Day 3 of the Rota Vicentina
The Fisherman’s Trail
Almogarve to Zambujeira do Mar 22 km/13.6 miles
I woke up on our third day of walking the Rota Vicentina thinking we couldn’t possibly have ANOTHER day as gorgeous as the previous two. It was just unfathomable that both the incredible views and the sunny weather would continue.
But they did!
It’s impossible to chose a highlight, but every day on this trail was as beautiful as the one before and the one after.
Our guest house wasn’t serving breakfast (because I think we were the only ones there), but our host told us where to find breakfast early the next morning.
We had a long day ahead of us, our longest day of the four on the trail, and so we stocked up on snacks at the same little shop where we had coffee and croissants. Everyone in town seemed to be getting their morning coffee and pastry before starting their days.
Fueled and ready, we set out on our journey of passing one beautiful deserted beach after the other.
We waled around the coves, wondering at the rock formations below.
Many of the beaches had tiny little winding trails or even stairs down to the water below. This area is super popular for surfing, but I cannot imagine how hard it would be to tote a surfboard down these little trails.
I’ve included a couple of videos from this day because I think that they manage to capture the grandeur a little more than a photo.
We passed a cove full of fishing boats and saw fishermen getting ready to head out to sea.
There were actually several spots like this on the trail, reminding us that all of the fish we were eating was incredibly fresh.
Soon we were climbing up the sand away from the fishing boats and back up high above the sea.
I love how far you can look back and see where you’ve come from on this trail, as well as where you are headed.
If you walk this trail north to south, you have the sun on your face all morning, which as a winter walk, was such a treat to me, but if you’d rather have the sun on your back, I recommend walking it south to north. It’s clearly marked in both directions.
We were excited this morning because for the first time on the trail, there was a stopping point about halfway through our day with a few cafes and restaurants.
I had wanted to get an early start, and it helped to know we would have a longer rest stop earlier in the day at Cavaleiro before pushing on to Zambujeira do Mar.
But it was a while before we got there. We had a full morning of climbs up and down, maybe the most gains and drops in elevation so far.
But the dramatic drops and climbs are what make for such great views.
We also left the seaside for a while and walked through a small forest, a strangely welcome relief from the sandy trails underfoot.
This entire portion of the trail is in a protected area full of sand dunes. When you walk inland a bit, you get a feel for how vast this protected area is.
The paths show evidence of lots of other walkers, but we only saw a few others. This was the first day we would actually meet some of our fellow walkers.
But when you looked behind or ahead on the trail, usually, we saw no one.
We couldn’t get over the feeling that we seemed to have it all to ourselves. I kept thinking of people I needed to tell about this incredible trail!
As we walked, we were already dreaming of when we could come back.
Before lunch we passed another empty beach cove that had a steep staircase all the way down to the bottom.
It had a deep gorge that cut into the landscape so that we had to wind around it a bit.
Here’s a video of this section of the trail.
When we got to the other side, I walked over to the top of the cove to spot the stairs going down below.
The stairs looked fairly precarious so we didn’t make our way down. Besides, we were so close now to our lunch spot.
Just one more kilometer to Cavaleiro!
At lunch we met two ladies from Germany who were walking north on the trail. Plus we finally introduced ourselves to the only other lone walkers walking south with us. One German man was walking in Portugal on his own for several weeks and then the Dutch gal we met in the hot tub on our first night also joined us for lunch.
We all sat outside in the sun on a patio comparing our days on the trail. We swapped advice with the ladies who were walking south. The happy gathering of six was the most people we had been around since leaving Lisbon.
After coffee and some sandwiches, we said our farewells and headed off to Zambujeira do Mar. Do Mar means of the sea in Portuguese, so we were excited about staying in a town that was right on the water. Plus we had a recommendation for a curry place in town for dinner.
The walk back to the beach was through some sweet little farmhouses. We even saw a few sheep, cows and horses.
With yellow flowers in bloom, you would never know it was January.
