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Fisherman’s Trail, Rota Vicentina, Portugal

Trekking the Rota Vicentina Fisherman’s Trail in Portugal

The Fisherman’s Trail is a 4-day coastal trek in Portugal. The trail stretches from the coastal town of Porto Covo in Alentejo to the inland town of Odeceixe in Algarve. Hugging the undeveloped Vicentina Coast, this outstanding trek grants hikers access to Portugal’s most wild and remote coastal areas. Though mostly flat, the trail isn’t an easy one. You’ll be hiking in the sand for hours, which is physically demanding.

The Rota Vicentina Fisherman’s Trail follows the footpaths used by locals to access prime fishing spots. During the trek, you’ll see fishermen perched on cliffs, or on beaches, patiently waiting for their catch.

You can easily extend the trek by combining the Fisherman’s Trail with the Historical Way, the other Rota Vicentina Route.

If you want to find out how to integrate this trek into a 2 week trip to Portugal, read our Portugal Itinerary.

Fisherman’s Trail Hiking Route

  • Arrival Day: Lisbon to Porto Covo
  • Day 1: Porto Covo to Vila Nova de Milfontes (20 km, 6.5 hrs)
  • Day 2: Vila Nova de Milfontes to Almograve (15 km, 5.5 hrs)
  • Day 3: Almograve to Zambujeira do Mar (22 km, 6 hrs)
  • Day 4: Zambujeira do Mar to Odeceixe (18 km, 5.5 hrs)
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Rota Vicentina Fisherman's Trail, Portugal - Multi-Day Trek

Fisherman's Trail Trekking Guide Overview

  • Fisherman’s Trail Map
  • When to Hike the Fisherman’s Trail
  • Tips for Hiking the Fisherman’s Trail
  • Arrival Day in Porto Covo (Trailhead)
  • Stages 1 – 4 Explained: stage overview, where to stay
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Hiking the Rota Vicentina Fisherman's Trail, Almograve

Fisherman's Trail Portugal Map

Fisherman's Trail Stages
  • Arrival Day
  • Fisherman's Trail Stage 1
  • Fisherman's Trail Stage 2
  • Fisherman's Trail Stage 3
  • Fisherman's Trail Stage 4
Stork's Nest, Costa Vicentina, Portugal - Fisherman's Trail

When to Hike the Fisherman's Trail

September to June

September to June is the official Fisherman’s Trail hiking season. Fall (mid-September – mid-November) and Spring (mid March – early June) are the best times to hike.

It’s way too hot to hike the Fisherman’s Trail in summer (July, August, early September). In winter, rain is very probable.

We hiked Rota Vicentina in early November. It’s a very peaceful time to hike the trail because there are very few people on the route. The temperature was perfect (not too hot, not too cold). However, it was very humid and the weather was moody. We experienced short and sporadic rain showers once in a while. Also, some restaurants and bars were already closed for the holidays.

Fisherman's Trail Portugal Hiking Guide

Tips for Hiking the Fisherman's Trail Portugal

Responsible Travel along the Rota Vicentina

  • Stay on Marked Trails
  • Keep away from cliff edge
  • No wild camping
  • No bicycling or motorbiking

Fisherman’s Trail Map and Guidebook

  • You can purchase hiking maps in Porto Covo, at the start of the trail. We didn’t buy one, because they are huge and cumbersome.
  • We always buy Cicerone Hiking Books. Here’s Cicerone’s Rota Vicentina Coastal Route (2020).

Get Hiking Insurance

For peace of mind on the trail, make sure you have hiking travel insurance. When you have World Nomads insurance, you’ll get emergency medical insurance, emergency medical transportation, gear protection (in case of theft, loss, or damage) and trip protection (in case of cancellation). 

Learn more about hiking insurance here

Hiking in Sand

  • Don’t walk with sand in your shoes. Dump the sand!
  • To avoid getting sand in your shoes, wear long hiking pants with elastic ankles like these and high hiking boots like Hanwag Tatra Light Lady GTX.

Book your Hostels and Guesthouses before arrival

  • Definitely book all your acommodation before you start the trek. We saw people struggling to find places to stay when they arrived in town.

Follow the Rota Vicentina Waymarks

  • The Rota Vicentina Fisherman’s Trail is marked with teal and green stripes.

Pack your Lunch and Snacks

  • There are very few good lunch options along the route. Make sure to pack lunch supplies for this trek. You can get supplies in each town along the trek.

