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The Historical Way, Rota Vicentina – a detailed guide

The Historical Way, Rota Vicentina – a detailed guide

The Historical Way, Rota Vicentina – a detailed guide

The Historical Way is a 6-day inland route of the Rota Vicentina. It’s one of the two long-distance routes of the Vicentina networks. The route takes hikers through non-touristy areas of the Alentejo region in the south of Portugal. The Historical Way can be walked as a separate route or combined with the Fisherman’s Trail.

The Historical Way route overview

  • Distance – 120 km/74 mi
  • The required time – 6 days
  • Starting point – Santiago do Cacém, Alentejo
  • Finishing point – Odeceixe, Algarve
  • Total ascent (over 6 days) – 2505 m
  • Total descent (over 6 days) – 2629 m
  • Walking ground – gravel road, footpath
  • Route marking – white and red markers
  • Average cost – 30-40 Euro per person per day (including transport, accommodation, food, etc.)
  • Accommodation – hotels, guesthouses

To make your planning easier we’ve created a downloadable PDF file that contains walking stages and places to stay on the Historical Way of the Rota Vicentina.

Countryside scenery on the Historical walking trail
Wheatfields on the Historical Way of the Rota Vicentina

Walking the Historical Way vs the Coastal Route

The Historical Way is a 100% inland route. The closest it gets to the sea is Odeceixe, which is about 2 km from the beach. The Fishermen’s Trail follows the coastline most of the time. We’ve walked both multi-day routes of the Rota Vicentina and personally prefer the Fishermen’s Trail over the Historical Way.

Advantages of the Fishermen’s Trail

  • First of all, because we enjoy walking along the coast.
  • The scenery on the coastal route was more impressive than on the inland route.
  • There are more places to stay on the Fishermen’s Trail including campsites and hostels.

Advantages of the Historical Way

  • The route is less-crowded even in the peak summer season there are very few people on the trail.
  • It might be a good option to walk if walking close to the edge of steep cliffs give you vertigo.

Both routes are beautiful it all depends on what scenery you prefer the coast or fields/forest. If you want you can combine both routes.

Option 1. Start walking on the Historical Way from Santiago do Cacém to Odeceixe and from there continue south following the Fishermen’s Trail all the way to Lagos or stop earlier. The route from Santiago do Cacém to Lagos is 274 km/170 mi. It takes 13 days to complete.

Option 2. Start in Santiago do Cacém walk to Odeceixe and from there continue north on the Fishermen’s Trail towards Porto Covo. The total distance of this route is 196 km/121 mi. You need 10 days to complete it.

The best time for hiking

Spring months between mid-March to May is the best time for walking the Historical Way of the Rota Vicentina. It’s our favorite time for hiking in Portugal. We’ve done several routes including the Portuguese Camino in the spring. The weather is nice, it’s warm and sunny but not as hot as it gets during the summer. There are not too many people. It doesn’t matter if you walk only the inland route but if you decide to combine it with the coastal route it’s quite important. In June it starts getting hot and busy but it’s still a good month for walking.

The peak summer season July to mid-September is the hottest time in the Alentejo region. It’s not the best time for hiking especially the inland route without a fresh sea breeze it gets even hotter here than by the coast. These months are the peak touristy season you have to book accommodation and plan your trip in advance.

From mid-September to mid-November is a good time for hiking. It’s still warm and usually sunny though in November you might get some rain and there are not many tourists.

Winter months December to February are fine for walking you just have to be prepared that it might rain especially in December. It gets quite chilly, especially in the mornings and at night it’s better to bring warmer clothes not just for hiking but for wearing indoors as houses in Portugal are not well insulated sometimes it’s colder inside than outside.

The cost of walking the Historical Way

Here is the complete breakdown of our spending on the Historical Way, 6 days, 2 people. We didn’t camp or stay in hostels (there is only one campsite and one hostel on the route in Odeceixe) accommodation was our main expense. Half of the time we went out for lunch or dinner half of the time bought food in shops and supermarkets. We were not on a very strict budget but tried not to spend a lot.

