Hike the Rota Vicentina, Part 2

Experience Portugal’s Alentejo region on foot

“The sea can do craziness, it can do smooth, it can lie down like silk breathing or toss havoc shoreward; it can give gifts or withhold all; it can rise, ebb, froth like an incoming frenzy of fountains, or it can sweet-talk entirely. As I can too, and so, no doubt, can you, and you.”

― Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings

In Part 1 we left off in Almograve after two days and 48km of hiking along the Rota Vicentina. Part 2 picks back up in Almograve for two more days and 41km of tranquility and ocean views.

Day 3: Almograve to Zambujeira do Mar

Starting town: Almograve
Ending town: Zambujeira do Mar
Distance hiked: 21.5km
Trail time: 9:20 to 15:45

We were on the trail earlier today with the intent of getting to enjoy Zambujeira do Mar in the daylight. We had noticed a bakery in town the evening prior and hoped that we could pick up a tasty breakfast treat. Alas, it wasn’t open - no surprise there, as a lot of establishments in these towns seem to shut down during the off-season. Good thing we had some roasted almonds and snack bars to get us through to dinner!

Almograve is back a little from the coast, so we had a kilometre of walking before we reunited with the ocean. Welcome back old friends, we hear the waves whisper.

returning to the ocean

returning to the ocean

All morning the Atlantic Ocean served us stunning views, with monumental cliffs in the foreground and, bonus, soft sand underfoot; I could hear my feet screaming thank you!

morning hiking the rota vicentina

cliff views

more cliffs

and more cliffs

The wind was a little stronger today, and as a result, the waves were mesmerizing. Many additional pauses were required to watch them rolllllll in, ascend, curl over, collapse, and then CRASH!!!! into the cliffs. Over, and over again. Never letting up.

admiring the cliffs

day 3 hiking

We couldn’t get enough of these cliffs with their layers of beauty. Can you spot the Z?

layered cliffs

z rock formation

With three kilometres to go, the path passed by a small fishing harbour, and then continued for 2km alongside a small local road. On the outskirts of town, the path ventured back to the coast for a last hurrah to end the spectacular day.

Felt great to be in town so early, AND with such great access to views! Zambujeira do Mar sits right on the ocean and so we were excited to spend some time sitting while taking in the sun and ocean.

We watched the sun go down over the beach and the crashing waves as we drank cold beers and munched on our chips. Pure perfection. We both agreed this was a highlight moment of the hike.

sunset beers

valentine's day sunset

For dinner, we had a recommendation from our hostel host.

“It’s the kind of place my father goes to drink beer and watch the football. It’s not fancy, but their food is tasty and it’s cheap.”

His description was SO accurate. We entered the restaurant, and sat down in a ‘normal’ way - facing each other with the table in between. I very quickly realized I was the only one in the restaurant not facing the tv where the football match was playing. Eventually I just embraced it and turned my back on Tim to also face the tv. Happy Valentine’s Day love!

Day 4: Zambujeira do Mar to Odeceixe

Starting town: Zambujeira do Mar
Ending town: Odeceixe
Distance hiked: 19km
Trail time: 10:30 to 16:00

We woke up before 8am to the sun pouring into our hostel room. Tim was quick to pack up and head to the kitchen…by the time I got downstairs, there was cup of freshly brewed coffee and an orange peeled for me (feeling warm and fuzzy here reminiscing about these favourite smells and how lucky I am).

There were two other guests at the hostel that night, and we enjoyed chatting with them over our morning coffee. We said our goodbyes, made a quick stop into a shop for a morning croissant, and then were on our way.

The trail was beautiful right from the start today. We only had to go a short few hundred metres on the road leaving town and then we were on the trail. Zambujeira do Mar started to fade into the distance and soon we were left with just us, the cliffs and the ocean. We were feeling revitalized and energetic for our last day on the trail.

leaving zambejeira do mar

tim and victoria on the rota vicentina

ocean views

It wouldn’t be a day on the trail without at least one tight squeeze through the overgrown acacia trees.

squeezing through acacia trees

The afternoon was more difficult. Not because of the terrain, but just with more kilometres on our feet. At 9.5km we passed through the small town of Azenha do Mar. We contemplated stopping for a seafood lunch at a recommended restaurant but decided to forge on and not risk losing our momentum. I found that by the afternoon if I stopped for more than a few minutes my feet would be in so much pain starting back up that the break wasn’t worth the future pain. I guess that’s a positive of hedonic adaptation!

flowers on the rota vicentina

rosemary on the rota vicentina

We reached the mouth of the river and could see the beautiful Odeceixe beach below us. From here we could see the town further inland (you can't quite see it in the photo below), but had been warned by last nights hostel-mates that although it looked close, it would take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to get there. They were right, the last 4km were extremely painful on our feet as we made our way east on the paved road to town.

odeceixe beach

On one hand we were both sad that we had just finished the last leg of our hike, but on the other hand, we were prettttyyyy happy to have made it into town.

We took a pre-dinner stroll with wine and beer in-hand, trying to find where we would catch the bus the next day to get us to Lagos. It was surprisingly difficult to find! Eventually we did find a public bathroom that had a 8.5x11inch paper time-table with the bus logo that matched the one I’d found online. Let’s hope that public bathroom + paper timetable = bus stop!

With bus business taken care of, we enjoyed a game of cribbage on our terrace and then found a surprisingly good pizza restaurant for dinner. A perfect way to finish off our Alentejo coastal adventure.

Day 5: Odeceixe to Lagos, by bus

A quick update on the bus situation.

6:15am. We walk to where we think the bus stop is, and to our delight see two buses that looked like that had been parked there overnight.

6:25am. The busses remain dark and asleep.

6:27am. A car whips around the corner and parks across the street from us. He gets out of his car and grabs a lunch box from the passenger seat. This is encouraging. He walks over to one of the sleeping buses and, whirr vroom, the bus awakens.

Destination Lagos!

The Verdict

“Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.”

― Maya Angelou

We were lucky enough to have four days like this. Don’t be mistaken, we were excited and ready for some time off our feet, but knew we would miss the sound of the ocean and the tranquility and peacefulness that comes with such a simple predetermined goal each day. The Rota Vicentina hike was an absolute delight and a highlight of our time in Portugal.