Once you’ve made it to Porto Covo, you’re ready to start the Fishermen’s Trail. Unless, of course, you started in Saõ Torpes or Lagos. For the sake of convenience, I’m going to assume that you, like me, are starting here and everything is still new to you. So let’s go, take that first step.
This section isn’t the easiest start to your hike. You’ll be hiking through loose sand pretty much all day, so take it easy and count on some sore muscles for tomorrow if you’re not used to this.
My biggest recommendation for this stage, but really for the entire trail is: wear gaiters! Thanks to mine, I didn’t have any sand in my shoes, and judging by the faces of the other hikers, they were all jealous. I received many comments and questions about my gaiters!
Today won’t be your longest day, you have about 20 kilometers (ca. 12 miles) ahead of you, but you’ll be walking up and down dunes and through loose sand for most of the day. On the bright side, the views will be so distracting that you won’t notice it that much. I kept thinking to myself: ‘If the entire trail is like this, I won’t complain’. I was right back in my element. Glad to be back on trail, enjoying the views, the beautiful weather and the gorgeous surroundings.
Most of the walking will be done through the dunes, but you’ll cross the occasional beach. About 2.5 miles (ca. 4 km) in, you’ll arrive at an old fort with a small bar next to it. This will be the first and only opportunity you’ll get today to buy a drink, so if you’re feeling parched already, seize this opportunity with both hands.
The official trail will lead you away from the coast at times, and make a detour inland. This will happen all along the trail from time to time, though it’s not always obvious why. The detours might be to respect a patch of private land, prevent erosion, or conserve nature, though there are no clarifications, so I don’t know for sure.
Now and then, instead of following the path, you can opt to walk along the beach. Be aware that you may have to clamber over slippery rocks and wade through the water here and there, especially at high tide. So make sure the coast is clear (literally) before choosing such an option. Don’t take any risks, the sea can be rough here.
The app Mapy.cz gives you a good overview of the existing trails in the area and already has the Fishermen’s Trail route in it by default. Of course, you can also get the trail guide, if you prefer. Or both!
Throughout the trail, you will pass by an abundance of beaches and coves, so if you love beach life, make sure to build in some extra time to enjoy. If you prefer to watch the other hikers roll into town from the comfort of a reclining chair with a glass of wine in your hands, then that’s a viable option as well. Of course, the earlier you start and the faster you hike, the more time you’ll have. But with a trail like this, why hurry?
I stayed at the MUTE hostel in Porto Covo. This is literally across from the trail, so in the morning you step out the door and are on your way. They serve an excellent breakfast and there is a pool, garden, rooftop terrace and a great view. Porto Covo is small, so it’s easy to stroll to the main street for a bite to eat in the evening or to the supermarket or bakery in the morning to score your lunch for the day.
There are, of course, other options in Porto Covo. What worked best for me was checking sites like Booking.com or Airbnb for options a few days before our arrival. In mid-May, it was still quite doable to book something online one or two days ahead, but our first choice wasn’t always available anymore. If you have a clear preference for a specific place, make sure you book it in advance. If you’re not really too bothered, it will be a bit easier.
In Vila Nova de Milfontes, I stayed in hostel Selina. This was simultaneously the most expensive overnight stay of this trip (35 euros, but prices vary according to the time of year), and the best. There was a bar, a hot tub, air conditioning, a relaxed atmosphere, a welcome drink and an excellent breakfast. They organize activities and the restaurant that is in the hostel also seems to be excellent. But most importantly, the beds were very comfortable.
Eating and drinking along the way
Grab a nice breakfast before you start your day, many hostels have breakfast included in the price, or find a restaurant where they serve breakfast. A visit to a supermarket or local bakery for some fresh bread, some local cheese and a pastel de nata for lunch will get you through the day! Some sections have restaurants along the way, but the opening hours can be a bit unpredictable, so don’t count on them.
Don’t forget to bring enough water for the day, because there aren’t many refill locations. Count on bringing at least two to four liters of water, depending on your consumption rate and the temperature.
Your final destination for today
Vila Nova de Milfontes makes for a good end to your first day. It’s a slightly larger village and has more amenities and quite a few good restaurants to celebrate your successful day. On to day two!