Here are our spending;

  • Accommodation – 230 Euro
  • Eating out – 82 Euro
  • Shopping – 50 Euro
  • Coffee, beer, cakes – 18 Euro
  • Transport – 65 Euro; bus Lisbon – Santiago do Cacém, 14 Euro per person, bus Odeceixe – Lisbon, 18,5 Euro pp.

Total: 445 Euro 2 people/6 days or 37 Euro per person per day.

How to get to Santiago do Cacém?

Santiago do Cacém, the starting point of the Historical Way can be reached by bus from Lisbon and many other cities and towns in Portugal. There are 7-8 daily buses from Lisbon Sete Rios Bus station to Santiago do Cacém. Buses leave throughout the day. The journey takes 2 hours. The ticket costs 14€.

After finishing the hike in Odeceixe you can get back to Lisbon by bus. There are 3-4 direct daily buses. The journey takes 3h30min. The ticket costs 18,5€. You can check the up-to-date itinerary and buy tickets online on the Rede Expressos website.

YouTube video thumbnail for the Rota Vicentina trail
Our detailed video on walking the Rota Vicentina in Portugal

Accommodation on the Historical Way

Every town on the route has a couple of hotels/guesthouses. The trail goes through off-the-beaten-path areas of the Alentejo region as a result there are fewer accommodation options than on the Fishermen’s Trail (the coastal route). Some places can be booked online some only via e-mail or over the phone.

There is only one campsite and one hostel on the Historical Way both are in Odeceixe. If you’re planning to walk this route it’s not worth carrying a tent and camping gear unless you don’t mind wild camping.

The Historical Way walking itinerary

Day 1. Santiago de Cacém – Vale Seco, 18,5 km/11,4 mi

  • Distance – 18,5 km/11,5 mi
  • Time – 4h.
  • Ascent – 496 m
  • Descent – 434 m
  • Difficulty level – 3 out of 5
Elevation graph day 1 of the trail
Elevation profile of the first day of the Historical Way

Note! For this day we’d highly recommend booking accommodation beforehand.

The trail starts at the Parish Church (Igreja Matriz) of Santiago do Cacém at the top of the hill, next to the castle, it’s about 500 m uphill from the information office. At the church, you’ll see the distance signs and route markers – red and white stripes that are painted on small wooden poles, trees, and rocks all along the route. From the church, the route goes down to the valley and continues through the fields and hills with several ascents and descents in the first half of the walk, after about 7 km the route becomes flatter and easier.

Make sure to carry enough water with there will be no place along the way to get more water and with all the ups and downs you get quite thirsty.

Highlights

  • Impressive castle and church of Santiago do Cacém crowning the top of the hill – the starting point of the route.
  • Peaceful pastoral scenery on the second half of the route.

Challenges

  • Several ascents and descents at the beginning of the day.
  • No places to stop for food or water along the way.
  • A couple of unfriendly dogs though they all were chained or behind the fence so they couldn’t do any harm to us.
A walking route from Santiago do Cacem to Vale Seco
A route map of the walk from Santiago do Cacem to Vale Seco

Vale Seco

  • Hotel – yes
  • Hostel – no
  • Campsite – no
  • ATM – no
  • Restaurant – yes
  • Supermarket/shop – yes
  • Pharmacy – no
  • Beach – no

This place was our main concern we couldn’t find much information about the area and very few accommodation options. We went to the information office in Santiago do Cacém they phoned a couple of places but everything seemed fully booked. Luckily we got a phone number of a guest house from our friend from Porto Covo.

Vale Seco is not a town or village, it’s a couple of farms and a bar/shop in the middle. At the bar you can get coffee, sandwiches, snacks, beer, the bar shop is very small with limited options; bread, cheese, ham, drinks, some vegetables, and fruit. Bring cash with you can’t draw money here or pay by card.

