauty and diversity will blow you away.
It totals 450km of walking trails between the city of Santiago do Cacem and the Cape St. Vincent.
Rota Vicentina is comprised of the Fisherman’s Trail, the Historical Way and 8 circular loops.
Natural features and topography
Walking will take you through the protected SW Alentejo and Vicentina National Park which is home to untouched diverse habitats with a stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean.
Enjoy the unsoiled coastline where you will encounter pristine beaches, dramatic sand dunes, incredible limestone cliffs and green woodland.
Rota Vicentina is known for its spectacular natural beauty that will be sure to take your breath away.
Rota Vicentina is blessed with a beautiful Mediterranean climate, despite not being on the Mediterranean coast, with an impressive 300 days of sunshine per year.
Wildlife and Plants
Due to its benign weather, Rota Vicentina boasts diverse plants and wildlife including beautiful wildflowers in spring.
The area provides a great opportunity to view some fantastic wildlife, such as azure-winged magpies, mongooses coastal dwelling amphibians, sea fauna as well as Europe’s only colony is marine storks.
The national park provides excellent bird watching opportunities as it is an important waypoint for many migrating species such as raptors, passerines and soaring birds during the autumn months.
There are 700 species of plants of which 100 are rare or endemic to the area. The fauna and flora of the area are truly unique and should not be missed.
There are a variety of different route to be chosen from to suit your needs and fitness level.
You are able to choose to do multiple routes or combine routes to get the best experience.
The Fisherman’s Trail can be quite challenging at times and is not suited for those with a fear of height or vertigo as much of the trail is along unprotected cliffs.
The routes are divided into sections varying from 15km to 25km with each section to be completed in a day.
Its circular routes are a great choice as the end where they begin and are a nice option if you want to experience a taste of Rota Vicentina in just one day instead of embarking on the more challenging multi-day hikes.
There are many tour agencies to choose from to make sure your walk is hassle free, they will help organise accommodation and transport your heavier bags to the next stop over in order to make your walk more enjoyable.
Rota Vicentina Quick Facts
- Rota Vicentina has 450km of walking trails.
- The region experiences 300 days of summer per year.
- The Fisherman’s Trail was certified as one of the best quality trails in Europe by the European Ramblers Association (ERA).
- The Fisherman’s trail follows the paths locals would take to get to the best beaches and fishing spots.
- The Historical Way follows the route used by pilgrims, locals and travellers.
- At 230km The Historical Way is the longest of all the routes.
Rota Vicentina Top 3 Walking Trails
1. Fisherman’s Trail
- Area: Single track along the cliffs between Porto Covo and Odeceixe, fully within SW Alentejo and Vicentina Coast National Park
- Permit: Not required
- Difficulty: Fairly difficult. Not suitable for those with a fear of heights or vertigo as you will be walking along cliffs. Quite exerting, short moments when you will be required to use your hands
- Distance: 165km in total. Divided into 5 sections varying from 15km to 25km with 4 complementary circuits
- Time Hiking: This is a multi-day hike. The hiking time is dependent on how far you choose to hike as well as your fitness level. In general, the walk is between 4-7 days long
- Best Time to Hike: September to June
The Fisherman’s Trail is probably one of the best coastal trails in the world. It is a multi-day walk comprised of 5 sections and 4 complementary circuits and totals 165km down a single track along the rugged cliffs and soft sandy beaches.The trail connects Porto Covo and Odeceixe.
This trail can only be travelled by foot and has self-explanatory trail signs meaning you won’t necessarily need a guide. Each group walking can have a maximum of 20 people and the trail is not recommended for those with a fear of heights or vertigo.
The trail can be quite exerting at times and there are short moments when you will be required to use your hands. This trail is physically demanding and challenging, and you will need a degree of physical fitness to complete it.
If you are walking through a guided tour accommodation will be organised for you. But there are many hotels and bed and breakfasts along the way to choose from.
Tips for walking the Fisherman’s trail
- Bring plenty of spare socks as you will be walking through sand and you may end up with sand in your socks.
- This walk is not ideal for those who are scared of heights or those who have vertigo.
- In March the weather is unpredictable, bring a rain jacket and warm hat to protect you against the winds.
- In summer the sun is harsh, make sure to wear sunblock and drink a lot of water.
- Hiking boots are a necessity.
- Book your accommodation beforehand to avoid being stranded as camping is not permitted along the Fisherman’s Trail.
Fisherman’s Trail Video
Take a look at this QboxEnterprises' video of Fisherman's trail to get a better idea of the spectacular views that you can expect to see on your hike.
