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The Fisherman’s Trail, Portugal – a detailed guide

The Fisherman’s Trail, Portugal – a detailed guide

The Fisherman’s Trail, Portugal – a detailed guide

The Fisherman’s Trail is a walking route in the south of Portugal. It’s a part of the Rota Vicentina network. The trail is considered one of the most beautiful coastal routes in the world. The scenery along the route is breathtaking; rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, stunning lookouts, charming towns, clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean, and diverse wildlife. We were so impressed by the beauty of the area that after completing the trail we decided to move to the south of Portugal where we live now.

The Fisherman’s Trail route overview

  • Total distance – 230 km/143 mi
  • Number of days – 11-13 days
  • Starting point – S.Torpes Beach, 10 km before Porto Covo, Alentejo
  • Finishing point – Lagos, Algarve
  • Route marking – wooden poles with blue & green stripes
  • Average cost – 35 Euro per person per day
  • Accommodation options – camping, hostels, hotels

To make your planning easier we’ve created a downloadable PDF file with walking stages and places to stay on the Fisherman’s Trail.

Cabo S.Vicente lighthouse, Fisherman's Trail, Portugal
Cabo de Sao Vicente is one of the highlights of the Fisherman’s Trail

We have a detailed Fishermen’s Trail walking itinerary post where you can find complete information on each stage of the trail with distances, elevation profiles, times, and accommodation options.

Different route options

The trail starts at S.Torpes Beach, 10 km before Porto Covo, and finishes in Lagos. We started walking in Porto Covo skipping the first 10 km because logistically it worked out better for us. We arrived a bit later to start walking and wanted to stay for a day in Porto Covo. The last part of the Fisherman’s Trail from Sagres to Lagos was added to the route later. Originally the end of the trail was in Sagres.

A great thing about the trail is that you don’t have to walk the entire route you can walk only a section of it depending on how much time you have and how far you want to walk. In fact, any part of the Fisherman’s Trail can be walked as a day hike. You can combine walking the trail with a beach holiday.

YouTube thumbnail of the Fishermen's Trail video
Watch our YouTube video on walking the Fisherman’s Trail in Portugal

The most popular route options on the Fisherman’s Trail

Porto Covo – Odeceixe S.Torpes Beach/Porto Covo – Sagres S.Torpes Beach/Porto Covo – Lagos S.Topres Beach/Porto Covo – Santiago de Cacém
76 km/47 mi
4 days
191 km/118 mi
9-10 days
230 km/142 mi
12-13 days
196 km/121 mi
10-11 days
Route options with distances and tie=mes required on the Fisherman’s Trail

Walking the Fisherman’s Trail from Porto Covo to Odeceixe. It’s the original 4-day trail that later was extended to Cabo de Sao Vicente (Sagres) and then all the way to Lagos. The part Odeceixe to Sagres used to be a part of the Historical Route of the Rota Vicentina. Now the Historical Route starts in Santiago do Cacém and finishes in Odeceixe. The total distance is 76 km/47 mi.

Starting in Porto Covo or São Torpes Beach and finishing in Sagres is the way we walked the trail (the Sagres – Lagos extension was added later). The total distance is 181 km/112 mi or 191 km/118 mi if you start in St.Torpes Beach. Most of the time the route goes along the coast. You’ll need 9-10 days to complete it.

If you want to complete the entire Fisherman’s Trail from São Torpes Beach to Lagos you’ll need 12-13 days. The total distance of the route is 230 km/142 mi.

It’s possible to combine the Fisherman’s Trail with the Historical Way. You can start in São Torpes Beach or Porto Covo walk along the coast to Odeceixe and from there continue on the Historical (inland) route to Santiago do Cacém. The total distance of this route is 196 km/121 mi. You’ll need 10 days to complete it.

Blue and green route markers on the Fisherman's Trail
Wooden poles with blue & green stripes mark the Fisherman’s Trail

Practical information

Tap water in Portugal is fine to drink you don’t have to buy bottled water or use filters.

The route is well-marked it’s easy to follow and plan on your own you don’t need a guide or a tour.

The Fisherman’s Trail crosses the Alentejo and Algarve regions in the south of Portugal it gets very hot in the summer. It’s advisable to start walking early in order to escape the afternoon heat.

If you don’t feel like walking with a heavy backpack it’s possible to arrange luggage transfer on the route from accommodation to accommodation. The main company that does transfers on the route is Vicentina Transfers.

Every town on the route has ATMs, shops, and hotels you don’t have to carry food or a lot of cash with you, many places accept credit cards.

Distances between towns are quite long there is nothing in between always make sure to have enough water for the whole day. There are no taps to refill it along the route.

In a book shop in Porto Covo on Vasco da Gama street (a block away from the church)  you can buy an official guidebook and a route map.

There is a Ciceron guidebook on the Rota Vicentina that has a lot of information on the trail.

The area gets very busy in July and August as a result accommodation prices increase quite a lot, keep it in mind when planning your hiking holiday.

