Rota Vicentina is a set of trails in the Southeast Alentejo and Eastern Algarve. This set of walking routes is excellently signposted and divided into the fishermen’s trail, the historical trail, and several circular one-day trails. This set of routes has more than 750 km, and the fishermen’s trail corresponds to “only” 226.5 km divided into 13 stages, ranging from S. Torpes to Lagos.
This article will focus on the fishermen’s trail, particularly on the four stages between Porto Covo and Odeceixe, which are on the coast of the Southeast of Alentejo. These are the most popular and probably the most spectacular stages of what is often considered the most beautiful multi-day trail in Portugal and one of the most beautiful in the world.
Along the 80 km of the fishermen’s trail detailed here, the route almost always follows the sea, along beaches, dunes, and cliffs. Although some of the beaches are accessible by car, the possibility of walking between them, exploring the cliffs, and all the natural beauty of the Sudeste Alentejano and Costa Vicentina Natural Park makes this Grande Route one of the activities not to be missed in Portugal.
In fact, in our opinion, following the trail is the best way to really absorb all the beauty of this coastal region. So, let’s explore everything you need to know to make the fishermen’s trail from Porto Covo to Odeceixe. Here you will find all the information about the necessary logistics (where to eat, where to sleep, the transfers), the biggest points of interest, the difficulties, the best time to hike… in short, everything you need, and a little more.
- Nome: Fishermen’s Trail
- Start – Porto Covo
- Finish – Odeceixe
- Distance – Almost 80 km,
- Time – 4 days
- Dificuldade – Average, due to distance and sand walking
- Max/min altitude: 80-0, almost always at sea level
- Altitude gain: Minimum
- Type – linear, with stages
- Signalization (1-5) – 5
- Highlights: Several beaches, sea cliffs, Milfontes, Almograve, Porto Covo, Zambujeira do Mar, and Odeceixe;
- Cyclable: No
Our experience on the Rota Vicentina fishermen’s trail
This section of the Rota Vicentina – Fisherman’s Trail has very quickly become our favorite walking trail in Portugal. The cliffs, deserted beaches, vegetation, and all the landscapes during this hike are simply an unforgettable experience.
As mentioned above, this section of the fishermen’s trail is divided into 4 stages totaling almost 80 km. The longest is 22.5 km, and the shortest is 15.5 km. Despite the distances being relatively long, there are no major inclines and technical areas. The greatest difficulty is the sand. Remember that you will often walk on beaches, dunes, and cliffs with endless sand, often fine and loose.
Officially these are stages 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the fishermen’s trail:
- Porto Covo – Vila Nova de Milfontes (20 km)
- Vila Nova de Milfontes – Almograve (15.5 km)
- Almograve – Zambujeira do Mar (22 km)
- Zambujeira do Mar – Odeceixe (18.5 km)
Note: if you want you can easily add stage 1, only 10 km between São Torpes and Porto Covo, but let’s leave this small stage out of the article as we haven’t done it yet.
One of the features we love about this route is that each day starts and ends in villages that have all the things you need, but during the trail and in a few minutes of walking we are far from everything. It’s like the best of both worlds, we have the comfort at the end of the day, and nature for most of the walk.
Porto Covo – Vila Nova de Milfontes
This first stage is 20 km long, and it’s just what we nice workout! It is the second-longest day, there are no significant elevation gains, but it is also the hardest, in our opinion. Why? It has long periods of sand walking, which become harder and harder with the accumulation of km on the sand.
It took us about 7.5 hours from Porto Covo to Milfontes, which corresponded to 5-6 hours of walking – we stopped quite often to rest, take pictures, or simply enjoy the scenery.
Besides being the toughest, it’s also one of the most beautiful, with lots of points of interest. Of these, we highlight the Pessegueiro island, Aivados beach, and the phenomenal Malhão beach. Besides, of course, Porto Covo and Milfontes.
Note that this trail has no supply points. Besides the beach next to the Pessegueiro Island almost at the beginning and Porto das Barcas almost at the end, there are no cafes/bars along the way. Maybe in the summer, there might be some street vendors, but I wouldn’t count on that.
Vila Nova de Milfontes – Almograve
The second day of this trail is possibly the easiest, mainly because it’s the shortest, and it can still be shortened easily. Officially it is 15.5 km long, but the first 3 km are simply to cross the Mira river over the bridge, but it is not particularly interesting compared to the sights you will get on the rest of the route. So you can take one of the many boats that make the crossing and save that 3 km.
