Rota Vicentina, Portugal – a detailed guide

Rota Vicentina is a network of beautiful walking routes in the south of Portugal. It includes two long-distance trails and 24 day hiking routes. The Rota is famous for its spectacular scenery, diverse wildlife, and unspoiled nature. Hiking the Rota Vicentina is a great way to explore Alentejo and Algarve, two beautiful coastal regions of Portugal.

What is the Rota Vicentina?

The Rota Vicentina is a network of walking routes in Portugal. It includes two multi-day trails the Fishermen’s Trail and the Historical Way and 24 one-day circular routes. It was named after the Costa Vicentina Natural Park, a protected coastal area in the south of Portugal where most of the trails are situated.

Where is the trail?

The trails of the Rota Vicentina are spread across two southern Portuguese provinces Alentejo and Algarve between Santiago de Cacém and Porto Covo in the north and Cape St.Vincent and Lagos in the south. Most of the trails are inside the protected area of the Vicentine Coast Natural Park.

A pedestrian cobbled street in Porto Covo in Portugal
The small town of Porto Covo is the beginning of the Fishermen’s Trail

How long is the Rota Vicentina?

The total length of the trails of the Rota Vicentina is 720 km/447 mi. According to the official site, the total distance of the Rota Vicentina is 750 km/466 mi. They include the stretch from Odeceixe to Cabo de São Vicente on both routes the Fishermen’s Trail and the Historical Route. As it’s the same route I don’t see a point in adding up the distance twice. The Fishermen’s Trail is 230 km/132 mi, and the Historical Way is 125 km/74 mi (Santiago do Cacém to Odeceixe) or 260 km/163 mi (Santiago do Cacém to Cabo de São Vicente). The total distance of the circular day routes combined is 265 km/164 mi.  

How long does it take to walk?

The time you’ll need for walking the Rota Vicentina will depend on the chosen trail. To complete the Fishermen’s Trail you need 12-14 days, for the Historical Way (Santiago do Cacém to Odeceixe) – 6 days. You don’t have to complete the entire route you can walk only a part of any multi-day trail. 

Fishermen’s Trail of the Rota Vicentina

The Fishermen’s Trail (sometimes spelt the Fisherman’s Trail) is the most famous and popular route of the Rota Vicentina. The total distance of the trail is 230 km/143 mi. It takes 12-14 days to complete. The route starts at S.Torpes Beach, 10 km north of the small town of Porto Covo, Alentejo and finishes in the popular holiday town of Lagos, Algarve. For the entire distance, the Fishermen’s Trail follows the beautiful Atlantic coast offering breathtaking scenery. It’s one of our favourite hiking trails in Europe. 

Some of the highlights of the Fishermen’s Trail include Praia de Odeceixe, Praia da Arrifana, Bordeira Beach, Cabo de Sao Vicente, Praia da Luz, Porto de Mos Beach, and Ponta da Piedade.

For more information on the route check the Fishermen’s Trail post.

Rugged cliffs on the coastal route of the Rota Vicentina
Sharp rocky cliffs on the Fishermen’s Trail of the Rota Vicentina

Historical Way of the Rota Vicentina

The Historical Trail is an inland multi-day route. The total distance of the trail is 125 km/77 mi from Santiago do Cacém to Odeceixe and 260 km/161 mi from Santiago do Cacém to Cabo de São Vicente. It takes 6 days (Santiago do Cacém to Odeceixe) and 11 days (Santiago do Cacém to Cabo de São Vicente) to complete. The route starts in Santiago de Cacém and finishes in Odeceixe. From there you can continue walking on the Rota Vicentina following the Fishermen’s Trail. 

A field with wheat and flowers on the Historical Way of the Rota Vicentina
A typical scenery on the Historical Way of the Rota Vicentina

Rota Vicentina circular routes

There are 24 circular day routes on the Rota Vicentina that are spread across the area. Some of them go along the coast some are inland trails. The routes vary from easy and short 5-kilometre trails to challenging 15-17-kilometre routes. You can walk any of the stages of the two multi-day routes as a day hike as well. 

There are more beautiful day hikes in the Algarve that offer spectacular coastal scenery the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail and the Trail of the Headlands are some of our favorites here.

How to get to the Rota Vicentina?

Deepening on which route you want to walk. If you’re planning to do the Fishermen’s Trail you can get a bus from Lisbon to Porto Covo. There are 10 daily buses from Sete Rios Bus Station. The journey takes 2h10min. The ticket costs 16,5 euros. You can buy tickets and check the timetable online.

For the Historical Route, you can take a direct bus from Lisbon to Santiago do Cacém. Buses leave from Sete Rios Bus Station in Lisbon. There are 10 daily buses. The journey takes 2 hours. The ticket costs 14 euros. You can buy tickets online.

The day hikes start in towns along the Rota Vicentina. Most of them can be reached by direct buses from Lisbon. To get to smaller places you might have to switch buses in Lagos or Sagres.

Is the route marked?

Yes, all trails on the Rota Vicentina are marked and easy to follow. The Fishermen’s Trail is marked with blue and green stripes on the wooden poles, rocks, trees, etc. The Historical Way is marked with white and red stripes. The day hikes are indicated with yellow and red stripes. 

Fishermen's Trail route marking painted on a rock along the Vicentina coast
A route indicator on the Fishermen’s Trail of the Rota Vicentina

Rota Vicentina map

What is the best part of the Rota Vicentina?

The Fishermen’s Trail is the most impressive route of the Rota Vicentina. Most of the stages on the trail offer breathtaking scenery; rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, dramatic drops, and stunning lookout points. Our favourite parts of the Rota Vicentina (Fishermen’s Trail) are Porto Covo to Mila Nova de Milfontes (mostly on the beach), Vila do Bispo to Sagres (the Vila do Bispo to Cape St.Vincent part), Salema to Praia da Luz (the Salema to Burgau part) Praia da Luz to Lagos.

