I usually go by the dictum, “The west coast is the best coast.” In the case of Portugal’s Fisherman’s Trail, this motto holds true. I’m going to lead with the persuasive fact that a glass of wine is around 80 cents in a coastal restaurant. To follow that up, when you order a glass, the waiter usually pretends that there was a lost-in-translation moment and handily delivers a bottle citing that it is, in fact, a “cup of wine”. And, probably this to start off…
Though, my willingness to sample all of Portugal’s food and wine should not overshadow the stunning natural wonders around each turn on the lightly-travelled, sandy paths of the Algarve’s northern hiking trail. The Fisherman’s Trail connects several small towns along the Southern Atlantic Coast. You can walk for days along the gorgeous, preserved coastal trail taking in picturesque rock formations, nesting storks, abandoned beaches, shipwrecks, and sandy beaches. In the spring, temperatures range within the 22-30 degree range, offering a perfect climate for both hiking and beaching. I recommend both.
Now allow me to get granular, if you are actually planning a visit. In my experience, the few tourists that signed up for a tour and paid a lot of money to hike from town to town, got over-charged for these reasons:
- Portugal is suuuuupppper cheap, and they are forced to pay a premium for hotels (In American Prices), and directions (that they printed out at home, that basically just tell them to walk along the well-marked trail).
- They have to carry all of their stuff, on their back, from town-to-town. (No one looked happy about it—it’s harder than you think.)
- They have to make it to their next destination (usually 20-25kms) so they don’t have time to stop and relax when an amazing beach appears at low tide, or hang out with the cool Australian surfers for a beachy BBQ.
Of course, if you like a turnkey, no up-front-thinking vacation, the tours could be an option. However, this will literally save you thousands of dollars…
First of all, choose a central town. I had a car, so I stayed in a farmhouse in Cercal, the town mid-way along the trail. (There are buses that take you town to town along the trail, too.) It was about a ten-minute drive from town-to-town, which made it easy to hike the trail from start to finish simply by driving to each town and hiking out-and-back each day. This was amazing because I only needed to pack water and a bikini. It made relaxing on a beach for an hour or two an option, without worrying where the next check point was. Like a, “choose your own adventure” novel, instead of a prescribed touristy experience.
The beaches are generally “clothing-optional” so choose wisely.
And most of all: go! This is an experience that many travellers overlook for destinations like Cinque Terra, Able Tasman, or Big Sur. But, having done each of the afore mentioned, the Fisherman’s Trail, stands out as being one of the most surprisingly amazing, hiking experiences of my life.