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Alentejo and Vicentina Coast

Located in the Sw of Portugal, Alentejo and Vicentina Coast is the best preserved coastal area of southern Europe. A true pearl, kept and tended for by its local inhabitants and by surprising natural values, that capture the hearts of more and more nature lovers and fans of active and sustainable tourism.

A variety of habitats and a remarkable biodiversity

In Sw Portugal you can explore the rocks exposed at low tide, the cliffs, the dunes, the mouths of the rivers and streams, the coastal plains, the temporary ponds, confined valleys, clear water rivers, pine and cork forests, but also the environments modified by man where the biodiversity is remarkable, such as oak woods,  meadows, orchards or olive groves.

A land of curious and adventurous people since prehistory

The history of the Sw is built on its geography, and it was its quality as a peripheral and border territory which determined its evolution and the way it is today. Inhabited since prehistory and protohistory, this territory has retained the interest of curious and adventurous people. 

The Region


All in all, it’s 110 kms of wild coastline and 75 thousand hectares of protected area within Sw Alentejo and Vicentina Coast Natural Park, comprising diverse habitats, some of them still quite unchanged and untouched, where you will find several species of endemic plants as well as a large number of animal species, particularly amphibians, birds and sea fauna.

United by two outstandingly beautiful Portuguese regions, this coastal area combines Alentejo’s tranquility and romance with the only coastal stretch of Algarve that is truly genuine and wild. Nature, authentic rural life and a very mild climate, pampered by over 300 days of sunshine per year, make this region an unmissable destination for lovers of nature tourism.

 

How to get there and move around

The region is situated between Lisbon and the Algarve and is served by Lisbon and Faro airports. You can get to the main locations of the Sw by car, bus and train. 

The access to Sines or to Aljezur, is by highways or main roads. Within the region, one can travel along municipal and somewhat winding roads, characterized by the beauty of the countryside.

If you want to avoid the car while walking the Rota Vicentina, you can get there by train or bus and you can count on the taxi or shuttle services guaranteed by some tourist companies.

If you prefer to combine days of walking with others on which you intend to travel greater distances, we suggest that you come by car or opt for a rental car through Europcar, partner and sponsor of the Rota Vicentina.

 

By Plane

The region is served by Lisbon and Faro airports. Lisbon Airport is ideal for getting to the northern part of the region and Faro Airport is ideal for the southern area. However the transportation options and the accessibility from Lisbon are more flexible and comprehensive. It is possible to fly to Lisbon and Faro from the major European capitals.

Madrid – Faro: 1h00     London – Faro: 2h30     Berlin – Lisbon: 3h25     Copenhagen - Lisbon: 3h45

By Car

Europcar

From Lisbon

From Lisbon, take the A2/A12 or IC1 in the direction “Sul/Algarve”. There are several alternatives, but none of them really compare in terms of distance or time of journey. Choose between:

Route 1

At km 104 of the A2 join the IP8 in the direction of Sines. On the IC1 in Grândola, take the same turn off.  Follow in the direction of Odemira and Porto Covo. This will be a good option for getting to Santiago do Cacém, Sines, Porto Covo and Milfontes.

Route 2

From the A2, take the exit “Beja/Ferreira”, at around km 119 on the A2, joining the IC1, on the direction “Algarve/Ourique”. Once on the IC1, you have the option of turning off in the direction of ”Santiago do Cacém/Sines”, taking the exit “Alvalade / Cercal / Lagos”, ideal if you want to go to Cercal, S. Luís and Vila Nova de Milfontes, or exit “Odemira / OESTE”. As you arrive in Odemira you will be on N120, which goes through all the places of the Sw through which the Rota Vicentina passes: Cercal, S. Luís, Odemira, S. Teotónio, Odeceixe, Aljezur, etc.

From Faro

Go on the A22 or N125 as far as Lagos/Bensafrim.

Aljezur/Odeceixe

At the turning for Lagos/Bensafrim, join the N120 with links to  Aljezur, Odeceixe, S. Teotónio, Odemira, S. Luís, Cercal and Santiago do Cacém. In Odemira take the turn off at Portas de Transval – towards Almogarve, Vila  Nova de Milfontes  and Porto Covo.

