This is Rota Vicentina’s most mountainous section as well as a physically demanding one, with long ascent segments on harsh and irregular terrain. But you will be rewarded with breathtaking views over the plains and the Atlantic ocean, right from the top of the hills.
The flatter areas of this section are liberally peppered with small orchards, vegetable patches and low-intensity farming, while in amongst the undergrowth can be found the remains of the area’s iron and manganese mines which operated here for over 40 years. The old mineshafts are now home to large colonies of several species of bat that work tirelessly, night after night, both as pest controllers and seed spreaders. Every single night each bat eats 50% of its body weight in insects.
The southern part of this section becomes hillier and offers walkers some spectacular scenery, such as Rocha de Água d’Alte, and the breathtaking views of the coastline. Underground streams sometimes bubble up onto the surface into springs that feed small streams, and the flora is unique, dominated by the beautiful and aromatic Gum Rockrose, (Cistus ladanifer).
The only blot on the horizon is the view of the ubiquitous eucalyptus plantations, a major cause of several losses to the area, soil in erosion, water due to the tree’s insatiable thirst, natural habitat due to its monoculture, and, of course, countryside employment. However, it is quite interesting to see how the local flora explodes whenever it finds an open, sunny area among the eucalyptus trees. Nature could flourish here, given the chance.
After Penedo, you don’t even have to leave the trail to find some very rare species as they grow on the hard and dry soil right beside the path.
A demanding section
For those who come from the north, the final part of this section can be a little exhausting, and if you are coming to S. Luís during the hottest part of the day, in the middle of the afternoon, you may not get the best views over the sea of Vila Nova de Milfontes, nor have the strength to climb to S. Domingos, which adds 1.5 km to the days walk.
If you can, opt to start this section from S. Luís, this way you will not hesitate to climb to S. Domingos (the highest point of the Rota Vicentina! – 329 m) and you will have the morning light to enjoy the vast views from the top of the hill.
Cercal do Alentejo:
At the roundabout of Cercal do Alentejo, following the road towards Vila Nova de Milfontes, until you find the sign posts, indicating a sharp left.
Next to the bus stop on the national road which crosses S. Luís. Head towards the church, where you will find a sign post.