One of the Best Coastal Trails to Hike in the World--Perfect to Pair with a Trip to Lisbon for sustainable travel.
Hiking along breathtaking cliff sides in November with sunny skies, easy transport from Lisbon and octopus confit for lunch on the trail? Yes, please!
Overview Fisherman’s Trail Hike
The last wild coast in Europe.
Mostly flat single track always on the Atlantic Ocean with stunning views.
Backpacker, Bike tour, family and retiree walking tours friendly.
Wild camping is not allowed.
Incredibly well marked sandy trails.
Delicious quaint villages with excellent food and a variety of friendly & comfortable accommodations.
This guide is intended for those that want a predictably great hiking experience with delicious Portuguese restaurants near comfortable accommodations that don’t require carrying a tent, or even a backpack (luggage transport is available)
▶️ Ready to plan your SELF GUIDED multi day walk along the last wild coast in Europe? Use our free tool.
When presented with golf course and towering condo development along the Alentejo Atlantic coast, Portugal instead invested in the Rota Vicentina Eco Tourism project.
It connects ancient fishing trails and where needed, new hiking trails have been built to create 225km (140miles) of the best coastal scenery path in Europe all the way to Cabo Sao Vicente at the very southern tip of Europe.
Dark gray striped cliff sides, fossilized sand dunes, and tiny quaint fishing villages were linked by the Fishermen’s Trail with an emphasis on slow and responsible travel.
▶️ Want to hike with only a daypack? Luggage transport is simple and easy.
Rota Vicentina Weather
The Alentejo coastline of Portugal is often driven past by tourists on the way between Lisbon and the popular Algarve in the South. I did it myself, twice!
This is especially great for hikers that don't want to travel to South America or New Zealand to hike September to June.
The weather is temperate and mild mid September to June compared to most of Europe. There can be occasional rain and humidity, but it's also not uncommon to wear t-shirts in the sun in November. Rain gear is needed for hiking, but not the mountaineer version. A simple rain coat and backpack cover should suffice.
And birdwatchers interested in the last white stork nesting ground in Europe will be surprised at what this little, last wild corner of Europe has to offer.
How This Guide is Organized
Routes & Practical Information
Best of Rota Vicentina Fisherman’s Trail Hiking Guide
Bonus: Backpacking in the Alps --- Comfortably or Even with Kids
Fishermen’s Trail Portugal Hiking Route Options
There’s some confusion around the terms Rota Vicentina and Fishermen’s Trail. Under the umbrella of “Rota Vicentina” are included the Historical Way (inland, resembling the Camino Portuguese), Fishermen’s Trail (coastal), and Circular Routes (day hikes).
The “Fishermen's Trail” is considerably more scenic than the Historical Way and runs directly on the coast in 13 stages. Each year more sections are developed and improved, great news for you explorers!
4-5 Day Fishermen’s Trail Itinerary
I’ve hiked the absolutely most scenic stages for this 4 day guide. I met new hiking friends along the trail in 2021 who’ve done it more than once, and this is the part they have come back to again and again.
Arrival Day: Get to Porto Covo: (Lisbon to Porto Covo 2.5 hours, Detailed Transport Here)
Stage 1: Porto Covo to Vila Nova Milfontes 12 miles, 20 km
Stage 2: Vila Nova Milfontes to Almograve 9 miles, 15 km
Stage 3: Almograve to Zambujeira do Mar 13 miles, 21 km
Stage 4: Zambujeira do Mar to Odeceixe 11 miles, 18 km
If you’d like a longer trip, this Rota Vicentina Fishermen’s Trail website provides helpful information and an app to plan the entire way.
It’s possible to hike in either direction as the trail is very well marked in both directions, including symbols on “where not to hike”, however the North to South direction is the most simple in terms of bus connections.
Please note many hikers will use bus transport to avoid some of the more boring sections, such as between Odeceixe and Aljezur. Also, accommodations in winter may be difficult on the more southern stretches toward Lagos, and people may either wild camp or taxi to the next place to sleep.
Fishermen’s Trail Walk Planning Resources
Take away the stress of planning this 4 day trek/hike/stroll with my free tool and even synch it with your google calendar to walk the best of WILD PORTUGAL! Especially fun in November.
Flight bus, taxi tracker
Recommended and Rad Accommodations
Hiking times and distances
Wondrous and unusual points of interest
My Fishermen's Trail Planner Tool is mobile-friendly for guidance and expense tracking directly on the Trail.
I would recommend planning ahead on desktop. There are standard spreadsheets & the free tool Airtable. Synch it to your google or ical calendar and plan your own adventure.
