In Santiago do Cacém, in the southwest of Portugal, starts the “ruta Vicentina”. With 400 kilometers of footpaths that will take us through charming villages, impossible cliffs, dream landscapes … We will reach Cape San Vicente at the end of our trip.
We are going to visit one of the best-preserved coastal areas of Europe. Enjoying Portugal in a very special way of far from the big cities of the neighbouring country.
This route along the Vincentian coast is divided into two main routes, the so-called ‘Camino Histórico’ and the ‘Sendero de los pescadores. Has eight circular routes. The first one starts in Santiago do Cacém and the second one in Porto Covo, finishing both in Cabo de San Vicente (Algarve area).
Which route do I choose on the Ruta Vicentina?
Depends. Both are routes that we can do but it must be borne in mind that one and the other are quite different. If the Historical Way crosses the innermost part of the Alentejo, the Sendero de los Pescadores (Fishermen’s Trail) does the same with the more coastal area, both are included in the Parque Natural del suroeste Alentejano and the Costa Vicentina.
Therefore, if our idea is to enjoy the sea we will choose the second, and if we want something more rural, the first. In addition we will take into account our physical form, with whom we make the route and several more details of which we will leave of doubts in this analysis of both routes of the Vincentian Route.
The ‘Camino Histórico’, a simple and highly recommended route
This route of the Vincentian Route is very simple and can be done in family perfectly, on foot or by bicycle, even on horseback in some sections. It is long, with more than 200 kilometers of route, and it starts from Santiago do Cacém until arriving at the Cape of San Vicente, being divided in twelve stages of between 15 and 25 kilometers each one.
It is a pedestrian route that crosses forest tracks, forests, rivers, valleys, beaches and historic towns such as San Luis, Odemira or Porto Covo. In it we are going to enjoy landscapes in which the hand of the man has not made dent, an exquisite gastronomy and we are going to find much peace in each one of the localities that we visit.
This Historic Route is perfectly signposted, has accommodation along the route and received in 2016 the certificate ‘Leading Quality Trails-Best of Europe’, which meant that it became part of the most recommended routes to do in Europe.
Ruta Vicentina: What stages are there on the Historic Trail?
Santiago do Cacém-Vale Seco (18 Km.)
The poplars of Alentejo, from which the cork is extracted, will be our travelling companions in this stretch in which the church of Santiago do Cetelém, a compulsory visit for pilgrims who came to Santiago from the Promontorium Sacrum (Cape of San Vicente) since the Middle Ages, will be our starting point.
Vale Seco-Cercal do Alentejo (23 Km.)
The driest zone of our Historical Way, takes us through agricultural and rural areas where the contrasts are served. If you press the heat, a good stop is Campilhas, a lagoon where you can rest and take a bath.
Cercal do Alentejo-Porto Covo (18 Km.)
Here the Historical Way joins the Fishermen’s Way, contrasting the dry interior with the power of the ocean. We will enjoy the biodiversity with the strawberries and the more than 150 species of plants that grow on the route.
Alentejo-San Luis Fence (21 Km.)
This stretch is the hardest physically because the climbs will be long and the terrain is irregular. From the hills that we crown we will have beautiful views of the Atlantic and the fields of the area.
San Luis-Odemira (25 Km.)
The water makes everything turn emerald green in this stretch, the longest of them all. Brooks, ponds and Ribeira do Torgal as the star of the route take us to Odemira where the river Mira awaits us.
Odemira-S.Teotónio (19 Km.)
It is a very easy area to cover, without great unevenness, which is going to surprise us with the possibility of seeing the otters in their natural habitat in the Mira River.
S.Teotónio-Odeceixe (17 Km.)
Trekking in its purest state along wild paths that will fascinate us. Visiting this area in spring is a delight, its valleys and hills are taking us to the Algarve, where we reconnect with the Path of Fishermen.
Odeceixe-Aljezur (19,5 Km.)
The so-called coastal highlands will be our path through pastures and farmland where pines and eucalyptus will guide us on the way. Perhaps we will see in the fields one of Europe’s protected butterflies, the red-wave maiden.
Aljezur-Arrifana (12 Km.):
A short stage that starts with a visit to the Castle of Aljezur, one of the seven that appear on the Portuguese flag, and which may lead us to venture into the Trilho dos Pescadores or visit other surrounding areas.
Arrifana-Carrapateira (24 Km.)
This section is pure essence Vicentine Route. We will pass by Bordeira and there we will see the river valley with the same name and the estuary where it joins the river Carrapateira, a beautiful photo that we will not forget.
Carrapateira-Vila do Bispo (22 Km.)
