The Fisherman’s Trail five-day itinerary
The Fisherman’s Trail is located on the Rota Vicentina in south-west Portugal. It is a rugged walk of both land and sea, taking you through the rolling countryside of the Alentejo interior before joining a dramatic coastal path. Luke and Nell, the duo behind What if We Walked, share their tailored itinerary to The Fisherman’s Trail after completing the route last year.
What to know before you go
Our suggested itinerary begins in the town of Santiago do Cacém, which is easy to reach by bus from Lisbon coach station. The coach is inexpensive and takes only two hours, but has plenty of stunning coastal and rural views. If you’d like to spend a few days in southern Portugal before your walk, you can also get a bus from Faro to Lagos and approach Santiago do Cacém from the south.
Out of the five days walking on the Rota Vicentina, the first two are along the Historical Way, which is waymarked with a classic red and yellow blaze. The final three days are along the Fishermen’s Trail, which has a blue and green blaze.
We would recommend walking the trail in spring or autumn, as the summer in Alentejo can reach temperatures of 40 degrees.
Start: Santiago do Cacém
Santiago do Cacém to Vale Seco
You start with a day of two halves. First, the trail goes through springy cork tree forests, passing farms along the way, and then onto open, rolling pastures dotted with working hamlets. There’s a couple of rural cafes for you to stop at.
Leave Vale Seco and make your way to Cercal Alentejo
More rural exploration along old roads and private tracks, passing little villages all with a bit of life in them. After nata and a coffee in Cercal, catch the local bus a short way to Vila Nova de Milfontes, and stay in the old centre by the fort. Take a short walk in the evening out to the headland at the end of the sheltered beach. It’s a great view back and you can look south along the coast to see where your journey continues on the Fishermen’s Way.
Vila Nova de Milfontes to Cavaleiro
The Fishermen’s Way takes a few miles to get into its stride, but when it does, it doesn’t disappoint. It’s craggy and dramatic, sea spray curling up the cliffs, the whole area technicoloured blue, purple and orange.
You want to start early and make it to Almograve for a long lunch and a rest, before walking the final section to Cavaleiro. That way you’ll be walking with the setting sun, and the red-rocked cliffs will seem to glow. The section between Almograve and Cavaleiro is arguably the best of the entire Fishermen’s Way.
Cavaleiro to Zambujeira do Mar
Again make an early start, just so you can see the Lighthouse at Cavaleiro at its sun-soaked best. As you head south, stop to spot the stork pairs at many amazingly-stacked nests along the coast. This again is a very dramatic section of the walk, whatever the weather.
You pass through the very atmospheric fishing harbour Porto das Barcas. There’s a couple of places to grab a fresh seafood lunch here, but we thought O Sacas was particularly good (it’s also just up the short hill from the little harbour).
Zambujeira do Mar is quite large, with a lovely beach below the town that you can stroll to on in the evening.
Zambujeira do Mar to Odeceixe, Algarve
The last day of your journey on the Rota Vicentina is a farewell to Alentejo, as you cross the river into Odeceixe and on into the Algarve. The final stretch of the Fishermen’s Way rewards you with a spectacular view of Odeceixe and its windmills.
There’s again a good place to get a local seafood lunch in Azenha do Mar, little more than halfway along the route for the day. This village is another excellent place to spot storks in the rocky bay below before you drop into Odeceixe and finish the trail.
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