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.
Fishermen’s Trail overview
- Length: 226.5 kilometers / 140 miles
- Region: Alentejo & Algarve (Portugal)
- Stages: 13. From 10 to 22.5 kilometers
- Where to stay: hostels, B&B’s, hotels
- Best time to hike: September to May
- Luggage transportation: is possible from February to June and September to November
- Navigation: Blue/green markings
Interested in hiking this beautiful trail? Let’s get into the details!
What is the Fishermen’s Trail?
The Fishermen’s Trail is a long-distance hiking trail in the process of Portugal. It is 226.5 kilometers (about 140 miles) long and runs along the coast from São Torpes (in Alentejo) to Lagos (Algarve). The trail is only accessible on foot and follows the paths used by locals to get to beaches and fishing villages.
The well-known Condé Nast Traveler magazine considers the Fishermen’s Trail one of the six most beautiful coastal walks in the world.
When you’re hiking the trail, 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 Fishermen’s Trail and Rota Vicentina are two terms that are often confused. Rota Vicentina is a collection of cycling and hiking trails in southwest Portugal. When you’re exploring these trails, you’ll see some of the most beautiful places in the Algarve and Alentejo.
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: average)
- Vila do Bispo to Sagres (20.5 kilometers, difficulty: average)
- Sagres to Salema (19.5 kilometers, difficulty: very hard)
- Salema to Luz (12 kilometer, difficulty: average)
- Luz to Lagos (11 kilometer, difficulty: easy)
I have now hiked 8 of the 13 stages (6 to 13). You can read my hiking reports by clicking on the link of the stage.
When is the best time to hike the Fishermen’s Trail?
You can hike 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 November, December, and January and those months were 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 that’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.
Please note a lot of restaurants close during the winter months (usually from the second week of November), so check your options if you’re planning on hiking the trail during those months.
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. It’s smart to book ahead since there are not a lot of options in each village when it comes to accommodation.
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 lighter bag? Then you can book luggage transport via this website. This service makes sure that your luggage will be picked up in hotel A and brings it to hotel B. It’s so easy! It costs 15 euros per bag per stage and every additional bag is 5 euros.
Luggage transportation is available from February to June and September to November.
What to pack?
What to pack when you’re hiking the Fisherman’s Trail? First things first, make sure to bring a good backpack. A 25 to 40-liter pack should be more than enough.
These are some great packs for the Fishermen’s Trail:
- Osprey Hikelite 32 Hiking Backpack
- Gregory Mountain Juno 36 Hiking Backpack (Women’s)
- Deuter Futura 27 Hiking Backpack
Ok, you now have the perfect backpack for the Fishermen’s Trail. What do you put in your bag?
- A refillable water bottle – there are not too many water taps along the way, so make sure to bring enough water. You can always ask a cafe or restaurant if they can refill your bottle. You don’t need to bring a water filter. Tap water in Portugal
- Small first aid kit – including band-aids, aspirin, nail clipper, and tweezers.
- A lightweight rain jacket – it probably won’t rain a lot, but it’s always smart to bring one. You can also use it as a wind stopper.
- A sun hat or a buff. There’s not a lot of shade and it can get really sunny.
- Are you planning on staying in hostels? Don’t forget to bring earplugs.
- A toiletry bag for shampoo, sun lotion, makeup, etcetera.
- A quick-drying travel towel. Comes in handy when you’re staying in hostels or if you want to relax on the beach when you’re hiking.
- Extra clothes so you don’t have to wear your hiking clothes all day and night.
- Optional: Trekking poles. I personally didn’t use them on the Fishermen’s Trail, but I really missed having them on some of the steeper sections.
- Chargers and a power bank so you can always charge your electronics if you need to.
If you’d like to check out a more detailed list, read this post: What’s in my pack? Day hike packing list
More beautiful long-distance hikes
I hope you have now learned everything you needed to know about the beautiful Fishermen’s Trail in Portugal.
Would you like to discover more beautiful long-distance hikes? Then I can recommend these beautiful books:
Epic Hikes of Europe (Lonely Planet)
Or read one of these articles I wrote about long-distance hikes:
- Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Mexico to Canada
- Hiking the Camino del Norte | The Ultimate Guide
- Pieterpad: the most famous long-distance trail in The Netherlands
In the last few years, I’ve stayed about seven months in the Algarve, that’s why you can read a lot about Portugal on my website. You might like to read these articles as well:
- 18 Best Algarve Hiking Trails
- What to do in the Algarve? 26 tips!
- Seven Hanging Valleys Trail: the best hiking trail in the Algarve
And make sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter for more amazing hiking trails and awesome travel tips.
This article was published in May 2021. Last update with even more practical tips: September 2022.
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