Accommodation on the Fisherman’s Trail

Accommodation on the trek was our main concern but in the end, it wasn’t a problem. Since we couldn’t find a list of accommodation options along the route we tried our best to make a complete list of hostels, hotels, and campsites along the way.

Hostels, hotels, and guesthouses can be found in every town along the route some places have more options some less. The campsites can be found in Porto Covo, Vila Nova de Milfontes, Zambujeira do Mar, Odeceixe, Aljezur, and Sagres.

We don’t like booking accommodation in advance and usually don’t do it, but for this route, we did book all the places a couple of days before we started. Every place we stayed in was full mainly because most of the hostels and guesthouses are very small; two or three private rooms or 8 to 10 beds so they fill up quickly. We walked the trail at the beginning of May which is not the busiest season if you’re planning to walk it between June and August we strongly recommend booking accommodation beforehand even if you’re planning to camp at least contact campsites to find out how full they are.

When booking accommodation;

  • check for the check-in time in most hotels it’s quite late, around 3 pm.
  • make sure your hotel is in the town itself and not 5 km outside of it
  • find your place on Google.maps beforehand as sometimes following the route you might walk past it on the way to the center of the town
  • check if you pay for accommodation when making a booking or on arrival, most places charge beforehand.

Download our PDF spreadsheet that will help you to systematize your bookings The Fishermen’s Trail Rota Vicentina booking spreadsheet.

Porto do Mos Beach in Lagos
Praia de Porto do Mos in Lagos is one of the beaches on the Fisherman’s Trail

Luggage delivery on the route

It’s possible to use a luggage transfer service on the Fisherman’s Trail if you don’t want to walk with a big backpack or have too much luggage to carry with you every day. Vicentina Transfers is a company that provides luggage delivery service on the trail. They’ll deliver your luggage door to door between any type of accommodation along the route including campsites. It’s 15 Euro per section for 1 piece of luggage.

The company provides only luggage delivery they don’t do accommodation booking for you. Before you arrange the luggage service you have to book your accommodation. The cost of luggage delivery on the Rota Vicentina is quite high compared to for example 6-7 Euro that you pay on the Coastal Route of the Portuguese Camino.

The cost of walking the Fisherman’s Trail

The cost of the trail depends a lot on the type of accommodation you decide to stay in; camping, dormitories, or private rooms and on the season. If you’re planning to camp, to make your own food and not to go out for drinks every night budget 25 Euro per person per day. To stay in dormitories and make your own food 30 Euro pp. per day. Staying in private and eating out from time to time 35-40 Euro. If you want to stay in private, eat out at least once a day, and go out for drinks I’d suggest budgeting 45+ Euro per day per person.

Accommodation

Camping is the most budget option here, prices still vary depending on the season with August being the most expensive month. The main drawback here is that you have to carry camping gear with you (tent, mattress, sleeping bag, cooking stuff, etc.) which adds a lot of weight to your backpack. The price for camping is between 6 to 10 Euro per person per night.

A bed in a dormitory is another budget accommodation option on the Fisherman’s Trail. There are not many hostels on the route and they are usually fully booked as the area is a very popular holiday destination. In order to get a spot in the season, it’s advisable to book your accommodation in advance. The price for a dorm bed is between 15 and 20 Euro depending on the season.

A private room is the most comfortable accommodation option and sometimes a double room with a shared bathroom cost the same as two beds in a dormitory. So if you’re two people it’s a much better deal. There are several hotels that offer triple and family rooms if you’re a group of people hiking you can share a bigger room. Prices for a budget double room are between 30 and 40 Euro. We had one or two places where we paid 25 Euro for a double room with a private bathroom. If you walk completely off-season between November and March it might be more or less a standard price.

Food

There are grocery stores and mini markets in every town on the route if you’re on a tight budget making your own food is the best option. Always make sure you book accommodation with a kitchen (most places we stayed had at least a microwave). Depending on what kind of stuff you buy shopping for 3 meals (lunch, dinner, and breakfast) costs between 8-10 Euro per person. Many supermarkets have cafes where you can get a meal, a sandwich, or a pastry for relatively cheap compared to the restaurant prices.

Eating out is quite expensive on the route the Costa Vicentina and the Algarve are popular tourist destinations prices in local restaurants are higher than average in Portugal. Very few restaurants along the Fishermen’s Trail offer Menu do Dia – a set lunch that usually includes a starter, main dish, drinks (beer, wine, cool drink), bread, coffee, or dessert. We had these menus everywhere on the Portuguese Camino de Santiago. In most places on the trail you pay an average of 10 Euro for a dish, every time we went out for dinner we paid about 15 Euro pp. including drinks. Breakfast (toasted sandwich and coffee) you can get for 3 Euro.