2. Historical Way
- Area: Rota Vicentina, SW of Portugal
- Permit: Not required
- Difficulty: Easy
- Distance: 230km broken up into 12 sections varying between 15km and 25km
- Elevation: 100-500 metres per day
- Hiking Time: Each section should take one day. Your walk will take maximum 12 days but allow 15 days for your entire trip
- Best Time to Hike: Due to the summer heat, spring and autumn are the best time to walk the trail
The Historical Way is made up of 12 sections totalling 230km of walking. It has been certified by the European Ramblers Association as “Leading Quality Trails – Best of Europe”.
The route seeks to re-establish a route used by pilgrims, travellers and locals throughout history. Learn about the area’s history through fountains, churches, old country houses and villages that you will encounter along your journey.
You will pass through many towns and villages along the way, make sure to embrace the cultural richness and extraordinary landscape of the area.
The first half of the route is mostly dirt roads and the second half of the route consists of coastal trails with rocks, some beaches to cross and dirt roads.
The trail is a mixture of flat and hilly sections with some steep ascents and descents.
As with the Fisherman’s trail, by booking a guided tour accommodation will be booked through them. But there are incredible options for accommodation in every leg of your walk.
Static Peak Divide Pro Tips
- Try the wonderful produce and cuisine.
- You will be on your feet for a long time so wear hiking boots.
- Make sure to protect yourself from the harsh sun with sunblock and lots of water.
- Like the Fisherman’s Trail, rain could possibly be an issue so make sure to pack a reliable rain jacket.
- Speak to the locals, they have amazing knowledge to share and will no doubt enrich your experience along the Historical Way.
- Like with the Fisherman’s Trail, it is recommended that you book your accommodation in advance in order to avoid being stranded.
Historical Way Video
This cannareggio1’s video gives you a good overview From Historical way to Fishermen Trail.
3. Circular Routes
- Area: Rota Vicentine, SW of Portugal
- Permit: Not required
- Difficulty: Ranges from easy to somewhat difficult
- Distance: Total distance of all the circular routes combined is 89km, but each individual route will be 16km in length or less.
- Elevation: The elevation varies from route to route
- Hiking Time: half-day or less
- Best Time to Hike: September to June
The circular routes are the best option if you want to start hiking the SW of Portugal without any fuss. There are 8 different circular routes to choose from based on your needs and interests.
The circular routes begin and end at the same point and only go up to 16km long, giving you a taste of the multi-day walks at a fraction of the time.
The options are:
- The Dunes of Almograve – which is your opportunity to experience one of the most marked dichotomies between conservation of nature and intensive farming, each playing an important role in the area.
- S. Luis Gardens – This is a short, easy and accessible walk perfect for the whole family at only 3.5km long.
- Troviscais to Mira – This walk gives you the opportunity to experience the essence of the Historical Way trail in a much shorter time frame. This route is ideal for lovers of nature and birdwatching.
- Santa Clara Routes – These are two routes which can be done together, or you can choose one. They total 23km together.
- From Bordeira to the sea – you will come across the symbolic pine forest of Bordalete and the beach of Bordeira or Carrapateira displaying impressive sands and dunes.
- Endiabrada and the hidden lakes – This route takes you through the Mediterranean woodlands on the foothills of the Serra de Espinhacodo Cao.
- Carrapateira Hills – If you are someone who appreciates amazing views this route is definitely for you, you will be able to experience incredible panoramic views of beaches and the villages from the top of the hills.
Like the other routes, there will not be a shortage of accommodation available near your walk.
Tips for walking the circular routes
- Beware of motor vehicles along the routes.
- Do not light fires or leave behind any rubbish.
- The farms are protected by guard dogs, proceed with caution.
- Beware of any cattle that may have calves as they might be protective over them.
- Respect private property.
- You may have to cross paved roads at some point.
- Bring your own food and water, there are no support services along the routes.
- Be friendly and speak to the locals.
Our favourite is a very easy-to-follow guidebook Never too old to backpack: More Algarve hiking by Tracey Burton.
You can also get maps and guidebooks directly from the Rota Vicentina kiosk.
The Rota Vicentina guidebook is available for €10. It is available in Portuguese, English, German and French.
It gives you information about the area and includes a fact sheet, topographic profile, suggestions, warnings and a description of each route.
Hiking insurance is not a mandatory requirement for hikes in Rota Vicentina, but in general we recommend having insurance.
Check out the World Nomads calculator for a quick calculation of the cost of travel insurance for your trip to the States.