Casinhas da Aldeia guest house

We were lucky to find this place, our friend Nicolau (the owner of Ahoy hostel in Porto Covo) gave us contact details of this place, we booked it over the phone. It is 600 m away from the bar right on the route, you won’t miss it there are a big gate and a banner with the phone number.

We loved this place, it’s a farm with a couple of small guest houses, very tranquil and cozy. We got a double room with a bathroom, the room is spacious, clean, comfortable and has all you need. Price 40 Euro for two people. The owners Fatima & Ludgero are very nice people, super friendly and welcome. If you’re looking for a peaceful place to stay for a day or two this is a perfect option. Phone +351-926-135-594, +351-962-284-363 [email protected]

Facilities

  • Kitchen – yes, a small kitchenette with a microwave, kettle, fridge, cups, and plates
  • Hot shower – yes
  • Wi-fi – yes
  • Power sockets in the room – yes
  • Washing machine – yes
  • Extra – towels, TV, swimming pool, bottled water
A red & white route marker on the Historical Way
A route marker on the Historical Way of the Rota Vicentina

Day 2. Vale Seco – Cercal do Alentejo, 22 km/13,6 mi

  • Distance – 22 km/13,6 mi
  • Time – 4h30min.
  • Ascent – 374 m
  • Descent – 409 m
  • Difficulty level – 3 out of 5
Elevation graph of the second day on the Historical Way
Elevation profile of the second day of the Historical Way

It was a quiet walking day mostly through the fields, the route was well-marked and easy to follow. In fact, the day went so quickly we didn’t even notice it. We stopped twice to drink coffee at Vale de Éguas and to rest at the lake.

Highlights

  • Very peaceful scenery; pasture fields with cows and sheep, patches of eucalyptus forest, and farms in between.
  • Albufeira de Campilhas – a nice and quite big lake on a nice day it’s a great spot to stop for rest.

Challenges

The walk was pretty easy our main challenge for the day was the last bit of walking to Cercal do Alentejo – hundreds of flies came from nowhere and we walked in the fly cloud for about 1 km.

Stops on the route

  • At 8 km a tiny village Vale de Éguas with two restaurants.
A trail map of the Historical Way from Vale Seco to Cercal do Alentejo
A route map of the trail from Vale Seco to Cercal do Alentejo

Cercal do Alentejo

  • Hotel – yes
  • Hostel – no
  • Campsite – no
  • ATM – yes
  • Restaurant – yes
  • Supermarket/shop – yes
  • Pharmacy – yes
  • Beach – no

It’s quite a big and not very touristy place, there are several accommodation options, many bars and restaurants and a couple of shops. There is a self-service laundry as well but it’s quite expensive, 4,5 Euro for washing and 1,5 Euro for drying.

From Cercal do Alentejo you have two route options; go to Sao Luis (19 km) which means continuing inland on the Historical Way or go to the coast to Porto Covo (18 km) and walk the Fishermen’s Trail.

Casazul M&B Hotel

Casazul M&B Hotel – the only place on the route without wi-fi, they had wi-fi at the reception but not in the rooms. The place was fine; spacious rooms, good shower, nice bed, new bedding, etc. The location is good, close to the supermarket, restaurants, and the trail. I’d say it was our least favorite place on the route.

Facilities

  • Kitchen – no
  • Hot shower – yes
  • Wi-fi – yes, only at the reception
  • Power sockets in the room – yes
  • Washing machine – no
  • Extra – towels, AC, balcony

Day 3. Cercal do Alentejo – S.Luís, 19 km/12 mi

  • Distance – 19 km/12 mi
  • Time – 4h15min.
  • Ascent – 550 m
  • Descent – 542 m
  • Difficulty level – 3 out of 5 it was probably one of the most challenging days on the route due to many ascents and descents and no shade to hide and nowhere to stop for food or water.
Elevation graph of the third day of the Historical Way
Elevation profile of the walk from Cercal do Alentejo to S.Luis

The walk was quite nice, the first 8 km from Cercal were not too tiring, the scenery was beautiful; lush green hills, a little bit of forest. The second half was more challenging over the hills with many ascends and descends and stunning views over the area.