We always stop quite a lot for coffee and Portugal is a real paradise for coffee lovers, the coffee here is good and cheap; for a cup of Espresso you pay about 0,7 Euro, for coffee with milk1 Euro. If you order Americano it’ll cost you more, about 1,2 Euro, for cappuccino you’ll pay between 2 and 3 Euro (they add a lot of milk and chocolate to it). Cafe con Leite (coffee with milk) is usually similar to what is known as cappuccino in other countries.

One of the beaches surrounded by the cliffs on the Fisherman's Trail
Carrapateira Beach from a lookout point on the Fisherman’s Trail

Our budget breakdown (2 people, 11 days)

We didn’t camp on the trail. We stayed in private rooms and dormitories, went out every other day but most of the time we made food and stopped at least once a day for coffee. We didn’t use a luggage transfer service. If you do add to our budget 15 Euro per person per day.

  • Accommodation – 422 Euro
  • Shopping (food, toiletries) – 116 Euro
  • Eating out – 151 Euro
  • Transport – 70 Euro, 15 Euro per person bus Lisbon – Porto Covo, 20 Euro per person bus Lagos – Lisbon
  • Coffee+pastry – 35 Euro

Total: 794 Euro or 36 Euro per person per day.

The best time for walking the Fisherman’s Trail

The Fishermen’s Trail goes through the south of Portugal it’s never really cold here and it doesn’t rain that much which means the route can be walked all year round. We’ve done several multi-day walks in Portugal and really like hiking in spring, between April and May. For us it’s the best time of the year; not cold but not hot yet, not too many people like in summer, many flowers and trees in blossom, and prices are lower than in peak season.

Summer particularly July and August are the hottest and the busiest months here if you have a choice I’d suggest walking the route any other time even in May. Over the weekends there were many people on the route doing day hikes, I can imagine in peak season there will be hundreds of people. Prices for accommodation go up in summer quite a bit so you get more people, very hot weather, and higher prices. April – June, and September – October are probably the best months for walking with the most comfortable weather and fewer people.

As for walking the route completely offseason; November – March it’s a good time, many hotels and hostels are open all year round. It might be very quiet like in any other beach holiday area off-season. So if you’re seeking a solitary and tranquil walking holiday it’s the right time of the year to come here. As for the weather, it’s sunny in the south of Portugal even in the winter but it does get chilly, especially in January-February and rainy in November-December.

How to get to the trail?

There are direct buses from Lisbon to Porto Covo/São Torpes Beach. Rede Expressos buses leave throughout the day from Sete Rios Bus station in Lisbon. As of March 2022, there are morning buses at 7.30 am and 9.30 am only on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

The journey takes 2h10min. The ticket costs 16,5 Euro. Tickets can be bought at the bus terminal or online. In the peak summer season, I’d recommend purchasing tickets beforehand. You can check the up-to-date itinerary and buy tickets online.

If you’re planning to start walking at S.Torpes Beach which is 10 km north of Porto Covo you’ll have to get off the bus earlier. S.Torpes Beach is between Sines and Porto Covo. Ask a driver to stop at Praia de São Torpes.

There are direct buses to Lisbon from Odeceixe, Sagres, Lagos, and Santiago do Cacém. Wherever you decide to finish the Fisherman’s Trail you’ll be able to get back to Lisbon by bus. From Odeceixe and Sagres there are one or two daily buses to Lisbon. From Santiago do Cacém and Lagos there are many. You can get a direct bus to Lisbon from pretty much every town on the route except Arrifana and Salema. You can purchase tickets and check the current itinerary on the Rede Expressos website.

If you’re coming from Lisbon and want to spend a couple of days there here are our recommendations on places to stay in the city.

Amoreira Beach is one of the beaches on the Fisherman's Trail
Amoreira Beach at the sunset

Places to stay in Lisbon

Tours and activities in Lisbon

Lisbon is an amazing place with many tourist attractions and things to do. If you have some time in Lisbon before or after the Fisherman’s Trail here are some recommended activities;

What to pack for the hike?

If you’re planning to stay in hotels or hostels you don’t need much stuff to carry which is great you can pack really light for the hike and enjoy the trail walking with a day pack.

Backpack – a 30l backpack will be enough to pack hiking clothes for 4 days and some toiletries.

Comfortable shoes for walking, it might be a pair of light hiking shoes (a men’s model), a pair of running shoes (men’s model), or a pair of sandals. The last will work great for walking over sand dunes and on the beach.

GoPro HERO8 – on the Fishermen’s Trail instead of carrying our big DSLR camera we packed a new GoPro. The quality of the footage and photos is good, the camera is very light and small, it can get wet, you can swim and dive with it. All photos and videos in this post are taken with the GoPro8.

Garmin Fenix 5 GPS watch – our new hiking companion, we used it to get the elevation profiles and the maps for this post.

Kindle – we always take our Kindles Paperwhite with us when traveling. If you’re an owner of Kindle by joining Kindle unlimited program by Amazon you’ll get access to thousands of e-books and audiobooks.

If you’re planning to camp (the most budget-friendly accommodation option on the trail), you’ll need a bigger backpack and some camping gear;

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