The Fishermen’s Trail is a long-distance hike along the southwestern coast of Portugal. In this article, you can read all about this beautiful hiking trail.
What is the Fishermen’s Trail?
The Fishermen’s Trail is a long-distance hiking trail in the southwest of Portugal. It is 226.5 kilometers long and runs along the coast from São Torpes (in Alentejo) to Lagos (Algarve). It basically follows the Costa Vicentina. The trail is only accessible on foot and follows the paths used by locals to get to beaches and fishing villages.
Along the way, you will pass many beautiful beaches (don’t forget to bring your swimwear for a refreshing dive), and you walk through beautiful Portuguese villages filled with white houses. In between, you’ll hike through the rugged landscape, along high cliffs with the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. The views are spectacular.
The well-known Condé Nast Traveler magazine named the Fishermen’s Trail as one of the six most beautiful coastal hikes in the world.
The Fishermen’s Trail and Rota Vicentina are two terms that are often confused. Rota Vicentina is a collection of cycling and hiking trails in the southwest of Portugal. There are two well-known trails: the Historical Way (which is 263-kilometers long) and the Fishermen’s Trail. Sometimes the two trails intersect.
Sections of the Fishermen’s Trail
The Fishermen’s Trail is divided into 13 different sections. Each section is between 10 and 22.5 kilometers long. They are:
- São Torpes to Porto Covo (10 kilometers, difficulty: easy)
- Porto Covo to Vila Nova de Milfontes (20 kilometers, difficulty: hard)
- Vila Nova de Milfontes to Almograve (15.5 kilometers, difficulty: average)
- Almograve to Zambujeira do Mar (22 kilometers, difficulty: average)
- Zambujeira do Mar to Odeceixe (18.5 kilometers, difficulty: hard)
- Odeceixe to Aljezur (22.5 kilometers, difficulty: average)
- Aljezur to Arrifana (17.5 kilometers, difficulty: average)
- Arrifana to Carrapateira (20 or 21.5 kilometers, difficulty: average)
- Carrapateira to Vila do Bispo (16 kilometers, difficulty: hard)
- Vila do Bispo to Sagres (20.5 kilometers, difficulty: average)
- Sagres to Salema(19.5 kilometers, difficulty: very hard)
- Salema to Luz (12 kilometers, difficulty: average)
- Luz to Lagos (11 kilometers, difficulty: easy)
I have hiked the last four sections as a day trip from Lagos, where I’ve lived for almost three months. Check out my trail journals on this page.
When is the best time to hike the Fishermen’s Trail?
You can walk the Fishermen’s Trail all year round, but some periods are better than others. It is wise to avoid hiking during the summer months. There is little shade and it can get very warm. I would recommend hiking the trail between September and May.
Also, pay attention to the weather forecasts when you want to go because it can be very dangerous when it rains. There’s a chance that parts of the trail wash away and in some places, the rocks can become very slippery.
I myself hiked part of the Fishermen’s Trail on sunny days in December and January and that was really perfect in terms of weather. The disadvantage is that many restaurants and accommodations are closed in the winter months.
Is the Fishermen’s Trail a difficult hike?
That differs per section. At the start and endpoint of every stage, there is a sign that clearly indicates the level of difficulty. Personally, I usually think difficult hikes are not that bad, but if it says difficult on the Fishermen’s Trail, you can certainly expect a difficult hike! For example, I found the stage between Salema and Sagres quite tough, I regularly had to climb the rocks using my hands.
The Fishermen’s Trail is well marked with signs and blue-green markings. These are often painted on stones, so look down regularly to not miss any markings. In addition, you can also find navigation files per section on the Rota Vicentina website, such as a GPS file (I use the GPX Viewer Pro app for this).
Do you prefer a paper hiking guide? Then it’s wise to purchase Portugal’s Rota Vicentina. It contains a description of the Historical Way and the Fishermen’s Trail.
How do you get on the Fishermen’s Trail? The starting point São Torpes is near the city of Sines. Sines has good bus connections with Lisbon and Lagos. Unfortunately, there is no public transport from Sines to São Torpes, but you can take a taxi to São Torpes, which takes only 10-15 minutes.
I myself have used Uber a lot in Portugal and it’s pretty cheap. Have you never used Uber? Sign up via this link and you will get your first ride for free.
Lagos, the endpoint of the trail, is easily accessible by train (from Faro) and by bus from various places in Portugal.
In addition, you can often also use public transport at the start or endpoint of a specific section (for example, I was able to do the last four sections as a day hike and traveled by bus from Lagos). Do some research before you leave (you can use Google Maps) because some buses only run a few times a day and not all destinations are accessible by public transport.
The sections always start and end in a village or city, so you can always eat something on the spot. Often the route also runs through another village, where you can eat something. Pay attention to this, because this is not always the case and it is wise to bring (enough) food yourself for that section.
In most villages, there are several places where you can stay overnight. Accommodation is generally not that expensive in Portugal, you can find a great private room for as little as € 25 a night. I always check Booking.com if I need to book accommodation. Here you’ll find lots of possibilities and you immediately see the location of the accommodation. You probably want to stay as close to the trail as possible.
Would you rather go camping? That is also possible, but keep in mind that there are almost no campgrounds along the route. You will then occasionally have to do some wild camping and that is officially not allowed in Portugal. It is often tolerated, but make sure you don’t pitch your tent too close to a town or city.
Do you not feel like carrying all your luggage and do you prefer to hike with a light day pack? From September to June, you can book luggage transportation via this website.
What to pack?
In recent years I have regularly walked (parts) of a long-distance walk. I have made this packing list to help you pack your bag for the Fishermen’s Trail:
- Day hike packing list – this is a handy packing list in case you only want to do day hikes and don’t need overnight gear.
- Coming soon: a packing list including camping gear.
More beautiful long-distance trails
I hope you have now learned everything you needed to know about the beautiful Fishermen’s Trail in Portugal. Do you have any further questions? Leave a message below this article, or send an email to Co@opreismetco.nl.
Do you want to discover more beautiful long-distance trails? Then I can recommend these beautiful books:
Or read one of these articles I wrote about hiking:
- Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Mexico to Canada
- These are the scariest hiking trails in the world!
- 20 awesome books about hiking
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