Rota Vicentina, Portugal – a 2023 walking guide

Having spent five enriching years in Southern Portugal, immersed in the allure of the Alentejo and Algarve provinces, I’ve navigated the captivating trails of the Rota Vicentina.

This intricate network comprises the Fisherman’s Trail, the Historical Way, and various short circular routes that seamlessly blend with the long-distance trails. In this guide, I’ll share insights into route options, expenses, transportation, and accommodation along the mesmerizing Rota Vicentina.

Unraveling the Charm of Rota Vicentina

Embark on the Rota Vicentina, a labyrinth of walking trails meandering through the Southern Portuguese gems of Alentejo and Algarve. With the Fishermen’s Trail and the Historical Way as its backbone, and an array of circular day hikes, this network offers an exploration into some of Europe’s most scenic coastal routes.

Navigating Rota Vicentina’s Pathways

Surveying the Rota Vicentina landscape reveals two expansive long-distance trails complemented by a plethora of circuit routes and day hikes that seamlessly integrate with the lengthier trails.

Charm of Rota Vicentina
Charm of Rota Vicentina

Variety in Rota Vicentina’s Routes

NameThe Historical WayThe Fishermen’s TrailDay hikes (circular routes)
Starting pointSantiago do CacémS.Torpes Beach (Porto Covo)Different points along
the Vicentina Coast
Finishing pointOdeceixeLagosDifferent points along
the Vicentina Coast
Total distance120 km/74 mi230 km/143 mi265 km/164 mi
(24 trails)
Number of days6 days11-13 days1 day

Exploring the myriad hiking trails within Rota Vicentina unfolds a captivating tapestry of landscapes and experiences.

Traversing The Historical Way

  • Total distance – 120 km/74 mi
  • Number of days – 6 days
  • Starting point – Santiago do Cacém
  • Finishing point – Odeceixe
  • Route marking – red & white markers

The Historical Way, less trodden than its coastal counterpart, presents a tranquil journey with minimal foot traffic. Accommodations are sparse, mainly centered around Odeceixe, making it a slightly pricier venture compared to the Fishermen’s Trail. The absence of hostels or campsites accentuates the need for pre-planning, limiting culinary options to local eateries.

Dining along the Historical Way offers a budget-friendly affair, with local restaurants catering to residents rather than tourists. Enjoying a set menu for 7-8 Euros or a cup of coffee for 0.60 Euro adds a local flavor to the experience.

Rota Vicentina Traversing The Historical Way
Rota Vicentina Traversing The Historical Way

The scenery along the Historical Way is a harmonious blend of fields, forests, and hills, particularly vibrant in April-May with blooming flowers. While not as dramatic as the coastal route, this path offers a serene exploration of off-the-beaten-path locales in southern Portugal.

Embracing The Fishermen’s Trail

  • Total distance – 230 km/143 mi
  • Number of days – 11-13 days
  • Starting point – S.Torpes Beach, Porto Covo
  • Finishing point – Lagos
  • Route marking – blue & green markers

The Fishermen’s Trail is a bustling coastal route, attracting day walkers and weekend groups. With touristy pockets dotting the Alentejo and Algarve regions, this trail demands pre-booking due to its popularity. Accommodation options are diverse, including budget-friendly choices, though dining is relatively pricier than the Historical Way.

Exploring Rota Vicentina
Exploring Rota Vicentina

While the part from Odeceixe to Lagos is less crowded, the Fishermen’s Trail boasts spectacular scenery, featuring rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and charming towns. For an immersive experience, I’d personally favor the Fishermen’s Trail over the Historical Way.

Exploring Rota Vicentina: Time and Trails

Wondering how much time to allocate for your Rota Vicentina adventure? The duration varies based on your chosen route. Opt for the Fishermen’s Trail, and plan for a 12-13 day trek. Alternatively, embrace the Historical Way, requiring a more modest 6-day commitment. Flexibility is key – you can embark on specific sections as standalone hikes if time is limited.

Discovering Day Hikes on Rota Vicentina

Rota Vicentina boasts 24 captivating circular day hiking trails, covering a total distance of 265 km/164 mi. From short 4-5-kilometer strolls to 12-16-kilometer routes, each offers a unique experience.

Though we haven’t explored these trails yet, residing in Lagos, we plan to traverse them in preparation for the Portuguese Camino de Santiago with our 2-year-old. Marked with red and yellow, these day hikes showcase coastal and forest landscapes, making them an ideal addition to a road trip or beach holiday in southern Portugal.