Sagres/Vila do Bispo/Carrapateira

From Lagos continue on the N125 as far as Vila do Bispo, from where you can head south towards Sagres and Cape St. Vincent, or northwards, towards  Bordeira, Carrapateira and Aljezur

Some Distances

Lisbon – Sines: 165 km
Lisbon – Odemira: 202 km
Porto – Odemira: 478 km
Faro – Odemira: 149 km
Lisbon – Aljezur: 244 km
Faro – Aljezur: 108 km

See distance table in the region

By Train

It is unquestionably the most ecological, efficient and comfortable way to get to the region. Departures are from Lisbon and Faro in the direction of Ermida-Sado, Funcheira, Santa Clara-Sabóia or Lagos. Ermida-Sado train station is 28 km from Santiago do Cacém, Funcheira train station 35 km from Odemira and from Cercal do Alentejo, Santa Clara-Sabóia train station 27 km from S. Teotónio and Lagos train station 25 km from Vila do Bispo.

From Lisbon

From Lisbon airport take the aero bus, subway or a taxi to “Lisboa-Entrecampos” or “Lisboa-Oriente” train stations. From any of them, departures in the direction of "Ermidas-Sado" (+/- 1h30m), ”Funcheira” (+/-1h40) or “Santa Clara-Sabóia” (+/-2h15) train stations, 3 times a day between 10 am and 5pm.  See timetables. 

From Faro

From Faro airport take a taxi or bus to Faro train station. Departures from Faro in the direction of Lagos (+/-1h45), 9 times a day between 7 am and 8 pm, from where you must catch a bus to the chosen destination. See timetables.

Faro departures towards Santa Clara-Sabóia (+/-1h) or Funcheira (+/-1h45) and Ermidas-sado (+/- 2h), 4 timesa day between the 7 am and 5 pm. See timetables.

From the train station to the coast

Ermidas-Sado train station is 30 km from Santiago do Cacém, Funcheira station is 36 km from Odemira and the Santa Clara-Sabóia station is 27 km from S. Teotónio. (See distance table in the region)

To get to the coast  you can choose one of our taxi partners (+/-1 €/km), shuttle service provided by your chosen accommodation, or the Rodoviária do Alentejo bus service, during the week, from Monday to Friday (see timetables between Santa Clara-a-Velha/Sabóia and Odemira and between Ermidas and Santiago do Cacém).

By Bus

This is the most direct way to get to any point on the Rota Vicentina. The Rede de Expressos bus company has comfortable buses with free wi-fi, the only downside being the journey along kilometers of windy roads and spending 1-2 hours more than in your own car.

From Lisbon

From Lisbon airport take the aero bus, subway or a taxi to Sete Rios Bus terminal. Buses leave in the direction of any of the villages of the region (Santiago do Cacém – 2h20; Porto Covo – 3h; S. Teotónio – 4h20 or Aljezur – 5h). Depending on the chosen destination there are several timetables available and all the itineraries have stops at key locations in the Sw, starting with Santiago do Cacém, where the Historical Way begins, or Porto Covo, where the Fishermen’s Trail starts – from north. Choose your departure point and your destination and plan your trip. See timetables.

From Faro

From Faro airport take a taxi or bus to Faro Bus terminal. Buses leave between 8 am and the 17:25 pm to Lagos (2h10), with EVA Transportes. From Lagos there are longer connections (Rede Expressos) and local connections (EVA Transportes) to Cape St. Vincent, Sagres, Vila do Bispo, Aljezur, Odeceixe and Rogil. See timetables.

In the Region

The most efficient way to make any needed passenger or luggage transfer, including from the airport to any village within the Rota Vicentina is through our partner taxis. Check the Rota Vicentina Distance Table to get an estimation of the expected cost of the service and reach our partner taxis directly, as there is no central transfer service.

The Rodoviária do Alentejo bus service offers connections between Odeceixe and Santiago do Cacém and EVA Transportes between Lagos and Odeceixe. As an alternative, count on Rede Expressos, that makes long distance connections, which you can use to move between two local towns.

Some useful connections:

Rodoviária do Alentejo
Linha 8923: Odeceixe – Santiago do Cacém
Linha 8942: Odeceixe – Santiago do Cacém
Linha 8077: Cercal do Alentejo – Sines
Linha 8214: Sines – Vila Nova de Milfontes
Linha 8928: Santa Clara-a-Velha/Sabóia – Odemira
EVA Transportes
Odeceixe – Lagos
Lagos – Sagres
Sagres – Cabo de S. Vicente
Lagos – Sagres
Sagres – Cabo de S. Vicente

Note: some of these connections are only available during week days.