It took us about 6 hours to do this day (about 4 hours of walking). Although short, there is also a long stretch of sand walking. Note that similarly to the previous day, we don’t have cafes or supermarkets along the route, so take supplies for the entire route.
Although shorter, there is no lack of reasons to enjoy the landscape on this day. Besides the village of Milfontes and the always pleasant crossing of the Mira river, we have the fabulous Furnas beach on the south bank (one of the winners in the category of beaches in the 7 wonders contest). But our favorite beach turned out to be Brejo Largo beach. After a few long km of walking on fine and loose sand, it felt like paradise on Earth.
Almograve – Zambujeira do Mar
With at 22km, this is the longest day, but don’t be scared as it has less sand waking than the others, making it a lot easier than it might seem at first. It took us about 7 hours to complete the entire route, but we stopped for a long time for a snack and then for lunch.
Unlike the previous days, on this day, we have two excellent opportunities to refuel. The first in Cavaleiro, where we found a small snack bar for a “second breakfast”, and the other in Porto das Barcas, where we have a nice restaurant, O Sacas. If you arrive later in Cavaleiro, there is also a restaurant there.
But calm down, this day isn’t just for the food, there’s also a lot to see! We can divide the route into two parts, first to Cabo Sardão and then to Zambujeira. In our opinion, the Almograve to Sardão Cape route is fabulous, with incredible views, ending at the imposing Sardão Cape.
From there, we have a very easy part of the route (flat and dirt) but in general much less appealing. It’s not unpleasant, far from it, but the landscape is a bit monotonous. The exception is in Porto das Barcas and of course in Zambujeira. The last kms to Zambujeira are along the national road, unfortunately.
Zambujeira do Mar – Odeceixe
We’ve reached the last day, and to finish off big, we have another hard day with fabulous landscapes. There are some sandy areas (not as much as the 1st day but almost), but there are also many ups and downs and even some slightly technical points. Don’t be scared; it can be done, but they are the most technical and inclined parts of these 4 days of the fishermen’s trail.
In total, there are 18.5 km that we did in almost 8 hours, about 6 hours of walking. If you can only do one of the days, this would probably be what we would advise, as it really has many points of interest, in addition to the beauty of the general scenery and the cliffs.
Amália beach, Carvalhal beach, and Alteirinhos beach are among the main points of interest. All of them are fabulous, but Amália beach looks like something out of a fairy tale and is perhaps the best secret in the Southeast of Alentejo. In addition to the beaches, we also have a kind of private safari next to Praia do Carvalhal, where you can see ostrich, deer, buffalo, and zebra. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true.
Lastly, and before reaching Odeceixe, we have Ponta em Branca, a wonderful viewpoint overlooking the incredible Odeceixe beach. It is undoubtedly the ideal way to finish this multi-day trek (although there is still almost 5km of road to reach Odeceixe).
Best time of year to take the trail
In our opinion, the best time of year to go on the fishermen’s trail is spring, particularly in April/May. Alternatively, the beginning of autumn will be excellent too.
Between spring and autumn, our preference is for spring mainly because it is when the vegetation is prettiest, with wildflowers everywhere. In both periods, the days will be long and with pleasant temperatures for long walks.
In summer we have a heat problem, and it really is a problem. Note that 90% of the trail is hiked in the sun, with no shadows along the way or great chances of escaping the sun as the vegetation is mostly undergrowth. On the other hand, the seawater will also be warmer.
During winter, the cold, the rain, and the wind can make the trail very rough and less pleasant. However, we never did at this time of the year.
Who can make the trail?
This is a trail for people with stamina and without mobility problems. Age should not be a factor, but the physical ability is. We advise against doing it with young children as it will be too hard, but teenagers and perhaps athletic pre-teens can do it.
Note that large segments of the route are on cliffs and canyons, so people with a fear of heights or vertigo may have problems in certain parts. In this sense, the Zambujeira – Odeceixe stage will be the worst.
Is it possible to take the fishermen’s trail by bicycle?
No! Impossible, don’t even dream about it. In addition to the consecutive kilometers of fine, loose sand, which are hard to walk, we have areas in canyons and cliffs where a distraction would mean a crash of many meters and other technical areas where it is simply impossible to ride a bike.