Rota Vicentina’s Pathways
Rota Vicentina’s Pathways

Exploring these circular routes reveals a blend of coastal and forest/field scenery, perfect for incorporating into a road trip or beach vacation in southern Portugal.

Embarking on Rota Vicentina: Starting Points

The Fishermen’s Trail commences at S.Torpes Beach, 10 km north of Porto Covo, Alentejo, concluding in Lagos, Algarve. For the Historical Way, start in Santiago do Cacém, Alentejo, and finish in Odeceixe, Algarve. From Odeceixe, continue south following the Fishermen’s Trail. Both trails offer the flexibility to be walked in either direction – north to south or south to north. Day hikes begin at various locations across the region.

Begin your Rota Vicentina journey at S.Torpes Beach in Alentejo for the Fishermen’s Trail and Santiago do Cacém for the Historical Way. Both trails can be walked in either direction: north to south or south to north. Day hikes start at different locations throughout the region.

Unveiling the Beauty of Rota Vicentina

In my perspective, the stretch from Sagres to Lagos on the Fishermen’s Trail and the walk from Carrapateirs to Vila do Bispo stand out as some of the most breathtaking segments of the Rota Vicentina. Overall, the entire route enchants with pristine beaches, rugged cliffs, charming towns, and unspoiled nature.

Ensuring a Safe Journey: Travel Insurance

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Essential Guides for Your Rota Vicentina Journey

For the most reliable guidance on Rota Vicentina, turn to the official guidebook available online or at information offices along the route. In Porto Covo, grab a copy at Papelaria O Correiro, Vasco da Gama Street 7b, the starting point of the Fishermen’s Trail, or at the tourist information office in Santiago do Cacém for the Historical Way. Additionally, a Cicerone guidebook on the Rota Vicentina is available on Amazon, providing valuable insights for your expedition.

For a reliable guide to Rota Vicentina, consider the official guidebook, available online or at information offices along the route. Another option is the Cicerone guidebook, offering comprehensive information and available on Amazon.

Choosing the Ideal Season for Rota Vicentina

Curious about the best time to experience Rota Vicentina? Summer, especially July and August, is the peak season in Southern Portugal, bringing crowds and higher prices. With temperatures exceeding 30°C, it’s advisable to start your walk early in the morning to beat the heat. Booking accommodations well in advance is crucial during the summer rush.

For a more tranquil journey, consider the shoulder seasons in April-May and October. The weather is warm but not scorching, accommodation is more affordable, and advance bookings are not as critical. Spring, in particular, offers stunning scenery along the trail.

If solitude is what you seek, the off-season from November to March is perfect. While temperatures remain moderate (13°C to 16°C), rain and wind can be factors in November and December. Accommodation prices hit their lowest during this period, offering budget-friendly options.

Crafting Your Unique Route: Trail Combination

Personalize your Rota Vicentina experience by choosing how you traverse the trails. Opt for the entire Fishermen’s Trail or Historical Route separately, explore specific segments, or combine both, with the two routes converging in Odeceixe.

Option 1: From Porto Covo to Odeceixe, then switch to the Historical Way toward Santiago do Cacém. This 196 km journey takes approximately 10 days, showcasing both countryside and seaside scenery. The route can be walked in either direction.

Option 2: Start at Santiago do Cacém, proceed to Odeceixe, and continue on the Fishermen’s Trail to Lagos. This 274 km route requires 13-14 days and can be walked in either direction. Adjust the length based on your time constraints.

Alternatively, explore individual stages as day hikes or select a couple for a 2 or 3-day hiking adventure. For an exciting combination of hiking and surfing, consider starting in Porto Covo and concluding in Arrifana, covering 118 km in 6 days.

Shelter Along the Path: Accommodation Insights

Every town on Rota Vicentina offers a range of accommodation, including hotels, guesthouses, and in touristy areas, hostels. Booking in advance is essential during the peak summer season. On the Historical Way, where the route passes through less touristy regions, accommodation options are more limited. Conversely, the Fishermen’s Trail provides more choices, including hostels and campsites in popular towns like Sagres, Vilanova de Milfontes, and Lagos.

For those inclined to self-cater, opting for hostels or rental apartments with kitchen access is advisable. Hotels and guesthouses may limit your meal options to restaurants and ready-made food.

On the Fishermen’s Trail, find campsites in Porto Covo, Zambujeira do Mar, Vila Nova de Milfontes, Odeceixe, Aljezur, Sagres, Salema, and Lagos, all conveniently located near the route. The Historical Way offers only one campsite in Odeceixe, and between Santiago do Cacém and S.Teotónio, there are no camping options.

