Sistelo and Ecovia do Vez go perfectly for a 2-day trip in Northern Portugal. It combines one of the most beautiful villages in Portugal with the best trail in the region. Plus, there’s great food, nice river beaches and so much more! Let’s explore what Ecovia do Vez and Sistelo have to offer!
Ecovia do Vez
Ecovia do Vez is a 32 km trail that goes along Lima and Vez Rivers. It starts (or ends) in Jolda S. Paio and ends (or starts) in Sistelo. We strongly advise you to do this trail from Sistelo to Jolda S. Paio. Nevertheless, this is a very long trail and thus hard to do in only one day. However, Ecovia do Vez is divided into 3 stages:
- Stage 1: Jolda S. Paio to Arcos de Valdevez – About 12.5 km
- Stage 2: Arcos de Valdevez to Vilela – About 10.2 km
- Stage 3: Vilela to Sistelo – About 9.8 Km – Also called Passadiços do Vez (Vez Walkways)
The third stage is often referred to as the Sistelo pathway and it’s the most beautiful. As we said, we advise you to start in Sistelo. It’s much easier, as you’ll have to mostly descend.
What to expect of the Ecovia do Vez?
In our opinion, this is one of the most beautiful hikes you can take in Portugal. The Sistelo-Vilela section is absolutely breathtaking, with several small cascades going into Vez river, rapids, and obviously the terraces of Sistelo. The second part is also wonderful as the river starts to get bigger and calmer, you can see how clean it is. There are several swimming opportunities along the way.
Along the walk, you’ll go along the beautiful Vez River, cross the small town of Arcos de Valdevez, hike in places that otherwise would be impossible to reach, see the medieval bridge of Vilela, swim in several River Beaches, dazzle with the crystal clear water of Vez river, admire the several dikes constructed to hold the water and appreciate the old mills built to use the energy of the river. At the end (or beginning depending you the direction you choose to hike) you’ll have the cherry on top, Sistelo village, and its famous terraces.
How to hike the Ecovia do Vez?
Our suggestion is to park your car in Arcos de Valdevez and take a taxi to Sistelo. From there you hike your way back. You can “easily” do Sistelo-Arcos de Valdevez (part 2 and 3) in one day. If you are still up to do part 1, you can do it the next day.
One great thing about the Ecovia is that, if you feel that the 20 km of our proposal is too much, you can easily do only part 3. On the other hand, If you are really energetic you can try to take the full 32 km in one day, but that will be a long hike! Honestly, we never did it. it seems too much.
Finally, if you don’t want to hike that much, and only want to do 3 or 4 km, there’s a circular path in Sistelo, of about 2 km. It descends on the left margin of Vez, then you cross into the Ecovia and return through it. It’s nice, but it’s only really a sample of what you may experience doing the trail.
How much does it cost to hike Ecovia do Vez?
Ecovia is free of charge. There’s no ticket or entry free.
How difficult is it to hike the Ecovia do Vez?
Stage 1 and 2 are pretty flat and easy to hike. The only difficulty is the distance. Stage 3 is a little harder, but nothing extraordinary. And, if you do it from Sistelo, it’s a descend so it’s pretty easy!
However, if you try to do it all in one day, we are talking about 32.5km. That a lot! Unless you are used to hiking such distances, it can be pretty hard.
How long does it take to do Ecovia do Vez?
We never actually did the full Ecovia. We did sections 2 and 3 completely and only a part of section 1. We took about 3 hours doing section 3 and 2h30 doing section 2. We did stop a lot of times to take photos and 2 times to rest and eat. It’s possible to do it a bit quicker, but what’s the point of rushing it… right?
Is the trail family-friendly?
Yes. it can be easily done with children and people of any age. As long as they can walk for considerable distances. However, you don’t have to do all the trail, there are plenty of halfway entries.
What to take to the trail?
Depending on what you decide to do this can be a short, average, long, or really long hike… 🙂 Nevertheless, we suggest you take:
- Hiking shoes – if you are doing more than 3 or 4 km.