We had also started seeing storks on this day, perched on rocks all along the coastline.
Once we saw them, we couldn’t stop looking for them. And there were so many!
I think they migrate away for part of the season but it was so warm that we saw quite a few.
They say that in the spring, there are storks nesting all along the rocks on this part of the trail.
As I looked down to spot storks, I was also so fascinated by how the rock shapes seemed to change right before my eyes as I walked.
A long skinny rock would shift into a round shape when I got to the other side of it.
It was just so, so stunning.
It was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, so we passed a few other day walkers out for a stroll on the trail.
Even though this day was long, it was easy to keep going.
The sea views practically carry you forward.
I was so distracted by how beautiful everything was that I wasn’t focused on how long we had been walking.
We stopped once or twice to sit and rest and just watch the storks and seagulls flying.
As we got closer to Zambujeira do Mar, we descended far down from the cliff tops again.
We passed another little fishing outpost, and then just above it, there was a restaurant called O Sacas serving food straight from the sea.
It was super busy. The gorgeous weekend afternoon had drawn folks out for lunch, so we couldn’t squeeze in but we did sit and have a drink at a picnic table just outside. As we watched the plates of food coming out to tables, Anna said she would like to come back for dinner. However, we were still about 3 km from Zambujeira do Mar. I didn’t suspect we would want to walk back.
We decided we would plan to eat there the next time we walked this section, because of course there will be a next time!
After our drinks, the trail carried on down a road for a little bit, and then back out to the sea one more time.
The trail circled around another big cove and beach.
We watched another gorgeous beach come into view. And then it disappeared behind us.
Again and again, this is what you see on this trail. I never got tired of it.
Maybe it was the delight of being out in the sun after the dark, rainy months of November and December in Bristol that made these days so special. But I suspect that I would enjoy walking this trail at just about any time of year. They say it can be unbearably hot in the summertime, so I probably wouldn’t come back then. But spring or fall would also be lovely.
Soon our destination appeared in the distance: Zambujeira do Mar.
The town is almost tucked into the cove by the sea. It was the closest we stayed to the water on our whole trip, and we could even hear the sea when our window was open.
There was a sweet little church right on the main square of Zambujeira do Mar. And then just up the street from the square is where we stayed.
Hostel Nature came highly recommended to us, so I was excited about staying in this sweet hostel run by a local family.
It just has a few rooms, but there is a great common area and kitchen to use. And maybe the highlight is that they have a washer and dryer that is free to use for guests! We were excited about washing our clothes for the first time since arriving in Portugal. In fact it was hard to choose what to keep on because we wanted to wash everything!
After we washed our clothes and went shopping for yogurts and fruit for our breakfast the next day, we went closer to the water to watch the sunset.
Jan, who we had met at lunch was also down watching the sunset and he said he had hoped he would see us there because we had all said at lunch that we would go to have a curry at the place the German ladies had recommended.
So after the gorgeous sunset, we went to find the little restaurant. We all ordered curries that came with freshly baked garlic naan. It tasted so good. It’s amazing how good food tastes after walking all day!
We had a lot of fun visiting with Jan and hearing about the many different trails he has walked. He had the most infections laugh!
I made a few notes about routes to check out later.
After dinner, we said farewell and headed back to our hostel where our Dutch friend had also checked in. She was staying in the common bunk room with two other guys. They were also walking the trail, but we hadn’t seen them before.
Apparently, these two men had gotten into a rather absurd altercation. (One of them hadn’t showered and the other one thought he smelled. So he had told him that he was making the whole room smell bad.) As a result, the atmosphere was a bit awkward and we were feeling very sorry for our new friend. We wished we had an extra bed in our room to offer her. But as a consolation, I offered her the extra bed in the apartment we had rented for the next night. That way she could have one night off from the common bunk rooms.
Anna and I went to bed fairly tickled about the whole evening, which warded off the sadness I might have felt about the next day being our last one. I wasn’t quite ready to leave the Rota Vicentina.