Calculating the Expenses: Cost of Rota Vicentina

The Algarve and Alentejo provinces draw summer crowds, leading to increased accommodation prices between June and September. Budget considerations depend on the time of your walk. Off-season, from November to March, is the most economical, while shoulder seasons in October, April, and May are moderately priced. The summer months from June to September incur higher expenses, as we noticed during our May hike.

On average, anticipate spending 35-40 Euro per person per day on Rota Vicentina, covering accommodation, food, and transportation. If using a luggage transfer service, factor in an additional 15 Euro per day.

Dining Insights Along the Trail

Grocery Shopping

For a budget-friendly food experience, consider buying groceries and preparing your meals. Opt for accommodations with kitchen facilities to avoid being limited to sandwiches. Expect to spend around 10 Euros per person for groceries to cover three meals. Larger supermarkets like Lidl, InterMarche, and Pingo Doce often have cafes or canteens offering reasonably priced meals, sandwiches, or pastries.

Dining Out

Exploring restaurants along Rota Vicentina may come with a price tag, especially in comparison to other Portuguese regions. Prices vary, with inland locations generally more affordable than beach towns. Plan for 10 Euros per dish, plus an additional 2-4 Euros for drinks, bread, coffee, etc. Our typical dinner bill for two averaged around 30 Euros. A sandwich (Tosta Mista) and a beverage or coffee cost around 3 Euros.

Portugal boasts some of Europe’s most affordable coffee: Espresso is approximately 0.70 Euro, while coffee with milk (Galao) ranges from 1.20 to 1.50 Euros. An Americano typically costs around 1 Euro.

Lodging Experiences on the Path

Accommodation stands out as the primary expense on Rota Vicentina, with costs ranging from 10 Euros (camping) to 30 Euros (hotel room) per person.

Hotels/Guesthouses emerge as popular choices along the trail, with prices fluctuating between 40 and 60 Euros for a double room. Occasional finds may offer rooms for around 30 Euros per two people, especially during the off-season.

Hostels represent the budget-friendly indoor option on Rota Vicentina. Not every town on the trail has a hostel, similar to camping. Along the Fishermen’s Trail, hostels are available, but the Historical Way lacks this option. Dormitory beds typically range from 15 to 20 Euros per person, influenced by the season. Prices peak in July, August, and September, while off-season rates (November to March) are more economical.

Camping remains the most economical choice, but not every town provides campsites. Camping costs range from 10 to 12 Euros per person per day, influenced by the season. Carrying camping gear, including a tent, sleeping bag, pad, and cooking equipment, adds weight to your backpack.

Navigating the Trail: Transportation Tips

Public transport conveniently connects almost every town on Rota Vicentina. A one-way bus journey from Lisbon to Porto Covo or Santiago do Cacém costs between 15 and 20 Euros. Traveling from Lagos or Odeceixe to Lisbon requires approximately 20 Euros. Keep an eye on the RedeExpressos website, where Lisbon bus tickets are sometimes available for 7 to 10 euros. Inter-town bus fares on the trail range from 3 to 7 Euros, varying by distance.

Considering these factors, I’d recommend budgeting around 25 Euros per person per day for camping and self-catering, 35-45 Euros for indoor stays (hostels and budget rooms) with self-cooked meals, and 50+ Euros to cover hotel stays and dining out at least once a day.

Convenient Luggage Transfer with Vicentina Transfers

If the idea of lugging around a large backpack on the Rota Vicentina doesn’t appeal to you, consider utilizing a backpack delivery service. Vicentina Transfers offers a convenient solution, allowing your backpack to be transferred daily between accommodations. This way, you can enjoy your walk with a small daypack, carrying only essentials like valuables, water, and snacks.

Vicentina Transfers is the service that handles luggage delivery on the trails. The cost is 15€ per luggage item per stage, with an additional 5 euros for each extra piece of luggage. The weight limit is 20 kg per item. This door-to-door service picks up your backpack in the morning (around 9 am) at the reception and delivers it to your next stop.

Navigating Your Way to Rota Vicentina

Most towns along the Rota Vicentina are well-connected with direct buses to Lisbon, making it easy to reach the trail and return.

