Andy's EPIC Adventures in Europe Fisherman's Trail, Portugal
Fisherman's Trail Alentejo, Portugal
Odeceixe - Zambujeira do Mar - Almograve - Vila Nova de Milfontes - Porto Covo 80 km, 4 days
Hiking from South to North: Most articles on the Fisherman’s Trail that I came across, and indeed the official website describe itineraries that tackle the trail in a southerly direction. Walking in direct sunshine struck me as being rather odd, and given my delicate, northern European skin, we decided to tackle the path in the opposite way. This proved to be a wise choice. Having the sun behind you allows for clearer vistas, and my schnoz felt gratitude at not being constantly slathered with factor 50 lotion. Yet, throughout the four-day trek, we did not encounter a single hiker that had adopted the same approach. On the downside, for the final two hours of stage 4, you will often catch the sight of the industrial oil refineries of Sines looming in the distance but crossing the finish line in the quirky village of Porto Covo certainly makes up for this slight aesthetic deficiency. On the other hand, on the first leg, your start is a peaceful 3 km amble along a river valley below the village of Odeceixe. Many ramblers going from north to south complained that this narrow, paved road seemed to last forever. But us walking in the opposite direction found it to be a perfect and gentle introduction to this multi-day hike. Where to stay: A number of hikers make their way up or down the trail by spending a night in one location, before heading for the next stop the day after. There are luggage services that transport your belongings between hotels (at a fee of about 15 EUR per person). We found this to be a rather cumbersome set up, as we are not particularly fond of all the packing and unpacking, so decided to base ourselves in Vila Nova de Milfontes; by far the biggest and busiest of all the potential overnight stops which even in the depth of autumn still had a well-functioning tourist infrastructure (unlike all the other places with the possible exception of Porto Covo). Each morning, we drove our rental car to the end of that day’s hike and booked a taxi to take us to the starting line. This turned out to be a rather simple and money-saving process as the taxi fares were around 25 EUR per journey. Better still, we could unpack properly, buy, and store provisions, and get comfortable in our rented apartment. Just make sure to book your taxi a day in advance. There are only a limited number of vehicles in operation, and you will not be the only ones who will commute in this way. We reserved our accommodation through Booking.com, which in November had a surprisingly large selection. The Rota’s official website also has a section on accommodation options. As to taxi and luggage transfer services, the website offers useful information and contact details.
Best restaurants in Milfontes: The Alentejo is not particularly famous for its local cuisine, which is often described as hearty, traditional and even unimaginative. We begged to differ. During the off-season, it might be challenging to find many open establishments along the Rota, but at our base in Milfontes we were still spoiled for choice. Patio Alentejano R. do Pinhal 4 Perfect for the hungry hiker intend on replenishing the day’s burnt calories. Cheap, cheerful, traditional, tasty. Don’t make the mistake of ordering a starter, the portions are huge. And the locals must love it too. The place was packed to the rafters even in mid-November. Tasca do Celso Rua dos Aviadores 34 Your choice for fine dining amidst a cosy, rustic atmosphere. A little more expensive but well worth it. The food was exceptional. Adega 22 Rua Doutor Duarte Silva 22 A stylish, modernist surprise of a restaurant that pays great attention to design and atmospheric details. You would not necessarily expect such a setting in this rather remote area of the country. And the food is wonderful too, with some rather unusual culinary delights (you never had tomato soup like theirs).
Day 1: Odeceixe to Zambujeira do Mar
18.5 km, 5 hours
Elevation: 336 m
The four hours back to Zambujeiro were more of a lengthy walk than a strenuous hike. And the scenery was stunning. After almost every turn we encountered yet another beautiful bay, or a rocky outcrop that seemed to have been dropped into the sea by magic. The day before, we had arrived in a torrential downpour, so now the landscape looked lush with divine smells of fennel, eucalyptus, and pine trees. Along the way we came across the odd beach accessible by dirt road with some tourist outfits, such as surf schools or restaurants all now closed for the season. But by and large, this stretch of the coast is just too hostile and inaccessible for any bigger settlements to thrive. We encountered 12 other hikers, making their way in the opposite direction; only slightly more than the number of storks that we came across.
Calories burnt: 1895 Blister Count: Zero Joints and muscles: functioning suitably Rain: just a few drops
Day 2: Zambujeira do Mar to Almograve
21 km, 4.45 hours
Elevation: 221 m
Calories burnt: 1993 Blister Count: Still zero Joints and muscles: hello darkness my old friends … Rain: one hour; torrential
Day 3: Almograve to Milfontes
17.5 km, 4.5 hours
Elevation: 320 m
Calories burnt: 1890 Blister Count: where are you guys? Joints and muscles: Maybe time for some Pilates to stretch out hamstrings and neck muscles Rain: none whatsoever