Hiking the Fisherman’s Trail in Portugal

The Rota Vicentina Fisherman’s Trail is a breath-taking four-day hiking trail in south-west Portugal, set in the Costa Vicentina National Park. The world famous hike is often referred to the Fishermans trail in Portugal.

Introducing the Fishermans Trail Portugal

The Fishermans trail Portugal, launched in 2013 as a boost for tourism in the stunning and underdeveloped region, takes four days to complete and guides hikers through popular fishing hotspots with jaw-dropping views – you’ll see many local fishermen through the trip.

Though fairly flat for most of the hike, there are considerable portions of the Fisherman’s Trail where you’ll be trekking on sand, which is something of a workout for the old calf muscles!

Sand is, regrettably, an all-too-easy way to end up with blisters, so choose good hiking shoes for this trip and empty out sand as soon as you notice any in your shoes.

Rota Vicentina Fisherman’s Trail Route

Day 1: Porto Covo to Vila Nova de Milfontes (20km/6.5 hours)

Day 2: Vila Nova de Milfontes to Almograve (15km/5.5 hours)

Day 3: Almograve to Zambujeira do Mar (22km/6 hours)

Day 4: Zambujeira do Mar to Odeceixe (18km/5.5 hours)

A 2020 extension to the route now leads all the way through to Lagos, and adds another eight days to the trip.

Most people complete the trail North to South, though it is possible to hike in either direction.

As you follow the route, keep your eyes peeled for the teal and green painted stripes on wooden posts, which mark out the Fisherman’s Trail. Another, longer trail is called Historical Way and is signposted with red and white markers.

Luggage Transfers on the Fishermans Trail Portugal

If you’re weighed down with heavy luggage from a longer trip to Portugal, and want to hike light, it’s really easy to arrange for your bags to be transported between stops instead of carrying everything.

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 Porto Covo for the Fisherman’s Trail

If you’re travelling from Lisbon, as most who take the Fisherman’s Trail are, then the simplest way to get to the start of the trail in Porto Covo is by bus, from Lisboa Sete Rios.

The bus ride typically takes about 2 and a half hours, with 8 Rede Expressos buses departing the Portuguese capital for Porto Covo each day. 

A single ticket costs €16.40. For timetables and tickets, visit www.rede-expressos.pt.

If you’re already in the South of Portugal, make use of the local bus network as Porto Covo isn’t connected to a trainline.

Rede Expressos operates three buses a day from Lagos to Porto Covo. The journey takes just over two hours and costs €14. 

Where to Stay in Porto Covo

You’ll probably want to stay a night in Porto Covo before starting the Fisherman’s Trail in Portugal the following morning.

Refúgio da Praia offers simple, clean and airy rooms within the Costa Vicentina National Park. The hotel is moments from the beach, with gorgeous views from every room. 

If you’re looking for a budget option, Ahoy Porto Covo Hostel is right by where the hiking route starts, so makes for a very convenient start in the morning.

The Fisherman’s Trail – A Day-by-Day Guide

Day 1: Porto Covo to Vila Nova de Milfontes (20km/6.5 hours)

Before you leave Porto Covo, make sure you buy some food from one of the local grocery shops as there are very few options for grabbing food on today’s hike. Fill up a couple of water bottles too – you’ll need it.

The Fisherman’s Trail starts with the most challenging leg, so once you’ve got through today’s stage the rest will be a breeze.

You’ll spend the whole day walking on sand, which is phenomenal exercise, but really tough on the legs. Blister-prevention is the name of the game today, so keep that sand out of your shoes by wearing proper hiking trousers with elasticated ankles over high-cut hiking boots.

There are a couple of restaurants along the route, but they’re either at the very beginning or end of the walk, so not great for meal times. I repeat, remember to bring snacks!

Today’s leg hugs the Atlantic coastline, and features the imposing Fort of Pessegueiro, which has stood (in various forms) since the 16th Century. There were almost plans to turn it into a hostel in the mid-20th Century, though this never came to fruition.

Where to stay in Vila Nova de Milfontes

Selina Milfontes is a beachfront property with its own restaurant, bar and even some evening entertainment.

The hotel offers a range of rooms for all budgets, from dormitories for around €30 per person up to a Deluxe Room with a large double bed and fantastic views for just over €100 a night.

If you’ve brought your own food, there’s a barbeque available for guests to use too.

