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Cercal and S. Luís Hills

The view of the coast from the hills is quite a surprise. The best time of the day to climb to S. Domingos, the highest point of the Rota Vicentina, is at dawn or dusk.

Rare and endemic species

There are rare and endemic plant species you may find along this section. Centaurea crocata and Centaurea vicentina are endemic to Portugal and its southwestern corner, but Bupleurum acutifolium is endemic to just this area in the hills around Cercal and S. Luís and can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

Gum rockrose

The flora is dominated by the beautiful and aromatic Gum Rockrose. As a young plant is strongly impregnated with a sticky substance called laudanum, protecting the plant from humidity loss during the dry season. Its enormous white flowers last only one day and can be appreciated in the months of April and May.

Rocha de Água d'Alte

Roughly half way through the route, making a detour of 600m you will find a very special place. Venture along a narrow footpath that descends to the base of the cliff and during the wet season you can enjoy the waterfall. Do not leave rubbish, preserve this site!

Historical Way


 

Cercal do Alentejo » S. Luís

21 km

 
 
 

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.

 



 
OPEN MAP

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.

 

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Tips


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.

 
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Where to start

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.

S. Luís:

Next to the bus stop on the national road which crosses S. Luís. Head towards the church, where you will find a sign post.

Fact Sheet

DIFFICULTY LEVEL: SOMEWHAT DIFFICULT
DISTANCE: 21 KM
APPROXIMATE DURATION: 7 HOURS
ACCUMULATED CLIMB: 467 M
ACCUMULATED DESCENT: 465 M
MAXIMUM ALTITUDE: 329 M
MINIMUM ALTITUDE: 62 M
RECOMMENDED SEASON:
SEPTEMBER TILL JUNE
 
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Warnings

You will not find any refreshments along the way. You should bring water (1.5 L) and enough provisions for a walk that is one of the most demanding of the Rota Vicentina.

 
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RULES AND RECOMMENDATIONS

THE CIRCULATION OF MOTOR VEHICLES PUTS WALKERS AT RISK
AVOID DOING THE HISTORICAL WAY ON A MOTOR CYCLE OR IN A JEEP, LOOK INTO OTHER OPTIONS
DO NOT LIGHT FIRES
SEVERAL FARMS AND CATTLE HERDS ARE PROTECTED BY GUARD DOGS. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.
BE CAUTIOUS WITH CATTLE, ALTHOUGH GENTLE, THEY DO NOT LIKE STRANGERS APPROACHING THEIR CALVES.
THESE TRAILS PASS BY PRIVATE PROPERTY. RESPECT IT AND CLOSE GATES AND FENCES YOU WILL FIND ON THE WAY.
THERE ARE VERY FEW SUPPORT SERVICES ALONG THE TRAILS. BRING WATER AND FOOD SUPPLIES WITH YOU.
IN SOME PARTS OF THE TRAILS YOU WILL HAVE TO CROSS PAVED ROADS. BE CAREFUL!
YOU WILL FIND SEVERAL LOCATIONS IDEAL FOR PICNICS. DO NOT, IN ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, LEAVE TRASH BEHIND.
BE FRIENDLY WITH THE LOCALS, TELL THEM WHY YOU’RE THERE AND SHARE EXPERIENCES.
 




 

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