Traveling from Lisbon to Santiago do Cacém, the Historical Way

You can catch one of the 9 daily buses from Lisbon Sete Rios Bus Station to Santiago do Cacém. The journey lasts 2 hours, and the fare is 14 Euros. Opt for the earliest bus if you plan to start your walk on the same day. Tickets and departure times can be confirmed on the Rede Expressos website.

Traveling from Lisbon to Porto Covo, the Fishermen’s Trail

As of April 2023, there are 6 daily buses from Lisbon to Porto Covo. Five depart from Sete Rios Bus Station, and one departs from Oriente Station. The journey takes between 2 and 3 hours, with a fare of 16.5 Euros.

Returning to Lisbon from Odeceixe and Lagos

Buses connect Odeceixe (the end of the Historical Way) and Lagos (the end of the Fishermen’s Trail) to Lisbon. Odeceixe has 4 buses to Lisbon (3 to Sete Rios and 1 to Oriente), with a journey time of 3 hours and 30 minutes, and a fare of 19 Euros.

From Lagos, numerous buses head to both Lisbon bus stations: Sete Rios and Oriente. The standard fare is 20 Euros, with occasional discounts of 7 or 10 euros. Buses take 4 hours. Check the schedule and purchase tickets online.

Alternatively, trains run from Lagos to Lisbon with a connection in Tunte, typically lasting 5-10 minutes. Departure times and prices can be verified on the official website.

Contrasting the Rota Vicentina with the Camino de Santiago

While trekking the Camino de Santiago, we encountered numerous fellow pilgrims expressing interest in experiencing the Rota Vicentina. Drawing from our journey along 9 different Camino routes (French, Portuguese, Primitivo, del Norte, Vía de la Plata, Finisterre, Inglés, del Salvador, and Gran Canaria) and two Rota Vicentina routes (Fishermen’s Trail and Historical Way), I offer a comparison focusing on scenery, cost, and facilities.


Both the Rota Vicentina and the Camino boast clear markings, eliminating the need for GPS or maps. Unlike the Camino, the Rota Vicentina lacks pilgrim albergues, but every town on the route provides accommodations, ATMs, restaurants, and shops.


The Fishermen’s Trail steals our hearts with its coastal charm, a rarity as the entire route hugs the coastline—dramatic cliffs, pristine beaches, and secluded bays, an ideal holiday trail. While the Coastal Route on the Portuguese Camino and the Northern Camino also showcase seaside scenery, the Fishermen’s Trail stands out for its uninterrupted coastal beauty.

If you seek a spectacular coastal hike in the Algarve but lack time for an extended trail, consider the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail—a one-day adventure offering breathtaking regional views.


Rota Vicentina leans towards the pricier side compared to the Camino de Santiago, primarily due to accommodation. The absence of pilgrim albergues means opting for hostels and hotels, ranging between 20 and 40 Euros per person depending on the season and accommodation type. Camping, an alternative, costs between 10 and 12 Euros per person, requiring you to carry camping gear. The region, being a popular holiday destination, comes with elevated costs compared to other parts of Portugal. On the Camino, you can enjoy a Menu del Dia for 7-10 Euros, while on the Fishermen’s Trail, a single dish commands the same price. The Historical Way offers more affordable dining options, with menus around 7-8 Euros or sandwiches for 2 Euros.

Walking Surface

Unlike certain Camino routes, the Rota Vicentina minimizes walking on paved roads. The predominant terrain comprises footpaths or gravel roads, gentler on the feet than asphalt. While some Fishermen’s Trail stages traverse beaches or dunes, creating more challenging and slower walking conditions.

Closing Thoughts on Rota Vicentina

In my opinion, especially with the Fishermen’s Trail, the Rota Vicentina feels more like a holiday trek than a pilgrimage. It doesn’t carry the same spiritual or cultural weight found on the Camino de Santiago routes. If your goal is a week-long hike combined with a beach vacation, Rota Vicentina is an excellent choice. For a more profound spiritual or cultural experience, exploring the Camino de Santiago routes would be more fitting, offering architectural wonders and historical towns.

Resources for Planning Your Rota Vicentina Adventure

  • Combine the Historical Way with the Coastal Route | Explore the Fishermen’s Trail walking itinerary |
  • Discover more about the Camino de Santiago in Portugal | Refer to the detailed guide on the Portuguese Camino de Santiago |
  • Explore another coastal walk in Portugal! | Embark on the Coastal Route of the Portuguese Camino de Santiago |
  • Deepen your understanding of the Rota Vicentina | Visit the official Rota Vicentina website |
  • Rent a car and explore more of the Algarve | Find the best car rental deals|

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