So, trying to do the fishermen’s trail on a bicycle would mean taking the bike on your back for a good part of the route, or simply spending all the time doing detours to get past these sections and lose a big part of the best views and points of interest.
If all this isn’t enough to convince you, think that bike trails will help to destroy a nature reserve where the ecological balance is already quite complicated.
Can you camp while trekking the fishermen’s trail?
Wild camping is strictly prohibited. It is possible to camp at campsites that exist in some locations. Honestly, we can’t imagine any advantage in camping, as you’ll have to carry your tents on your back all the way, which doesn’t seem pleasant to us. On the other hand, it is easy to find cheap and comfortable accommodation in each location.
Fishermen’s trail marking
The fishermen’s trail is perfectly marked in both directions. There are regular marks and at all important points. Over 80km, I think we only went off the trail twice, and it was probably our own distraction.
Carrying a GPS is always a safe option, but it’s not particularly necessary in this case. The markings are really well done, and we ended up not using them at all. In addition, we can follow the simple rule: when in doubt, take the path by the sea… a few meters later the famous blue and green marks will appear to confirm.
Lastly, we enjoyed the fishermen’s trail signs in totally different colors, helping to differentiate the fishermen’s trail from all others. The blue and green bars are like a brand image, showing that this is a different… special trek.
What to take to the Fisherman’s Trail?
Since this is a 4-day trek, we have to pay special attention to what to take as the less weight, the better. The rule of thumb is never to walk with more than 10% of our weight. So, we suggest you take:
- Lots of water (minimum 2l per person); We suggest you always take water for the whole day.
- Snacks to eat during the day. This is especially important on the two days when you won’t have the opportunity to buy anything while walking.
- Comfortable walking shoes – Go hiking with walking shoes. We wear running shoes, but some people suggest hiking shoes. Sneakers have the disadvantage of making have to remove sand regularly, but the advantage of being much cooler;
- Slippers to wear at the end of the day – Don’t use the slippers for the walks, it’s a lot of time and it will become uncomfortable.
- Lightweight and comfortable clothing; We took a change of clothes a day, some of these are old clothes that we throw away after wearing. Less weight for the following days;
- Don’t forget to bring at least one warmer sweater or hoodie as it can be much colder at night than you expect, especially outside the summer.
- Swimwear, sunglasses, hat, and sunscreen in summer;
- Camera and mobile phone as there are many opportunities to take beautiful photos. The mobile phone also to be used as GPS. Don’t forget the chargers;
- Backpack to carry all this;
As always, please don’t make trash. Bring everything you take with you.
There are transfer companies that take your bags to your hotel each day. So if you want to carry even less weight, this might be a good idea. See here.
How to get to the Fishermen’s Trail?
The trail can be hiked and is marked in both directions. We choose to do it from north to south, but in practice, it is similar to doing it from south to north. Getting to Porto Covo or Odeceixe by car is quite easy, and it’s also simple to arrange parking for a few days. The ideal is to ask the accommodation where you can park the car, and they will definitely tell you some places.
Both Odeceixe and Porto Covo have public transportation to Lisbon via the express network, so if you don’t want to take a car, you always have that possibility. Furthermore, there is also an express network between Porto Covo and Odeceixe and vice versa. So, when you finish the trail, you can simply take the bus to the beginning. If you prefer, there are also many transfer companies and taxis that provide this service. Expect to pay around 60 Euros for the Odeceixe – Porto Covo route.
Final Thoughts on the Fisherman’s Trail and Rota Vicentina
As we have mentioned several times, this is a fabulous trail, one of the best we have ever done, not only in Portugal but in the world. If you don’t have time or availability to do the 4 days, you can always do just 1, 2, or 3. Or 10, or 14… 🙂
On the other hand, don’t forget that you don’t have to walk every single day. You can always stay for a day in Milfontes or Zambujeira. They are beautiful villages, very touristy where you will find plenty of entertainment and good restaurants. We chose to stay an extra day in Milfontes, and it was an excellent decision. We were able to recharge my batteries, relax, and enjoy one of Portugal’s most beautiful coastal villages.
Finally, if you want even more information about the Vicentina route, and the fishermen’s trail, the official site is an excellent one resource, with lots of useful information.