Hiking the Historical Way in Portugal

Spanning 263 km in the truly beautiful countryside of south-west Portugal, the Historical Way is recognised as being one of the best hiking trips in the whole of Europe.

The European Ramblers Association awarded the Historical Way with is “Leading Quality Trails – Best of Europe” certificate in 2016, and it’s clear to see why.

Incorporating lines of trees which crescendo into swathes of forests, intriguing valleys with the welcoming tinkle of a gently-running stream, and unassuming rural villages, this famous trail shows you a side of Portugal that you’ll remember for a long time to come.

Rota Vicentina Historical Way Portugal Route

Day 1: Santiago do Cacém to Vale Seco (18km / 6 hours)

Day 2: Vale Seco to Cercal do Alentejo (23km / 6.5 hours)

Day 3: Cercal do Alentejo to S. Luís (20.5km / 7 hours)

Day 4: S. Luís to Odemira (25km / 8 hours)

Day 5: Odemira to S. Teotónio (19km / 6 hours)

Day 6: S. Teotónio to Odeceixe (15/17km / 5/6 hours)

Day 7: Odeceixe to Aljezur (19.5km / 6 hours)

Day 8: Aljezur to Arrifana (12km / 4 hours)

Day 9: Arrifana to Carrapateira (24km / 8 hours)

Day 10: Carrapateira to Vila do Bispo (21.5km / 6 hours)

Day 11: Vila do Bispo to Cabo de S. Vicente (14km / 4 hours)

The route, which can be completed north to south or vice versa, provides a very real sense of a journey, with the northern and southern legs of the route (either side of Odeceixe) having distinct character and charm.

The overall route includes 13 sections, however two of the sections are day trips that don’t lead to the next destination on the route, so if you’re aiming to complete the hike from Santiago do Cacém to Cabo de S. Vicente without the detours, it will take you 11 days.

Luggage Transfers on the Historical Way Portugal Route

Some of the days’ hikes are quite hilly and so it makes sense to take advantage of the luggage ferrying service offered on the trail. It’s so easy to use – simply hand over your bags in the morning when you leave and they’ll be waiting for you in your next stop at the end of the day.

Vicentina Transfers charges €15 per transfer for one luggage bag. For any additional luggage, it’s a further €5 per item.

How to get to Santiago do Cacém to start the Historical Way Portugal

Chances are you’ll be heading to the start of the route from Lisbon, which is only a couple of hours away by bus.

Jump on the Rede Expressos bus heading south from Lisbon Sete Rios bus station and enjoy the 100-mile ride for €14.

There are generally six buses a day to choose from, and it’s easy to book your ticket in advance on the Rede Expressos website: https://rede-expressos.pt/en/ 

If you’re already in the south of Portugal, there are two Rede Expressos buses a day from Lagos to the start of the route, in addition to the local buses which stop at each leg of the route (useful in case you want to skip ahead in the route due to time restraints… or tired legs).

Where to Stay in Santiago do Cacém

It’s best to grab a night’s sleep in Santiago do Cacém before you start, so that you give yourself a full day for the first leg of the hike.

If you’re able to arrive around lunch time, treat yourself to a hotel with a pool and start the trip with an invigorating swim. 

Santiago Hotel Cooking & Naturehas a spectacular pool and stylish, comfortable rooms. It’s a five-minute walk from the centre and serves a tasty breakfast before you head out in the morning.

Alternatively, for a budget option, take a room at the Residencial Covas, right in the heart of the town. The hotel offers basic twin or single rooms and a continental breakfast awaits you in the morning.

Historical Way Portugal – A Day-by-Day Guide

Day 1: Santiago do Cacém to Vale Seco (18km / 6 hours)

Today starts at the Santiago do Cacém Church – one of the most important religious landmarks in the region. The route is fairly light on the feet today, though your calf muscles will start to burn about 6km in as you start a steady hour-and-a-half descent.