Natural Characteristics

Anyone who comes to the Sw of Portugal by sea finds high cliffs of very old, dark rock on the coast of the Alentejo (schist and graywacke sandstone) and light rock on the Algarve coast (limestone). On this rock on the coastal plateau, lies a thin layer of sediment, full of unique habitats and species.

The rivers and streams have split this plateau creating deep valleys, the slopes of which are covered in an almost untouched Mediterranean undergrowth. Continuing inland, you come to the mountain ridges formed by continental collisions. Forests of oaks and pines and rocky outcrops dominate the hills, populated by large birds of prey and nocturnal carnivores.

The Sw of Portugal has one of the best climates in the world, and for thousands of years this has been the case … proof of this is the fact that this region was a haven for many species of flora and fauna, during the last ice age. Many of these species are still here today, the nearest populations being hundreds of km away. Also found in Sw Portugal are many endemic species, i.e., those that are not found anywhere else in the world.

Winters are short and are never very cold, but offer enough rain to fertilize the soil for the nine months when the sun is king. The harmony in which man and nature have lived since prehistoric times is reflected in habitats full of diversity.

You can explore the rocks exposed at low tide (with starfish, sea urchins, barnacles and whelks …), the cliffs (where storks, hawks, swifts, crows, redstarts etc nest), the dunes (with rare and endemic plants, others which are aromatic and medicinal …), the mouths of the rivers and streams (where fish, molluscs and crustaceans breed), the coastal plains (where you can watch the migration of thousands of birds in autumn including great soaring birds), the temporary ponds (where prehistoric crustaceans and almost all the amphibians that are found in Portugal live), confined valleys (with Portuguese oak, lianas and shrubs of colourful berries), clear water rivers (where the otter is Queen), pine forests and cork (where wild boar abound and you can pick wild mushrooms and asparagus), but also the environments modified by man where the biodiversity is remarkable- oak woods,  meadows, orchards, olive groves...



 

Weather

The recommended period to walk the Rota Vicentina is from September till June. The Sw of Portugal has a Mediterranean climate with a strong Atlantic influence, guaranteeing mild temperatures throughout the year.

• All summer season, particularly July and August, when is too warm, is not the recommended season to walk in the Rota Vicentina.
 
• The autumn months are generally quite mild, with the ocean waters reaching pleasant  temperatures and the winds dying down.
 
• In winter, temperatures do not fall below 11ºC during the day and this is normally the rainiest period of the year.
 
• From March on, sunny days alternate with rainy days and temperatures start to rise. The reborn landscape and the intensity of the colours and aromas make spring one of the best seasons to visit the area.

Social-Historical Context

The history of the Sw is built on its geography, and it was its quality as a peripheral and border territory which determined its evolution and the way it is today. Inhabited since prehistory and protohistory, this territory has retained the interest of curious and adventurous people.

The most important archaeological remains, however, belong to the Roman period, such as the ruins of Miróbriga, a city linked to the Celts, and the remains of the ports of Sines, Pessegueiro, Milfontes and Odemira.

When in the 13th century this territory became part of the new Kingdom of Portugal, settlements had focused away from the coast, but then the tendency to be near the sea resurfaced. Thus, under the patronage of the Crown and with the intervention of the regional and local authorities (order of Santiago and the good townsmen) the towns of Sines and Milfontes were born at two propitious sites on the coast. However, their development was hampered by the attacks of maghrebi pirates which affected the safety of both shipping and the populations along the rivers.

Once again, the ports have a crucial role in the life of the people, ensuring fish for the tables and facilitating the export trade of regional products. The Mira river, traversing a vast territory, allowed vessels to reach the interior, which gave it a unique role in the South-West and bestowed on the town of Odemira the function of polarizing centre.

Near the sea, people tended to have an “Amphibian” way of life,   farming for the most part but fishing when the sea permitted. Further inland, agriculture and livestock farming occupied almost everyone. In this sparsely populated region the vast wasteland gave rise to shepherding, bee keeping and provided firewood, cork and wood. Of course there were other needs, so there were shoemakers, blacksmiths, farm workers … and a small family weaving industry, based on the culture of flax, which occupied any free time.

Life was regulated by the cycle of nature and by the agricultural calendar, in work, at play and in religion. The solstice festivals at the end of June, for example, with their Holy Baths, their Masts and their bonfires, annually repeat ancient naturalistic rituals which over time Christianity has absorbed.