- A light day pack to carry all the things you’ll need.
- Water and snacks – This is a nature hike, there are very few opportunities to buy things during the hike. You can buy it in Sistelo and then in Arcos de Valdevez.
- Meal – If you do our proposed plan of 20 km, you’ll want to have a picnic.
- Sunblock, sunglasses, and swimwear in Summer.
- Raincoat and warm clothes in Winter.
Things to be aware during your hike
- Don’t leave trash behind!
- Be aware of the signs. The whole path is very well signed, just follow them;
- Don’t go alone. This is a perfectly safe trail, but it may also be deserted. If an accident happens, you may not get anyone going by for a few hours (particularly in winter);
- Respect private property;
- Be wary of cattle;
- Respect all animals and plants. Do not bring back anything with you.
Can you do Ecovia do Vez by Bicycle?
Yes, you can ride a bicycle in the Ecovia. But you can’t do it on a motorcycle! Although, it’s possible to do the Ecovia by bicycle it’s very hard in the Km close to Sistelo. The path is too uneven with huge rocks and even tree roots. You’ll most surely need to get out of the bike and walk a few times. Even if you are very good at BTT.
I would suggest that parts 1 and 2 are much more pleasant to do on a bicycle, as the path is smooth and have only a few short climbs. Now that I think about it, I need to try to do those parts on a bike, it looks very nice!
Sistelo is a small Portuguese village located in Arcos de Valdevez, in northern Portugal. Arcos de Valdevez is one of the main gateways to Peneda-Geres National Park, however, neither Sistelo or the Ecovia are located inside the Park. Despite being very small, Sistelo has a few landmarks and things to do and explore, one of them the Ecovia and pathways of Sistelo.
The main feature of Sistelo is the terraces that look like they have been taken from East Asia and gave it the name of the little Portuguese Tibet. These terraces are an excellent example of the human ability to adapt and use the natural resources available as they were built to maximize the little available arable land. The terraces of Sistelo are both stunning to look at and vital to the survival in the area.
The village itself is a living postcard with the typical granitic houses, the granaries, the bridges and obviously the terraces. Despite being really small sistelo has a few landmarks that are worth mentioning like the Sistelo castle, the church, the Roman bridge, and the old mill.
However, what really impresses in Sistelo are the shades green of the landscape, the endless cascades, the crystal clear water, the caws wandering around and, obviously, the wonderful terraces.
How long does it take to reach Sistelo?
You should reserve about 30 minutes to do Arcos de Valdevez to Sistelo by car.
How much does a taxi cost?
From Arcos de Valdevez to Sistelo, it cost us 25 Euros. Well, the meter said 26.2 Euros, but the driver was nice and gave us a small discount. During summer there’s one shuttle, but we have never used it, so we don’t know the price.
On foot, we have covered it above.
Where to stay?
If you decide to stay in the area to better enjoy the sights you basically have two options: stay in Arcos de Valdevez or stay in sistelo.
If you decide to stay in Arcos de Valdevez you can also easily visit the city and its landmarks. Plus, you are staying in a town. Small, but still a town, with supermarkets, restaurants, and hotels.
In Arcos de Valdevez we suggest you stay in Luna Arcos Valdevez. It’s a hotel & Spa with all the amenities you need at a great price. It’s probably one of the best value for money options in Portugal. We have paid less than 50 Euros for a double room with breakfast included and access to the indoor pool, sauna, Jacuzzi and Turkish bath. Plus, after a long day of hiking, what more can we ask?
If you want a cheaper option in Arcos de Valdevez, there’s also Casa dos Confrades very close to the city center and perfect for families with kids, as the rooms are good for a couple + child. It’s also very budget-friendly. Have a look at the prices here.
On the other hand, if you prefer to have a completely rustic lodge, your best option is to stay right in Sistelo. The village is very small, but there are a few options. Have a look at the options here!