Trekking the Trails of Portuguese Fishermen

The Fisherman’s Trail weaves together ancient fishing villages in Portugal

The beach at Vila do Milfontes
Fisherman’s Trail at Vila de Milfontes. Flickr/Sampaino

All oceanic romance aside, Europeans have long used the expansive Atlantic coast for one thing above others: to eat. Habitants of the seaboard have relied on pole-caught protein sources for millennia, a la Ernest Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea. The remnants of this lifestyle still exist in the seaside villages of Portugal, contained within the Alentejo and Vicentina Coast Natural Park.

Now a new trekking route has been established, linking together several fishing trails in southwest Portugal with as much spectacular scenery as possible in between stops. The Rota Vicentina Trail, also called the Fisherman’s Trail, is composed of routes still used by fisherman today to access the best areas to make their efforts.

Zambujeira do Mar coast on the Fisherman's TRail
Highlights of the Fisherman’s Trail: The rocky coast of Zambujeira do Mar, Portugal. Flickr/Pinho

The Rota Vicentina Trail tours the rocky coastline of Portugal through oak and olive trees from Vila Nova de Milfontes at the mouth of the Mira River, down to Cabo de São Vicente (Cape Saint Vincent), the southwest-most portion of Europe. The Natural Park status has limited development and has preserved the pristine landscape. What little civilization there is exists in fishing villages, civil parishes and lighthouses.

One of the larger towns on the multi-day route is Zambujeira do Mar, a cliffside village of fewer than 1,000 inhabitants, terra cotta shingled and perched atop clear sand beaches. Further south, Porto das Barcas offers similar vistas and restaurants with great views of the Atlantic. The phenomenal beach of Praia do Machado is a perennial tourist attraction for good reason – see the picture below.

Praia do Machado from the Fisherman's Trail
Fisherman’s Trail – Praia do Machado beach. Flickr/Machado

A guided tour of the route is offered by Caminoways.com, and their chosen destination is the town of Sagres at the southern tip of the peninsula. Sagres is home to the Martinhal Sagres Beach Family Resort, an upscale, contemporary relaxation spot. Whether or not you stay at the resort, consider a trip to the Sagres Fortress, a 15th century stone construction impervious to the unrelenting wind atop the 60-meter cliffs.

Sagres Fortress at the end of the Fisherman's Trail
The end of the Fisherman’s Trail: Sagres Fortress. Flickr/Belo

If You Go

Should you undertake the journey, coordinating lodging through Caminoways.com might streamline your trip. They offer lodging in family run hotels that give a taste of local flavor, but the assurance of a known destination for the night.

Camino Ways
www.caminoways.com

Visit Portugal
www.visitportugal.com