The route takes you through cork oak forests, which is an important part of the local economy. Portugal is known for its cork products, and these trees also support beekeeping and the growing of edible and medicinal mushrooms.

Where to stay in Vale Seco

Book early to stay at Courela do Salgueiro. It’s not the cheapest place to stay, but it probably is the nicest in the area. There’s a pool, as well as kitchen and outdoor barbeque set up. Plus, it’s a whole house. It’s all yours for the night! 

Day 2: Vale Seco to Cercal do Alentejo (23km / 6.5 hours)

You’ll witness first-hand the effects humans have had on the natural cork forests in the area, especially in the morning. Through the afternoon, you’ll be treated to an ever-changing montage of fields, cattle, streams and even marshland.

It’s a long section today, though relatively flat. Just remember to bring enough snacks and water as you won’t find anywhere en-route.

Where to Stay in Cercal do Alentejo

Keep things simple tonight with a stay at the humble Casazul M&B, quite literally a blue house. Local restaurants are nearby for a good dinner and the rooms are all air-conditioned.

Day 3: Cercal do Alentejo to S. Luís (20.5km / 7 hours)

You could choose to divert from the Historical Way today and follow directions to Porto Covo – this 16.5km trail will join up with the Fisherman’s Trail, which is a stunning seafront trail which take you four days and ends up in Odeceixe.

We’re going to stay slightly inland though as we head to S. Luís – that said, we’re not that far from the sea, and at the most elevated points of today’s trek you’ll soak up incredible views of the fields, running into the Atlantic Ocean.

Today is hard work. Well-rewarded, but tough on the legs. Over the day you have ascended 500m and descended 500m – it’s pretty mountainous. You’ll feel invincible this evening.

Where to stay in S. Luís

With the effort you dedicated to the trail today, you deserve a relaxing evening taking in the sunset from the swimming pool at Corte Nova da Preguica. The rooms all offer gorgeous views and the hotel has a restaurant, serving locally inspired cuisine.

Day 4: S. Luís to Odemira (25km / 8 hours)

As you get back on the trail, you’ll criss-cross through farmland and further cork oak forest. You’ll hear marvellous birds singing from the trees, and catch glimpses of energetic songbirds flitting between the trees.

And the day only gets better as you head into the afternoon, with a inspiring riverside route along part of the Torgal River. Take a moment to pause at Pego da Pias and really soak up the beauty around you. If you’re hiking in spring, the ground will be littered with little flowers – just mind not to leave any litter of your own.

Today’s route as almost entirely downhill, which can be tiring on the calf muscles. It’s so worth buying some good hiking boots for this trip.

Where to stay in Odemira

Offering a continental breakfast, included with the room, Residencial Rita is in the centre of Odemira and offers simple, functional and clean rooms. Nothing flashy, but the views you’ll experience tomorrow will make up for that. Tonight, you just need to sleep well.

Day 5: Odemira to S. Teotónio (19km / 6 hours)

Last night you slept in the bed of a valley. Today it’s time for some uphill hiking. Nothing to worry about, given the mountainous hike of a couple of days back. This is probably one of the easiest sections of the trail.

Unlike other days, you’ll be able to pick up some food as you walk today… or some local brandy, known as medronho, if you prefer.

Where to stay in S. Teotónio

Fairly close to the town centre, with views reaching across the natural park, Monte Da Galrixais a traditional apartment hotel. Fresh bread is prepared every morning, and if you want to stay a couple of days you could also volunteer to help out on the farm.

Day 6: S. Teotónio to Odeceixe (15/17km / 5/6 hours)

Starting in the Church square, head towards the cemetery, where the red-and-white trail market will point you on the way. Today’s route is the only section of the Historical Way where you’re given a choice – this way, or that way?

Both routes lead to Odeceixe through vegetable gardens and hopping between streams. This fertile corner of Europe is home to several rare fruit varieties, being protected from extinction.