Consider Booking a Luggage Transfer Service

  • Vicentina Transfers is an excellent and trustworthy luggage transfer service you can utilize for the Fisherman’s Trail.
  • It’s really easy to book online. You simply fill out your itinerary (where you’re staying) and pay online. Vicentina Transfers picks up your luggage directly at your accommodation and then drops your stuff off at your next hotel. Our luggage was always waiting for us when we arrived.
  • It costs 15 EUR for a single transfer for one bag. If you book 4 or more transfers, it’s 15 EUR for a single transfer for two bags.
  • This is a great option for anyone who is planning an extended trip to Portugal, or Europe. Kati and I hadn’t considered using a transfer service. But after hiking the first stage with our heavy packs (laptops, 3 pairs of shoes, etc…), we decided to book it. That was the best decision we made.

Hiking Essentials

 
Porto Covo, Fisherman's Trail Trailhead, Portugal

Arrival Day in Porto Covo

Getting to the Fisherman’s Trail Trailhead

The Fisherman’s Trail starts in Porto Covo.

Note: the Rota Vicentina Historical Way begins in Santiago do Cacem. The trails are linked, so you could potentially hike the Historical Way from Santiago do Cacem to Porto Covo (via Vale Seco and Cercal do Alentejo).

How to get to Porto Covo from Lisbon

From Lisbon, the easiest way to get to Porto Covo is with the Rede Expressos shuttle bus. We recommend booking your ticket online in advance (1-2 days before departure).The bus wasn’t completely full, but the ticket line at the terminal was extremely long.

The bus departs from Lisbon Sete Rios Bus Terminal. To get to the bus terminal, we used the Kapten app to request a ride (exactly like Uber but cheaper).

A one-way bus ticket to Porto Covo costs 15.60 EUR. Depending on which time you depart, the journey either takes 2 hr 10 min or 3 hr and 10 min. We took the longer route because the time was more optimal.

The bus made a single 10 minute stop in the town of Santiago do Cacém. Across from the bus terminal, there’s a small café (O Pão Quente) that serves the freshly baked cake. Definitely grab a slice of cake and coffee here, before returning to the bus. 

The bus stop in Porto Covo is very central, a mere 4-minute walk to the center of the seaside village.

Where to Eat in Porto Covo

When we arrived, there were three restaurants that were open: an Italian restaurant, a Seafood restaurant and a cafeteria. I recommend skipping the cafeteria. The food is a bit questionable. The seafood restaurant is good (not great).

There are several grocery stores / mini markets in Porto Covo. Grab snacks in town before setting off on the first stage of the Fisherman’s Trail.

Where to Stay in Porto Covo

Budget | Ahoy Porto Covo Hostel is a centrally located hostel directly on the Fisherman’s Trail. It’s close proximity to grocery stores and restaurants is a huge plus. The hostel offers both dormitory rooms and private rooms. We slept in the private room, which was clean and perfectly nice, but it was directly next to the living room and entrance (so you could hear everyone’s conversations).

Mid-Range | Calmaria Guest House is a new, modern guesthouse in Porto Covo offering clean and comfortable rooms (with private bathrooms) and a friendly atmosphere.

Look for accommodation in Porto Covo.

 
Praia dos Aivados, Fisherman's Trail, Portugal

Fisherman's Trail Stage 1

Porto Covo to Vila Nova Milfontes

Fisherman’s Trail Day 1: Porto Covo – Praia da Ilha do Pessegueiro –  Ilha do Pessegueiro Fortress – Malhão Beach – Vila Nova de Milfontes

  • Distance: 20 km
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Accumulated Ascent: 200 m
  • Accumulated Descent: 180 m
  • Time Needed: 6.5 hours with breaks
  • Where to Eat: There are two restaurants along the route: A Ilha do Pessegueiro (next to the Fort) and Porto das Barcas. We recommend packing a snack with you today, because both of these restaurants aren’t located at an ideal mid-point location. It takes 1 hour to get to A Ilha from Porto Covo. And Porto das Barcas is located about 35 minutes walking (3.5 km) from Vila Nova de Milfontes.

Stage 1 of the Fisherman’s Trail is said to be the most difficult. You’ll spend the whole day walking either on sand dunes or on the beach. We read that a lot of people struggle with this stage because they get blisters from the sand in their shoes. If you want to avoid getting sand in your shoes, wear long hiking pants with elastic ankles (these women’s pants are perfect)  over high cut hiking boots (like these boots). That’s what we did, and we had zero problems with sand.

Hugging the coast almost the entire day, stage 1 of the Fisherman’s Trail begins brilliantly. Breath in the salty herbacious air and follow the green and blue waymarks south. Initially, you’ll walk on sand dunes. Then a sign will direct you to walk along the beach Praia da Ilha do Pessegueiro until you get to the Fort. It takes 1 hour to get from Porto Covo to the Ilha do Pessegueiro Fortress.

The trail continues on sand dunes for some time. You’ll see a pod of surfers floating just off of Praia dos Aivados, which is a long beach lined with a train of pebbles. 

Eventually, you’ll descend to Malhão Beach. It’s far easier to walk on the beach than on the dunes.