Day 2: Vila Nova de Milfontes to Almograve (15km/5.5 hours)

Today starts with a question. How will you cross the Rio Mira? There are two ways to cross the river that runs by Vila Nova de Milfontes – by bridge or by ferry.

The bridge option requires you to take a detour inland, so most people opt for the €5 ferry crossing from nearby Forte de São Clemente – a 17th Century fortress built to protect locals from pirates.

Once across the river, today’s hike deviates from the coastline on occasion. The variety of nature today will awe you. From remarkable rock formations and fossilised sand dunes, to thick bush with tight paths to navigate.

Start the day with a well-stocked snack selection because there’s nowhere to buy food enroute today. End the day admiring the sunset at the beach bar in Almograve.

Where to stay in Almograve

Almograve Beach Hostel provides a social setting to enjoy an evening close to the beach. There’s a shared kitchen and free WiFi throughout the hostel. The accommodation has been done up to a good standard, though it’s worth noting that the dormitories are all mixed gender, which may not suit everyone’s preferences.

A fantastic alternative, if you value a bit of privacy, is to rent Casa Azul – a wonderful holiday home 750 yards from Almograve Beach. Casa Azul is a one-bed house, with all the mod-cons you could need for a comfortable night. The great kitchen offers a space to prepare tomorrow’s lunch and snacks too.

Day 3: Almograve to Zambujeira do Mar (22km/6 hours)

Pack your lunch before you leave Almograve and head to the beach. From Praia Grande de Almograve, you’ll follow a nice flat path to Porto das Lapas das Pombas – a port village used by local fishermen.

Today’s route takes you inland every now and then, which only goes to enhance the beauty of the coastal stretches.

For birdwatchers, today will be a highlight of the trek – this section of the Rota Vicentina is the only place in the world where you’ll see white storks nesting in sea cliffs.

If you don’t mind finishing today’s hiking after dinner, hang around in Entrada da Barca to enjoy a scrumptious fish dinner at Restaurante O Sacas. 

The final stretch, from Entrada da Barca to Zambujeira do Mar, is possible the most uninspired part of the four-day trip, as you’re just following an inland road to the town. But worry not, Zambujeira do Mar is spectacularly scenic when you arrive.

Where to stay in Zambujeira do Mar

You’ve done a lot of walking by this point in the hike, so treat yourself to a night in a hotel with a pool to relax and take some pressure off your legs.

Herdade Do Touril is the answer to your desires. The hotel is set in 365 hectares and alongside the salt-water pool, rooms enjoy private verandas with gorgeous views. Breakfast features local produce for a fresh and healthy start to the day.

Day 4: Zambujeira do Mar to Odeceixe (18km/5.5 hours)

Today things are going to get hilly! The first steep descent takes you down to Praia do Carvalhal – a stunning, sandy beach. There’s a snack bar here if you want to grab something.

An uphill climb away from the beach leads you to a wildlife park, where you’ll squeeze your way through overgrown paths, surrounded by impressive wildlife. Have your camera ready.

After three days without good lunch options, today is the day you don’t need to have packed your own lunch, because when you arrive in the small fishing village of Azenha do Mar around midday there are a couple of restaurants to choose from.

After lunch you’ll enjoy the final coastal section of the hike through to Praia de Odeceixe-Mar. If time permits, take a breather on the beach here, as the final 4km of trail leading to Odeceixe town can feel like a long finish.

Try to arrive in Odeceixe in time to catch the sunset from the base of Moinho de Odeceixe – a windmill with idyllic views over the Atlantic Ocean.

Where to stay in Odeceixe

Residencia do Parque is right in the centre of town and within easy walking distance from several bars and restaurants. After four days of hiking, it’s not too much to want everything to be on your doorstep now, is it? The breakfast buffet has plenty of choice too, so you can enjoy a relaxing morning tomorrow having successfully completed the Fisherman’s Trail.

After the Fishermans trail Portugal – Where next?

Once you’ve completed the Fisherman’s Trail Portugal, you can continue on to Lagos by hopping on a local bus to Lagos (€4.60 one-way).

Alternatively, Rede Expressos run a direct bus service right the way up to Lisbon if you have a flight to catch, or want to explore a different part of Portugal for the next part of your trip. 

If you enjoyed this article you might also like to read about Hiking the Historical Way in Portugal

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