Highlights

Great views in the second part of the walk from the top of the mountains you can see the sea, valleys, small villages, etc.

A viewpoint at 17 km (2 km before Sao Luis), it’s about 1,5 km extra to walk there and back and quite a lot of up and down. The view is great but not much different from what you see on the last 7 km so if you don’t feel like walking extra don’t worry about it.

Challenges

  • After first 8 km, the trail goes up and down all the way till Sao Luis
  • No place to stop for food or water
A map of the route from Cercal do Alentejo to S.Luis
A map of the section of the Historical Way from Cercal do Alentejo to S.Luis

S.Luís

  • Hotel – yes
  • Hostel – no
  • Campsite – no
  • ATM – yes
  • Restaurant – yes
  • Supermarket/shop – yes
  • Pharmacy – yes
  • Beach – no

We arrived here on Sunday as a result shops were closed and we had to eat in a local bar. The best place we could find was Restaurante O Pinguim their omelets with French fries are quite big and filling. Unlike in other places, nobody here could speak any English it was a bit challenging to explain what we want in Spanish.

Places to stay in S.Luis

A forest scenery on the Historical Way
A lush green forest on the Historical Way of the Rota Vicentina

Day 4. S.Luis – Odemira, 24 km/15 mi

  • Distance – 24 km/15 mi
  • Time – 5h.
  • Ascent – 379 m
  • Descent – 536 m
  • Difficulty level – 3 out of 5
Elevation profile day 4 of the Historical Way
Elevation profile of the fourth walking day on the Historical Way

The whole day can be divided into two parts; the first part with typical for the route scenery; fields and hills and the second part is through the beautiful lush forest. Again very solitary walk in the whole day we saw one other hiker and not even a cyclist on the route. In May when we walked the Rota the area was covered in flowers from far it looked like a colorful carpet.

Highlights

Beautiful forest walk in the second half of the day, after first 12 km; huge trees, lush vegetation, small rivers, many birds and butterflies around.

Challenges

  • No place to stop for food or water for 24 km make sure to take at least 1,5l of water per person
  • All day slight ascents and descents

Stops on the route

  • At about 14 km a picnic spot with a table and two benches but not food or water there.
A trail map of the walk from S.Luis to Odemira
A route map of the trail from S.Luis to Odemira

Odemira

  • Hotel – yes
  • Hostel – yes
  • Campsite – no
  • ATM – yes
  • Restaurant – yes
  • Supermarket/shop – yes
  • Pharmacy – yes
  • Beach – no

Another off-the-beaten-path town on the route I guess people who walk the Historical Way are the only tourists here.

Hotel Residencial Rita

Hotel Residencial Rita was the best option we could find in the town, there are only three or four places to stay. The hotel was fine, a typical hotel in the countryside.

Facilities

  • Kitchen – no
  • Hot shower – yes
  • Wi-fi – yes
  • Power sockets in the room – yes
  • Washing machine – yes
  • Extra – towels, breakfast

Day 5. Odemira – S.Teotónio, 19,5 km/12 mi

  • Distance – 19,5 km/12 mi
  • Time – 4h.
  • Ascent – 437 m
  • Descent – 288 m
  • Difficulty level – 2 out of 5
Elevation profile Day 5 of the Historical Way trail
Elevation profile of the walking route from Odemira to S.Teotonio

The route from Odemira continues over the bridge and along the road for about 1 km and then turns into the fields offering some peaceful countryside scenery; green hills and the Eucalyptus forest. The day went quite quickly for us we saw three other hikers at the picnic spot and nobody else in the whole day.