From Malhão Beach, the trail leads up to a parking lot. You can take a number of boardwalks and pathways to various lookout points.

From the boardwalk above Malhão Beach, the Fisherman’s Trail continues on a sandy road along the coast and then back onto a narrow sandy trail. From here, it’s a good 3 more hours until Vila Nova. This section of trail is breathtaking. It looks like the coast is actively tumbling into the sea.

16.5 km into today’s hike, you’ll arrive at Porto das Barcas restaurant. From here, follow the paved road for a few minutes until you see a trail marker pointing right and signed 3.5 km to Vila Nova de Milfontes. You’ll see a small harbor and several fishing huts off to the right.

Where to Stay in Vila Nova de Milfontes: Casa da Eira

Casa da Eira is the best place to stay in Vila Nova de Milfontes. Managed by the kindest and most helpful people in the world, Casa da Eira feels like a home away from home. The staff really goes out of the way to make sure you’re comfortable and that all your questions are answered.

Rudolf gave us top local tips about where to eat in town and along the trail. He also made us a dinner reservation at Tasca do Celso, which was the best meal we had along the Rota Vicentina.

Aside from the first-rate hospitality, Casa da Eira impresses with its lovely rooms. In the morning, we received a breakfast basket filled with lots of goodies. In the future, guests will eat breakfast in a breakfast room (currently under construction). 

Book your stay at Casa da Eira.

Look for accommodation in Vila Nova de Milfontes.

Vila Nova de Milfontes Tips

  • If you want a really delicious, albeit more expensive, dinner make a dinner reservation at  Tasca do Celso before you arrive in Vila Nova de Milfontes. We secured the last table that night by extraordinary luck (and we were here off season). This traditional Alentejo restaurant makes a godly Carne de Porco Alentejana (regional pork and clams dish) and seared Sarrajão (bonito fish). 
 
Almograve Beach, Rota Vicentina, Fisherman's Trail, Portugal

Fisherman's Trail Stage 2

Vila Nova de Milfontes to Almograve

Day 2: Vila Nova de Milfontes – Forte de São Clemente – Almograve

  • Distance: 15.5 km (without ferry crossing)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Accumulated Ascent: 150 m
  • Accumulated Descent: 130 m
  • Time Needed: 5.5 hours
  • Where to Eat: There are no places to eat along the route.

Vila Nova de Milfontes is located on the river Rio Mira. There are two ways to cross the river: (1) by ferry, or (2) by bridge. The original Fisherman’s Trail takes you inland and over the bridge. However, no one recommends doing that. Instead, shave off those unnecessary kms and take the small ferry across the river.

From the middle of Vila Nova de Milfontes, head to Forte de São Clemente. Take the stairs down to the river. Here, you’ll see a small dock and a number of cats waiting for breakfast. This is where the ferry departs. It costs 5 EUR per person (one-way). To find out the ferry schedule, ask your guesthouse in Vila Nova.

After crossing the river, follow the footpath across the dunes.

Today, spectacular ocher and brick-red colors dominate the coastal landscapes. You’ll see some exquisite rock formations along the trail.

The Fisherman’s trail abandons the coast a few times today. You’ll hike through some thick bush. Some sections are very tight.

Where to Stay in Almograve: Almograve Beach Hostel

Almograve Beach Hostel is a lovely accommodation with three private rooms and one dormitory room. With their whimsical bed boards, each bedroom is extremely charming. Guests have access to a well-equiped shared kitchen, a living room with a fireplace, and an outdoor patio.

Almograve Beach Hostel has a self-check-in set-up. Many accommodations along the Rota Vicentina only offer limited check-in times. So, it’s far more ideal to be able to check yourself in upon arrival, rather than waiting around for a specific time.

Book you stay at Almograve Beach Hostel.

Look for accommodation in Almograve.

Almograve Tips

  • Watch the sunset at Praia Grande de Almograve beach and grab a cocktail at the beach bar. You’ll see fisherman off in the distance fishing off the cliffs at Ponta da Ilha.
  • We ate dinner at Café Restaurante O Lavrador. This no-frills local restaurant serves grilled fish. It’s good, but not outstanding.
 
Zambujeira do Mar, Fisherman's Trail, Coastal Trek

Fisherman's Trail Stage 3

Almograve to Zambujeira do Mar

Day 3: Almograve – Cavaleiro –  Entrada da Barca – Zambujeira do Mar

  • Distance: 22 km
  • Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult
  • Accumulated Ascent: 200 m
  • Accumulated Descent: 200 m
  • Time Needed: 6 hours
  • Where to Eat: There is a snack bar in Cavaleiro. The service was excruciatingly slow (we ended up leaving before placing an order). Definitely pack a lunch today. Towards to end of the trek, you’ll pass Restaurante O Sacas.