Valleys where man has not left his mark will take us to the colourful villages of Pedralva and Vilarinha. In this area, amphibians and birds deserve our full attention.
Vila do Bispo-Cabo de San Vicente (14 Km.)
We arrive at the end of the Historical Way with a stop at the ‘Torre del Aspa’, a viewpoint that will give us a perspective of the brutality of the wall that makes up the cliffs. In Sagres we’ll see ornithologists and bird lovers gathered to see the migration of birds and seabirds in autumn, with more than 5,000 birds of 300 different species. We finished the route in Vale Santo, there is the lighthouse but was once part of the pilgrimage route to the monastery of San Vicente.
El Trilho dos Pescadores, a demanding but wonderful route
The Fishermen’s Trail, Trilho dos Pescadores in Portuguese, has a more complex and demanding layout, starting in Porto Covo and ending at Cape San Vicente, running in the heart of the Natural Park of Southwest Alentejo and the Costa Vicentina.
This Trilho dos Pescadores consists of more than 120 kilometers, runs along the coast by roads used by locals to reach fishing areas and beaches, and is divided into five stages and four circuits that we can only do on foot, as cycling is prohibited.
Not suitable for people with vertigo, as we will be stuck to the coast with cliffs of vertigo, and with sand trails, we must keep in mind that our physical form must be good.
What stages are there in the Fishermen’s Trilho?
Porto Covo-Vilanova de Milfontes (20 Km.)
Empty coves where you can enjoy the solitude and the ocean, the dunes of Ilha do Pessegueiro, Aivados and Malhao or the beach of Milfontes, will make the hard way worthwhile.
Vilanova de Milfontes-Almograve (15 Km.)
The mouth of the river Mira and the beach of Furnas are the great attractions of Milfontes, known as ‘Princess of Alentejo’. We will enjoy the curious names that the locals give to the rocks that the ocean has sculpted: ‘Pegada do Boi’ (cow’s footprint) or ‘Pedras do Inferno’ (stones of hell), are two of the most singular and we will be accompanied by the swifts that nest in them.
Almograve-Zambujeira do Mar (22 Km.)
Red sand, pine forests, storks nesting on cliffs, a situation we can only see here, and fishing villages that maintain the essence of yesteryear is what we will find in this fascinating stretch.
Zambujeira do Mar-Odeceixe (18 Km.)
Alteirinhios, Machados, Carvalhal and Amàlia are beaches that we will find on the way to Azenha do Mar where we will be surprised to find a natural fishing port. From Ponta em Branco we will see the Odeceixe beach and the rabbits will accompany us letting us see their burrows in some of the dunes.
Odeceixe-Rogil (14,5 Km.)
The Odeceixe windmill, which still works and can be visited, and the wetlands of the Seixe river are the starting point of this last stage. We will arrive traveling through habitats very rich in flora and fauna and dunes with mantles of shrubs that resist the wind.
What are the circular routes of the Ruta Vicentina?
For those who do not want to make long stages, suffer some physical impediment or simply do not have time, the Vincentian Route proposes eight circular routes in which we will discover wonderful natural spaces both coastal and inland along almost 90 kilometers.
These are much shorter than the main stages and always start and end in the same place, can be done in half a day or a day and serve to complement and enlarge the main stages. They’re next:
The dunes of Almogarve (8 Km.)
Short route that connects with the Path of the Fishermen and in which we will see reflected the agricultural part and the coastal zone with the beach of Brejo Largo.
San Luis Gardens (3,5 Km.)
a nice excursion through the surrounding farms and the gardens and courtyards of this beautiful town.
Troviscais a Mira (11,5 Km.):
The forests of eucalyptus and cork oaks are companions of this route in which we will arrive until the river Mira.
Odeceixe Beach (15 Km.)
this route coincides with that of Odeceixe to Rogil of the Historic Way.
Santa Clara Routes (10+13Km.)
Two circular routes that have in common the town of Santa Clara. One exits to the east and the other to the west, they can be done individually or together.
From Bordeira to the Sea (6/13,5 Km.)
Another circuit that allows us two options of route. Either by the area of dunes closest to the ocean or by the interior towards the hills.
Endiabrada and hidden lakes (7/16 Km.)
One of the most interesting circular routes that takes us through the Serra de Espinhaço do Cao to discover the inner part that surrounds Bordeira.
Hills of Carrapateira (13,5 Km.)
Panoramic photographs from the hills, the beaches of Bordeira and Amado, the towns of Vilarinha and Carrapateira, make this circular route a true sensory spectacle.
Would you like to know more about ruta vicentina, keep reading here.