Highlights

  • A very quiet walking day through the fields and forest beautiful scenery

Challenges

  • A couple of steep but short ascents

Stops on the route

  • At 13 km there is a picnic spot you can get cool drinks, coffee and some snacks here (it’s more like a stall not sure if it’s always opened).
A map of the walking trail from Odemira to S.Teotonio
A map of the trail from Odemira to S.Teotonio

S.Teotónio

  • Hotel – yes
  • Hostel – yes
  • Campsite – no
  • ATM – yes
  • Restaurant – yes
  • Supermarket/shop – yes
  • Pharmacy – yes
  • Beach – no

Not really a tourist destination more of a local town with not much to see or to do. The central square in front of the church is a nice place to come for beer or coffee but we stayed about 700 m away from there so we went for coffee and lunch to the nearby supermarket. There is a restaurant inside where you can get a set menu with salad, main dish, drink, bread, and coffee for 6,5 Euro, it’s a great value for money.

Places to stay in São Teotónio

Wheat fields is a typical scenery on the Historical Way
Rolling wheat fields on the Historical Way in Portugal

Day 6. S.Teotónio – Odeceixe, 17 km/10,5 mi

  • Distance – 17 km/10,5 mi
  • Time – 3h40min.
  • Ascent – 269 m
  • Descent – 420 m
  • Difficulty level – 2 out of 5, a short walking day with a couple of short ascents and descents on the way
Elevation profile of the route from S.Teotonio to Odeceixe on the Historical Way
Elevation profile of the route from S.Teotonio to Odeceixe

Today is the last day of walking inland from tomorrow on there will be route options that take hikers to the coast. At 3 km there is a split both routes go through the forest and fields to Odeceixe one is 15 km another one is 17 km. We took the 17 km route the day is pretty short anyway we didn’t feel like cutting 2 km from it but it’s totally up to you I don’t think if you take a shorter route you’ll miss out a lot.

The walk was very nice and quiet the whole day we saw only a group of cyclists and one hiking couple walking in the opposite direction. From Odeceixe, you can continue walking to Cabo de S.Vicente and Lagos following the Fishermen’s Trail itinerary of the Rota Vicentina.

Highlights

  • Green hills, pine forest, fields covered in wildflowers – very peaceful scenery.

Challenges

  • A steep descent at 9 km
  • No place to stop for food or water for about 15 km from S.Teotonio to S.Miguel.

Stops on the route

  • At 15 km S.Miguel – a small town with a couple of restaurants, a grocery store, and a campsite
A route map of the walk from S.Teotonio to Odeceixe
A trail map of a section of the Historical Way from S.Teotonio to Odeceixe

Odeceixe

  • Hotel – yes
  • Hostel – yes
  • Campsite – yes, 3 km before the town on the route
  • ATM – yes
  • Restaurant – yes
  • Supermarket/shop – yes
  • Pharmacy – yes
  • Beach – yes, 3 km away

A picturesque town at the foot of the hill, surrounded by the pasture fields, about 3 km away from the beach. From Odeceixe you will start seeing more people on the trail the Historical Way and the Fishermen’s Trail join here, many people come from the Fishermen’s route and continue to Cabo de S.Vicente following the Historical Way.

If you’re planning to camp keep in mind that the nearest campsite is about 3 km before Odeceixe, in S.Miguel, don’t miss it.

If you want to stay at the beach you can walk 3 km to Praia de Odeceixe just keep in mind that accommodation options there are limited and more expensive and there is no grocery shop only two or three restaurants. The beach is on the way if you take the coastal route from Odeceixe if you continue inland then it’s completely off route.

Hostal Seixe

We stayed at two different places in Odeceixe (we were in Odeceixe twice). The first time we stayed at Hostal Seixe, it’s a nice place with private rooms and dormitories.

Facilities

  • Kitchen – yes
  • Hot shower – yes
  • Wi-fi – yes
  • Power sockets in the room – yes
  • Washing machine – no
  • Extra – towels, washing lines

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