Walking is free, relieves stress, sparks creativity, helps you sleep better, is a great way to stay fit without intense physical effort, and the list goes on… Everyone is well aware of the uncountable benefits of walking on a daily basis and it is fairly easy to squeeze a short walk here and there on weekdays and a longer one during the weekend. However, holidays tend to ruin good habits and the walking routine is replaced by the tempting moto “eat, sleep, repeat”. What if you could pair both and go for a “walk, eat, sleep, repeat” kind of day?
Rota Vicentina is the perfect place to do so. It matches spectacular walking trails, beautiful beaches, fresh and delicious food and peaceful villages where relaxing and going offline seems almost mandatory.
Rota Vicentina is a network of 445km of walking trails in the southwest of Portugal. It comprises two distinct paths: the fishermen trail, which follows the coast, and the historical way, more inland. They’re both thought to be done on foot, with stretches that do not exceed 25km per day. Even though they are quite distinct, they intersect in some places, and you can easily swap from one to the other and experience a radically different scenery. They’re perfect for Spring and Autumn, since during summer time it is a lot hotter and also more crowded as many locals and tourists head to this area for summer holidays.
These trails are located inside the Sudoeste Alentejano and Costa Vicentina Natural Park, meaning they’re part of a protected area where tourism has grown in a sustainable way and most villages have kept their rustic charm and chilled vibe. To add to the undeniable beauty of the natural scenery, there are dozens of unspoilt beaches where the sun sets behind the ocean, charming little villages where time is trapped and moves slower, green fields of aromatic plants and wild bushes that grow freely and, to top it all off, amazing fresh produce with which locals create yummy dishes.
The Fishermen Trail
The fishermen trail comprises 4 stages and 5 circular circuits, with a total of 120km. It owes its name to the local fishermen who use challenging paths near the beaches to access theirs boats or catch fish, octopus and other seafood. The trails go along the beaches and sandy paths, sometimes on top of very tall cliffs, providing jaw-dropping views. Along the way you can spot small fishing harbours hiding between the ancient rocks, watch the birds flying around and building their nests nearby, being constantly exposed to the sea breeze. The characteristics of the terrain make it physically challenging, but every step of the way is a rewarding experience.
The Historical Way
On the other hand, the Historical Way snakes through very old villages and small rural towns, lush forests, hilltops, valleys and rivers flanked by beautiful green fields. The countryside hides its treasures and a lot of history, which is a joy to discover as you walk by. The full path comprises 12 stages, with a total of 230km, which means you can literally start walking in Santiago do Cacém and go all the way down to Cabo São Vicente, the southwesternmost point of Portugal.
After walking for miles, it’s time to recharge batteries and what’s best than lying at the beach?
There are loads of beaches worth a visit on the coast of the natural park. The wild surrounding vegetation and curvy dunes shaped by the wind set the perfect scenario to sit back and relax. Some of them have very long stretches of sand, while others are smaller and harder to access to. The geological heritage is notorious in the area and in many beaches you can stare at the ancient rocks being shaped by the tireless ocean.
The rocky seas create perfect conditions for surfing and you can see many schools, hostels and campsites specially for that purpose. When it’s too windy and the waves are broken, windsurf and kitesurf are also good options!
Since all the beaches are facing west, the sunsets are a daily show, with the surrounding landscape turning golden as the sun switches positions with the moon.
Another strong asset in this region is the food. The ingredients are all locally sourced and super fresh and the flavours are bold and honest. Obviously fish and seafood play a huge role on the local’s diet due to the proximity to the ocean, but meat lovers won’t be disappointed either.
But first things first! Appetisers here means you’ll always have freshly baked bread, olives and some kind of charcuterie or cheese on offer. It’s a Portuguese thing, so do try it. Then as a starter try the caspacho, a kind of sloppy gaspacho, the delicious clams cooked with garlic, white wine and coriander (“amêijoas à bulhão pato”) and the scrambled eggs with green asparagus. Regarding main dishes we choose plain and simple grilled fish (the catch of the day with a squeeze of lemon will never disappoint!) or açorda, a dish made with stale bread, garlic, herbs and juicy tomato. It might sound a bit off, but it tastes like heaven.
If you are curious and want to learn more about the available trails check the official website Rota Vicentina, where you can filter the information according to your preferences. In case you'd like us to come up with a personalised itinerary, we'd be delighted to help!
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