When is the best time for hiking?

The Rota Vicentina can be walked all year round. For the best weather and the most beautiful scenery, the spring months are the best time for hiking in southern Portugal. In April and May, the coast is covered in wildflowers. Hundreds of storks come to the area for nesting you can see their nests built on the edges of the cliffs. 

The summer months in particular July and August are very hot. Average daily temperatures are above 30°C. It’s possible to walk the Rota Vicentina but you’ll have to start early in the morning to escape the midday heat. Plus, it’s the peak season for the Algarve region which means beaches are very busy and prices are higher. 

Cabo de Sao Vicente Lighthouse, Rota Vicentina, Portugal
The lighthouse at Cape St.Vincent on the Rota Vicentina

September is still pretty much a summer month in southern Portugal it’s still hot but a little bit less busy than in summer. October is the beginning of the off-season. It’s a good time for hiking. The weather is still good sunny and dry. There are fewer tourists. Prices are lower. 

From the second half of November, it starts getting colder and daylight hours reduce significantly but it’s still sunny most of the days. 

The winter months are great for coming here if you want to escape the cold weather in Europe. It does get quite chilly at night 6°C on average but the days are sunny and warm around 15°C. There are very few tourists, and accommodation prices are at their lowest (except for Christmas and New Year’s Holiday). The Rota Vicentina in winter is perfect if you want to enjoy the beauty of the area in solitude.

How much does it cost to walk the trail?

The cost will depend on several factors: season, type of accommodation (private, shared), eating out or making food, etc. 

Accommodation

During the summer season, accommodation prices are much higher than in winter. Expect to pay 60 euros for a budget double room and 25 euros for a dorm bed in a hostel. During the off-season, prices are around 50 euros for a budget double room and around 20 euros for a dorm bed. 

Food

The cost of food on the Rota Vicentina can be as little as 10 euros per day if you do grocery shopping and cook for yourself or from 30 euros per person per day if you eat at restaurants 2-3 times a day. The problem with cooking is that it’s not always possible to find accommodation with a kitchen which limits you to eating sandwiches or other food that doesn’t require cooking.

Supermarkets (Pingo Doce, Lidle, Continente, etc.) often have canteens where you can find well-priced meals. You can have lunch for 5-6 euros or coffee with a pastry for 1,5 euros. You can buy take-aways and ready-made meals there as well. Small local cafes are quite cheap to eat at. You can get a menu for 7-8 euros. Restaurants by the beach cater for tourists and are quite pricy. They are great to stop for a coffee or a drink to rest and enjoy the view.

Transport

Transport is not a very big expense on the Rota Vicentina especially if you walk one of the longer routes. A bus from Lisbon to Porto Covo costs 16 euros, from Lisbon to Santiago de Cacem – 14 euros. A bus from Lagos to Lisbon is 20 euros. 

Praia da Luz, Algarve, Portugal
Praia da Luz is one of the beautiful small towns on the Rota Vicentina

Is it possible to camp on the Rota Vicentina?

Yes, it’s possible to camp on the route but not every night unless you don’t mind wild camping. There are 6 campsites on the Rota Vicentina (the Fishermen’s Trail) in Porto Covo, Vila Nova de Milfontes, Zambujeira do Mar, Odeceixe, Aljezur, and Sagres. Camping you will save quite a bit on accommodation, especially during the summer months. One of the main downsides of camping is carrying a lot of extra weight (tent, sleeping mat, cooking stuff, etc.). 

Luggage transfer service on the Rota Vicentina

It’s possible to arrange luggage delivery on the Rota Vicentina if you don’t want to walk with a big backpack. Your luggage will be transferred between your accommodation places every day. Vicentina Transfers offers luggage delivery on the both long-distance routes in both directions. They pick up your luggage at around 9 am and deliver it to the next place by 4.30 pm. The service is available from February to June and from September to November. They don’t operate in July, August, December, and January. The price is 15 euros per stage.

2 comments

  1. I heard there are 10 daily buses from Lisbon’s Sete Rios bus station to the Fishermen’s Trail towns during the summer months, but only one (possibly two) during the other months. Is this correct? I can’t find info on bus frequency in non-summer months anywhere other than one website that said in March 2022, there were 2 morning buses a day only between Fri-Sun. Please let me know if you have more info, especially if the buses leave in the morning or afternoon between Lisbon and ZdM/Odeceixe in the non-summer months.
    Lastly, as an FYI, I found that there are a couple of Flixbus buses from Oriente bus station to Fisherman’s Trail towns (and visa versa). They appear to reach their destination faster than the Rede Expressos buses.

    1. Hello Susan. There are 10 daily buses to the main towns on the Fishermen’s Trail of the Rota Vicentina (Porto Covo, Sagres, Lagos) not to every town on the route. The frequency depends on the town. Zambujeira do Mar or Odceceixe are not as well connected with Lisbon. As of now there is no information on any of the bus companies’ websites about the frequency of buses and departure times past September. Flixbus started operating in the area a couple of months ago I can’t tell you how often they go offseason because they have never been operating on the West Coast off season yet. I would suggest to check for buses on both websites RedeExpressos and FlixBus later. I don’t know when you want to walk so it’s very difficult to give a better advise. For September I can see there is one bus from Lisbon (Oriente) to Odeceixe and two buses to Zambueira do Mar Odeceixe on FlixBus website. And 7 daily buses from Lisbon (Sete Rios) to Zambujeira do Mar and 3 buses to Odeceixe on RedeExpressos website. There are morning buses to Zambueira do Mar but not to Odeceixe. It’s very easy to check you just open their websites choose the origin, the destination, and date.
      Cheers

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