Fishermen’s Trail Portugal Map
Google Map: Rota Vicentina Best of Fishermen's Trail
How to use this map: Use your computer mouse or fingers to zoom in and out. Click on the icons to get more information. Click the arrow on the top left corner for the written index. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your google maps account. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open google maps, click the menu button, and go to “your places”/ “maps.”
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How Long is the Fishermen’s Trail in Portugal
The length of the Best of the Fishermen’s Trail 4 day hike is 76 km (47 miles) long.
The stages outlined in this guide average about 5-6 hours of easy walking time each day at 15-21 km (9-13 miles). TAKE ME DIRECTLY TO STAGES
Plan for snack and photo stops here on the edge of the European continent overlooking cerulean blue seas with views of daring Portuguese fishermen in places that seem like they need a helicopter to get to.
Fishermen’s Trail Full route: 13 stages and 225 km (140 miles). This Cicerone Guidebook is a very helpful for planning.
How to Get to Trailhead at Porto Covo from Lisbon
Compared to the United States, public transportation is generally excellent in Portugal and inexpensive. Outside Porto and Lisbon, buses are the best. It’s possible to shorten or lengthen your hiking trip as there are bus stops in each of the main villages I’ve outlined.
For example, if you only have 3 days you can return to Lisbon from the 3rd village Zambujiera do Mar instead of going the full 4 days to Odeceixe.
Renting a one way car is not a viable option unless you hike all the way to Lagos (12 stages). Also the train options are much slower than buses and run inland.
Buses in Portugal are Excellent
Book ahead online at Rede-Expressos bus company.
Practical Information About the Fishermen’s Walk
One of the easiest long distance trails to just get up and go, but some planning in the “busy” season is needed to secure accommodation options such as hostels, hotels or cozy bnb private rooms.
On a bicycle tour of the Iberian peninsula and want to get off your butt on onto your feet? No problem, many of the hostels will hold your bike for you for 4-5 days to complete the walk.
When to Hike the Fishermen’s Trail
The hike is accessible September through June.
October is the most popular time and you’ll have more restaurants open, but November is my all time favorite because the mountain season is over, yet the coastal weather is good, enough cultural places are open, and the main thrust of tourists have returned to school/work after Fall breaks.
July and August are less than ideal due to the heat and luggage transfers aren’t available.
According to Lamella’s, a female-chef owned restaurant in Porto Covo, there’s an unspoken agreement between food establishments to rotate and keep one nice restaurant in each village open to grow the off-season (hiking) eco-tourism in this typical summer vacation area.
Typical of Europe, most of the restaurants will take 2-3 weeks of a vacation and completely close but will post it on their window.
Accommodations on the Fisherman’s Trail Route
My Fishermen's Trail Planner Tool is mobile-friendly to help you organize your nightly stay directly on the Trail.
Unlike many Alps destinations, finding accommodations on this hike is easiest on booking.com.
A range of budget hostels, mid-range hotels and farm stays are available. Sustainable hotels are indicated on the booking.com website and I’ve listed my favorites that were open in November in each stage.
Cost for Fishermen’s Trail
Excluding the cost of travel to Lisbon, a 4 Day hike with a stay the night before in Porto Covo, the trip should cost:
Low end (excluding wild campers) 186 euros
High end & more comfort 500 euros
Budget: Hostel/snacking with only one simple meal eaten in restaurant: (36 bus + 100 hostel + 50 simple food) = 186 Euros
Bed and Breakfast, luggage transport and “Elevated Portuguese” meals with wine: (36 bus + 20 taxi + 60 luggage + 275 Bed & Breakfast + 100 elevated food + 20 wine) = 506 Euros
—>My free planning tool has a simple spreadsheet where you can track your actual expenses via a free mobile app called Airtable and links to planning websites and google coordinates of stations. Also standard spreadsheets.
Bus Transportation: 36 euros
Luggage Transportation: 60 euros (same price for 2)
Accomodations: Farm stay private room with breakfast for 2 with bathroom 50-60 euros, Upscale hotel with breakfast 55, Hostel with shared bathroom and breakfast 18-22.
Food costs will range but quality is high and prices are low relative to other European destinations.
Lunch & Dinners:
Sea Bream (Dorade fish) with potato, bread and salad 8-12 Euros
“Elevated” Portuguese: 12-18 Euros
Confit Octopus: 7 euros
Charcuterie, vegetable and cheese board: 9 Euros
Hamburger and potatoes: 6 Euros
Sweets: <1 Euro
House wine liter: 4-6 Euros
Snacks: Sardines 1.80, Bread rolls .20, apple .50
Water: tap is safe
Rota Vicentina Portugal : Luggage Transportation
Lisbon train stations and subway stations have lockers you can rent to store extra luggage that you don’t want to carry, or you can utilize the Vicentina Transfers company to lighten your load.
