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Written by
Laura Paterson
Laura Paterson

Everything You Need to Know About Hiking The Rota Vicentina

The Rota Vicentina is a network of routes spreading throughout south-west Portugal covering the beautiful Alentejo and Algarve regions. It combines the “Historical Way”, “Fishermen’s Trail” and some lovely circular routes. The Fishermen’s Trail route follows some of the most spectacular coastline in Europe (and arguably the world, rated as one of the six most beautiful coastal trails in the world by Condé Nast), the Historical Way follows mainly rural trails through forests and alongside peaceful rivers and creeks.

How do I get to the start of the Rota Vicentina?

For the full Rota Vicentina or the Fisherman's trail section the starting point is in Porto Covo. Porto Covo is most easily accessed from Lisbon Airport, which has plentiful international flight connections. From the airport jump on the subway to the centre of Lisbon, and then it is a 2.5 hr bus journey from there to Porto Covo. Alternatively, fly into Faro Airport, take the bus to Lagos (1h 30m) and change on another bus to Porto Covo (2h). 

The Historical Way officially starts in Santiago do Cacém, however we've shortened it to take in the best sections on the Wild Algarve Trail, starting further south in Odeceixe. Odeceixe is between Lisbon and Faro Airports and easily accessed from both. You can take a bus from Faro to Lagos with Eva Bus (2h) and then another bus from Lagos (1h) with Redes Expressos Buses. To get from Lisbon Airport, you can take a direct bus with Eva Bus or Rede Expressos which operate twice daily and take 4-5 hours.

Or to keep things really simple, book a private taxi transfer through ourselves to pick you up straight from the airport and take you straight to the hotel!

How do I get home from the Rota Vicentina?

The full Rota Vicentina and the Historical Way finishes in Sagres. Faro is the closest airport to Sagres. Jump on the bus to Lagos (1h, runs every hour) where you can swap on to another bus to Faro Airport (1h). Lisbon Airport is a bit of a journey from Sagres, so if you are flying out of Lisbon then we recommend booking a private taxi transfer which is a bit more expensive but worth it to save the hassle!

Portugal beach walking

What are the best parts of the Rota Vicentina?

This is really hard to say as the whole route is spectacular! However, this depends on what you are looking for. If the golden, sandy beaches and dramatic cliffs overlooking the wild Atlantic are what draw you to the Rota Vicentina then stick with the Fishermen’s Trail. Or if you like to mix that up with up authentic villages, tranquil forests and rural trails then go for the Wild Algarve. Ideally, if you have the 11 days required, then as the name suggests to cover it all go for “The Best of the Rota Vicentina!”

Can I swim at any of the beaches?

Walking along the miles and miles of golden, unspoiled beaches, it is certainly hard to resist the temptation to pop for a quick swim and at times, this is definitely possible at some of the sheltered coves but you should bear in mind that this is the Atlantic coast, and therefore it can get pretty wild. Those waves do not attract lots of surfers for no reason!  So if you are thinking about going for a swim, please make sure you pay attention to any signs on the beach providing warnings. One of the nicest spots is the lovely Praia do Amalia, an idyllic beach with a waterfall that cascades down to meet the beach and a favoured holiday spot for Amália Rodrigues, one of Portugal’s most famous Fado singers.

What is the best time of year to walk the Rota Vicentina?

The Rota Vicentina is possible to walk any time from September through till June. However, we offer the tour from March through to June, and then from September to November as we believe these months make for the most enjoyable experience! In the spring months of March through to May, sunny days are usually mixed with some rainy days, and the wildflowers blossoming add colour to the already wild landscapes, making it a very pleasant time to travel. As Portugal experiences a year-round mild Mediterranean climate, it also doesn’t get too cold at this time.  In June, it starts to heat up and whilst still very enjoyable you should make sure you start your days early at this time of year to try and beat the worst of the mid-day sun. The bonus of walking at this time is of course the temptation of dipping into the inviting sea for a swim! July and August get too hot for enjoyable walking, hence why we do not offer the Rota Vicentina at this time. The autumn months are also very pleasant weather-wise and probably fairly similar temperatures to the spring. November is a bit cooler (although still not too cold!) and if you prefer your walks solitary, this would definitely be the time to go!

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How easy it is to find my way?

In one word – very!! The Rota Vicentina Association who look after the maintenance of the network of trails have put a lot of hard work and effort into ensuring that all the paths are extremely well sign-posted and way-marked. So that combined with our detailed turn-by-turn route notes and access to our Macs Adventure Smartphone app which enables you to follow the route using your phone’s GPS, mean that you have very little chance of getting lost!

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I suffer from vertigo – can I do this walk?

Unfortunately this is probably not the trip for you if you suffer from vertigo. As alluded to above, the paths can be narrow and there are some steep drop-offs on most days, so they can be a little vertigo inducing!

fisherman's trail

What sections of the Rota Vicentina do our tours cover?

Our Fishermen’s Trail tour sticks to the ruggedly beautiful Alentejo coastline, filled with large coastal features such as enormous caves, shifting sand-dunes and dramatic pillars. However, on the southern section of the Rota Vicentina our Wild Algarve tour combines sections of coastal trails with the inland Historical Way, allowing you to experience some of the tranquil Algarve countryside, where you walk through groves of pine and eucalyptus trees and authentic Portuguese villages such as Bordeira, where time seems to stand still.

Some of the days seem quite long – how tough is it??

Yes, a few of the walking days on the Rota Vicentina are quite long – up to around 24km. However, the ascents and descents are actually pretty minor, making it more achievable than it may appear at first glance. What does make it more taxing are the sections where you walk along the sand dunes which can be pretty tiring, and also the fact that the coastal trails are quite narrow and rugged, meaning concentration is required. However, as our pathfinder Josiah Skeats so eloquently puts it when describing the first day’s walk from Porto Covo to Vila Nova de Milfontes – “The path wades over sand-dunes and across beaches. It teeters atop cliffs and scrambles around inlets. At all times the path is sandy ensuring every kilometre and viewpoint is hard-fought for” – but it is more than worth it for the incredible views! “

You can find out more about our Rota Vicentina walk tours here or contact one of our destination specialists if you have any questions.

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