The Vicentine Route
With beautiful natural surroundings and a mild climate year round, Portugal is a walkers’ paradise. Here is our guide to the Vicentine Route, one of the best network of hiking trails in the heart of a natural park
‘From Santiago do Cacém in the Alentejo down to Cape St Vincent in the Algarve, the route passes through natural habitats and traditional villages’
TRETCHING ALMOST 200km from the Alentejo to the Algarve, the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park is one of the best preserved coastlines in Europe, with wild beaches, ragged cliff and untouched countryside. Making the most of this incredible natural beauty is the Rota Vicentina (Vicentine Route), a network of walking trails that total 450km along the south-western coast of Portugal.
Split into sections and fully marked in both directions, the Route comprises the Historical Way, the Fishermen’s Trail and a number of Circular Routes, which take hikers along the unspoilt coastline or into the authentic Portuguese countryside. From Santiago do Cacém in the Alentejo down to Cape St Vincent in the Algarve, the route passes through natural habitats and traditional villages, with the chance to see beautiful fauna and flora along the way.
Named one of the Leading Quality Trails - Best of Europe by the European Ramblers Association (ERA) in 2016, the Historical Way comprises an itinerary of 230km (split into 12 sections) that runs through centuries-old towns and villages in rural Algarve and Alentejo. Considered a classic Grand Route, the Historical Way can be followed on foot or by bicycle, taking visitors into cork tree forests, hillsides and valleys and along rivers and creeks – birdwatchers in particular will be in their element, particularly around autumn and springtime.
The Fishermen’s Trail is a single track along the cliffs – a total of 120km divided into four sections and five complementary circuits – that provide unparalleled views of the wild, untouched beaches and jagged cliffs that are popular with local fishermen and surfers.
Each section along the Route is divided into daily segments of up to 25km, but can be shortened or extended depending on personal preference. Along the way are countless accommodation options, from farms and guesthouses to caravans and campsites. It’s also a chance to sample the best regional cuisine, from hearty dishes in rural south-western Portugal to freshly caught seafood in typical restaurants along the coast.
For nature-lovers looking for shorter but no less inspiring walks, the Circular Routes start and finish at the same place, meaning each trail can be completed in half a day or less. There are eight different routes available (90km of itineraries in all) that complete the main trails. The best time to do the walk is between September and June – it is recommended you check the weather forecast during the winter months for chance of rain, and avoid the hotter summer months altogether.
To plan your trip or for further information (a map and guide book are available), please visit the comprehensive Rota Vicentina website