For 15 euros a transfer (2nd bag free), this dynamo couple of a team will pick up your bags at your accommodation around 9 am and deliver it to your next destination accomodation. You can book everything entirely online in English on their website and if you’ve got any changes you can use WhatsApp to communicate easily.
Tips for Hiking the Rota Vicentina Portugal
Follow the teal and blue signs, it’s almost impossible to miss. When presented with a fork in the path, it will be marked in teal and blue with a hash to indicate you’re going the wrong way.
2. Do the luggage transfer, with only a daypack you can explore the cliffs, dunes and mysterious abandoned mansions with a lighter load.
3. Be prepared for sand with lighter weight trail running shoes. Boots fill up fast and are heavy in the sand. Take the time to empty shoes and avoid blisters. 4. Bring sun and eye protection even in the winter months, there’s very little shade. 5. The Rota Vicentina app or Cicerone guidebook can help you navigate.
6. If you love food, go easy on the daytime snacks and seek out the hole in the wall places in tiny villages for lunch. You may need to do a lot of pointing and google translate as the villages are rustic and English may be limited. 7. Save room for a lovely dinner each night. Invite other hikers to sit with you for a drink or share a “caught this morning” fish, as the good ones are usually big enough for 2-4 people to share. 8. Plan your hike around one of the many local sweet potato festivals that brighten up the tiny villages and cause a party in November. This region is famous for the highly nutritious, diverse and delicious sweet potato (nothing like the orange atrocity typical in American grocery stores). 9. For a full gear guide that I personally tested check out the full list here (Coming soon).
Best of Rota Vicentina Fisherman’s Trail Hiking Guide
Arrival and Travel Day to Porto Covo from Lisbon
How to Get to Porto Covo
If coming from North America, get to the Lisbon airport (LIS Humberto Delgado Airport). Then you’ll want to make your way to Lisboa Sete Rios station. From here using the “Rede-expressos” bus company to get to the trailhead at the seaside town of Porto Covo.
Timetables do change with the seasons so start your planning here and plan your outgoing bus (16.50) to Porto Covo. Traffic can be challenging in Lisbon, so if you’re trying to get to Porto Covo on the day you fly into Lisbon you may want to have a morning flight arrival in order to get the late afternoon bus to Porto Covo.
I’d allow at least 2 hours commute time from the airport to the bus station in case of delays. Changing all of your nightly accommodations because you missed the bus won’t be much fun.
Book ahead online at Rede-Expressos bus company.
I had plenty of time to explore the TimeOut Market and wander through the exquisite tile-clad Alfama neighborhood on my arrival day before the bus ride to Porto Covo.
From Lisbon airport it’s simple to use google maps to find the correct subway (1-2 euros), or you can download the “Free Now” app for a private car (around 15-20 euros) to get to the bus station at Sete Rios.
While taxis are available in small villages, they often are booked and much more expensive. If you want to fly out of Faro airport instead of Lisbon, this is likely going to be your best bet and you’ll want to call well ahead of time to secure a taxi.
Where to Stay in Porto Covo Near Fisherman’s Trail
I loved staying at Mute, a chic sustainable hostel directly on the ocean with a delicious breakfast included. Sitting on a deck overlooking the ocean with 3 cups of americano coffee and fresh eggs was a great way to start this adventure.
For a lovely guest house featuring private bathroom and a great location in town check out Pé na Areia, Alojamento Local.
Want to rent a whole house for sustainable travel right in Porto Covo? Chaparro Holidays - Big house with terrace will provide a lovely stay.
Where to Eat in Porto Covo
Try to get a reservation for Lamella’s for an interesting take on modern Portuguese cuisine. Female, chef owned and with elegant details such as dried and powdered cilantro.
Fishermen’s Trail Stage 1: Porto Covo to Vila Nova Milfontes
Distance: 20 km, 12 miles
Difficulty: Moderate only due to sand
Ascent/Descent: Mild about 450 ft
Tips for Hungry Hikers: Grab coffee at the first seaside restaurant you see called A Ilha under Forte do Pessegueiro. Don’t order a latte, in Portugal this is a kids’ drink called Um galao and it’s a LOT of milk. I try to order the “meia de leite” which is more like coffee and milk.
Good luck though. Portuguese pronunciation is something of an art form as they don’t pronounce many of the vowels and run the words together, similar to the sound of Russian.
Coffee Ordering guide. Bring snacks for lunch as there’s not another village until the evening stop.
Wondrous and Unusual Points of Interest: Walk along the beach without your shoes as much as possible. There are paths more inland, but enjoy these stretches of pristine sand with abandoned fortresses on the dunes and islands reminding you of Portugal's golden age of sailing and world dominance.