From the center of town, head directly to the beach: Praia Grande de Almograve. You’ll follow a flat path along the coast all the way to Porto das Lapas das Pombas, a tiny port with fishing huts.

The first stretch of the Rota Vicentina Fisherman’s Trail hugs the coast. You’ll eventually leave the coast and venture 1 km inland to the small (unremarkable) hamlet of Cavaleiro. From here, the trail heads back to the coast to Cabo Sardao, marked by a lighthouse.

Keep your eyes out for storks. There is an impressive stork’s nest crowning a pillar of stone in the sea somewhere between Cabo Sardao and Entrada da Barca.

The trail ends at the tiny fishing hamlet of Entrada da Barca. Here, you’ll find Restaurante O Sacas – a fish restaurant that is supposed to be excellent. Unfortunately, it was closed (for the holidays) when we arrived.

From Entrada da Barca, you’ll follow the inland road to Zambujeira do Mar. This part is really boring. Someone ought to start a shuttle service into town.

As you shuffle along this long boring road, know that all your efforts will be rewarded. Zambujeira do Mar is the most scenic village along Costa Vicentina.

The road takes you directly into town. But, don’t miss the path that wraps around the headlands close to Zambujeira do Mar. The views are outstanding.

Where to Stay in Zambujeira do Mar

We stayed at Monte das Alpenduradas, which is 2.5 km outside of town. This is an amazing accommodation if you’re planning to stay a few days in Zambujeira do Mar and are traveling by car. It’s peaceful, remote, and surrounded by countryside. Their breakfast is phenomenal. I’m not exaggerating when I say this was the best breakfast we had in Portugal.

If you confirm a pick-up and drop-off from town with Monte das Alpenduradas (before arrival), then definitely stay here. However, if you don’t want to worry about the logistics of getting back on the trail, we recommend staying somewhere more central like at Hostel Nature (budget) or Azul (mid-range).

Book your stay at Monte das Alpenduradas.

Look for accommodation in Zambujeira do Mar.

 
Praia do Carvalhal, Stage 4 Fisherman's Trail Portugal

Fisherman's Trail Stage 4

Zambujeira do Mar to Odeceixe

Day 4: Zambujeira do Mar – Praia do Carvalhal – Wildlife Park – Azenha do Mar – Odeceixe

  • Distance: 18.5 km
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Accumulated Ascent: 300 km
  • Accumulated Descent: 300 km
  • Time Needed: 5.5 hours
  • Where to Eat: There are two restaurants in Azenha do Mar: A Azenha do Mar and Bar Palhinhas.

The final stage of the Fisherman’s Trail takes you to the town of Odeceixe in Algarve. Compared to the other stages, stage 4 has the most noticeable ascents and descents.

As you head out of town, don’t forget to look back at picture-perfect Zambujeira do Mar.

The Rota Vicentina continues south to Praia do Carvalhal, a beautiful sandy beach. After descending the steep path to the beach, cross the rock bridge and head to the snack bar. From here, the trail continues uphill on the other side of the beach.

Next, you’ll hike inland along a fenced enclosure of a wildlife park. We saw zebras and ostriches. This part of the trail gets narrow at times and is badly in need of some upkeep.

You’ll return to the coast and hike to Azenha do Mar, a tiny fishing hamlet with two restaurants. Stop here for lunch.

From A Azenha do Mar, the trail continues along the coast all the way to a lookout point of Rio Seixe and Praia de Odeceixe -Mar.

The inland journey to your final destination begins. Once you descend to the river level, it’s 4 km of flat trail to Odeceixe. This felt longer than 4 km, and we were relieved when we saw the bridge to town.

Where to Stay in Odeceixe

We stayed at Hostel Seixe. This hostel has private and shared-dormitory rooms, a communal kitchen and living space. Located in the center of town, Hostel Seixe is next to many restaurants and an easy walk to the bus terminal. If you’re not sensitive to sound and are looking for budget accommodation, this works. However, if you’re sensitive to noise, we wouldn’t recommend staying here.

Book your stay at Hostel Seixe.

For a more comfortable and private setting, check out Bohemian Antique Guesthouse and Casas Do Moinho.

Look for accommodation in Odeceixe.

Odeceixe Tips

  • Celebrate the end of the trek with a bottle of wine and tapas at AltinhoThe food is excellent, albeit a bit overpriced.
  • Walk up to the windmill, Moinho de Odeceixe, for sunset views.

Where to Next?

Odeceixe to Lagos

There is a local EVA bus from Odeceixe to Lagos (4.60 EUR per person). Check the bus schedule here.

Read Next: Algarve Travel Guide

Odeceixe to Lisbon

There’s a direct bus to Lisbon operated by Rede Expressos. Check schedule here.

 
Odeceixe, Rota Vicentina Fisherman's Trail

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Rota Vicentina Fisherman's Trail Trekking Guide
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Sabrina