Odeceixe is where Historical Way meets with the popular Fisherman’s Trail route.

Where to stay in Odeceixe

Residencia do Parque is a popular choice in the heart of Odeceixe. You’ll be within easy reach of the shops, bars and restaurants.

Day 7: Odeceixe to Aljezur (19.5km / 6 hours)

Heading south from Odeceixe, the landscape shifts. The cork forests common in the northern section of the trail give way to wetlands and swamps. Alive with butterflies and other insects, you’ll feel like you’re walking through a fairy tale scene.

As you reach Aljezur in the evening, keep an eye (and ear) out for bats congregating around street lamps, or hunting insects over a warm, marshy pond.

Where to stay in Aljezur

Vicentina Hotel is situated in a great location, surrounded by the lush hills of Aljezur. Just a 10-minute walk to the Aljezur Castle, and with an outdoor swimming pool. Each room features a kitchenette so you can prepare food for tomorrow.

Day 8: Aljezur to Arrifana (12km / 4 hours)

The shortest stint of the Historical Way takes you to the coast. Aljezur used to be a port town, before the tidal river dried up. Now, we follow playful streams on our journey to the Atlantic Coast. You’ll be wafted on your way by the smell of eucalyptus, heavily planted in this area for the production of paper.

Even though it’s a short walk today, it’s still worth starting the hike in the morning, if only so that you can enjoy more time in the stunning Arrifana Bay when you arrive.

Where to stay in Arrifana

With its boldly-painted rooms, Casa Oceanois so close to the beach and has outdoor barbeque facilities, so you can make yourself dinner and tuck in to ocean views.

Day 9: Arrifana to Carrapateira (24km / 8 hours)

We’re back to another long stretch as we tuck back inland a little. If you’re one of those people who can never chose between a mountain or beach break, today is for you.

The wonder of both mountain and sea will entertain you as tackle one of the more physically intense days of the trip. But the views, oh the views!

Where to stay in Carrapateira

We’re very much in the Algarve now, so why not pitch up at the trendy Carrapateira Lodge. The Lodge offers a sociable environment to meet other hikers and share your tales. There’s a shared kitchen and lounge for preparing tomorrow’s lunch, and relaxing into the evening.

Day 10: Carrapateira to Vila do Bispo (21.5km / 6 hours)

Running parallel with the coastline, today’s hike is a peaceful and scenic trail leading from mountain to beach. In one of the rare signs of modern technology in the natural park, you’ll pass under a wind farm, by Pedralva, a momentary reminder of 21st Century life, and the power of the sea and the ocean breeze.

The final section of today’s walk skirts the edge of the forest, where you’ll be treated to wonderful displays from the native birds.

Where to stay in Vila do Bispo

A night a Hotel Mira Sagresis pretty much irresistible. Featuring stunning antique facades, and overlooking the 16th Century Mother Church, it’s the New Wave Spa that catches the attention of a tired rambler. All at prices you simply wouldn’t find anywhere else in Western Europe.

Day 11: Vila do Bispo to Cabo de S. Vicente (14km / 4 hours)

A couple of kilometres uphill to start the day, turns into a gentle descent for the final few hours of the trip. Heading towards the south-westerly point of the route, you’ll be following in the footsteps of countless pilgrims who trod this trail centuries ago in devotion to Saint Vincent. In fact, where the route culminates, at the base of the Cabo de São Vicente lighthouse, used to be a monastery… with an awe-inspiring view.

Where to stay in Cabo de S. Vicente

There aren’t many places by the lighthouse, so consider taking a local bus to nearby Sagres, where there are lots of gorgeous options overlooking the sea. About 3 miles away from the lighthouse is Pousada de Sagres, which offers views back across the bay and out to the Atlantic. The hotel offers a traditional Portuguese restaurant , and stunning outdoor pool and even some tennis courts, if you’ve still got any energy after 11 days on the trail.

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