Hiking in Portugal: 4 Fantastic Hikes on the Edge of Europe

By Jan Bakker

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Nestled on the southwestern edge of Europe, Portugal boasts a unique blend of Mediterranean charm and raw Atlantic beauty, making it a dream destination for keen hikers seeking adventure and serenity. Whether you're a seasoned hiker or a novice, there’s a hiking adventure for everyone. Portugal’s mainland has a number of long-distance hiking routes along its pristine coastlines and authentic slow paced interior. The Atlantic islands are all about spicy hikes across and around the forested mountain ranges while the ocean is never far away. We selected four fabulous hiking journeys that represent the best hiking Portugal has to offer.

One of the most famous hiking routes in Portugal is the Fisherman’s Trail . This classic walk winds around the southwest coast with incredible sea views and stunning beaches. For those who crave an inland adventure, the Via Algarviana spans 300 kilometers across the Algarve, unveiling the region's rural landscapes, traditional villages and Portuguese hospitality. You can venture further to the island paradise called Madeira, where it's possible to cross the entire island through emerald-green levadas and ancient laurel forests on the Madeira Trail . The best kept secret is found in the Azores, smack bang in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, where you can circumnavigate the remote island of Santa Maria from hut to hut on the Grande Rota de Santa Maria . Whichever hiking adventure you choose, your journey through this enchanting and diverse country will be a treat for the senses. Come hiking in Portugal with us!

Hiking in Portugal: Coastal Trails, Island Summits and Off The Beaten Track

Portugal is much more than golf courses and retirement homes. With almost 1800 kilometers of coastline, this southern European country is a treasure chest when it comes to hiking. Large sections of the Portuguese coast are protected, prohibiting mass scale tourism development. The interior is sparsely populated, with rolling hills and villages that seem to be frozen in time. Let’s take a closer look!

The northern half of Portugal has some well-established hiking routes, with some of them being a part of the pilgrimage network of trails to Santiago de Compostela, the Camino Portugues. Another great long-distance trail is the Grande Rota das Aldeias Históricas de Portugal (GR22), which takes you to historical villages and ancient castles in the borderlands of Portugal and Spain.

However, the star of the show has to be the Fisherman's Trail, which runs all along the southwest coast of Portugal. The route is part of the Rota Vicentina and follows the sandy coastal trails for more than 200 kilometers. One of the absolute highlights is reaching the lighthouse at Cabo de São Vicente, the most south westerly point in continental Europe. Here, the Fisherman’s Trail meets another iconic Portuguese walking route, the Via Algarviana (GR13). Typically starting at the Spanish border, this trail slices through the heartland of the Algarve province and allows you a glimpse of the real Portugal. Although some stages are fairly lengthy, the hike itself is mellow with plenty of opportunities to immerse into Portugal’s rural life. What about the Atlantic islands? Well, they are very different from mainland Portugal. Madeira’s interior is a theater of dramatic mountain scapes draped in lush cloud forests. The Madeirans have built an ingenious system of water and walk ways to connect the coast with the mountains, making it possible to traverse the whole island from coast to coast. Finally the volcanic archipelago of the Azores , which forms literally the edge of Europe. It is home to the highest peak in Portugal, aptly named Pico (Peak) and possibly the only hut to hut trekking route in the country, the Grande Rota de Santa Maria.

1) Walk Portugal's Rugged Coastline on The Fisherman's Trail

Where: Southwest Coast Portugal

When: All year

Distances: Full 199 km, Northern Half 85km, Southern Half 114 km

Difficulty: T2 (easy/moderate)

Best known for: Endless beaches and hidden coves

The Portuguese coast is the final frontier in continental Europe and lucky for us hikers, there is a splendid hiking trail to enjoy its natural and cultural treasures. This is the Fisherman’s Trail , a picturesque route that winds along the Atlantic Ocean's rocky shores. Originally used by local fishermen, this sandy path takes you to secluded coves, quiet beaches, and charming fishing villages. As part of the Rota Vicentina trail network in southern Portugal, the Fisherman's Trail spans nearly 230 kilometers from Porto Covo to Lagos. You can complete it in 11 stages or hike the northern or southern portions separately. Keep in mind that over 60% of the paths are sandy, adding some difficulty to your journey. If you crave sunshine, solitude, and breathtaking sea views, the Fisherman's Trail awaits!

2) Discover The Real Portugal on The Via Algarviana

Where: Algarve

When: All year

Distance: Loulé-Silves 92 km

Difficulty: T2 (easy/moderate)

Best known for: Rolling hills and quaint rural villages

The Via Algarviana, also known as GR13, is a long-distance hiking route traversing the Algarve's picturesque hills and rural landscapes. Stretching from Alcoutim at the Spanish border to Cabo de São Vicente, it retraces the historic path once taken by pilgrims on their way to the historically significant Promontory of Sagres. This well-marked trail covers about 300 kilometers, divided into 14 stages, and offers access to small rural communities that provide essential services, dining options, and places to stay.

Starting in Alcoutim near the Guadiana River, the route crosses the cork-producing region of Serra do Caldeirão, passing through charming villages like Salir, Benafim, and Alte. After São Bartolomeu de Messines, the trail follows Ribeira do Arade, offering breathtaking landscapes. Ascending Serra de Monchique, you'll enjoy panoramic views from Picota and Foia, the Algarve's highest peaks, and explore the historic town of Silves. The Via Algarviana concludes within the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park, where the trail coincides with the trail network of the Rota Vicentina.

3) The Levadas And Verenas of The Madeira Trail

Where: Madeira

When: All year

Distance: 85 km

Difficulty: T3 (hard)

Best known for: Levadas and Verenas across towering mountains

Madeira, also dubbed the Hawaii of the Atlantic, is a glorious sub-tropical island more than a 1000 kilometers off the coast of Portugal. As seen from space, it’s a small green dot surrounded by the vast Atlantic Ocean. From the coastal strip the land goes straight up, reaching elevations of over 1800 meters. Somehow the islanders have overcome the complex geography by creating a network of levadas (waterways) and verenas (mountain paths) to transport water and access higher ground. The unique laurel forests that cover parts of the mountainous interior are UNESCO listed. How to explore the wonders of Madeira better than on foot? The Bookatrekking.com team has created an epic coast to coast route right across the island called the Madeira Trail . The east to west traverse includes Madeira’s highest peak Pico Ruivo (1862m) and passes deep gorges and thundering waterfalls. It's a hiker's dream come true, and it's waiting for you to explore!

4) The Grande Rota de Santa Maria, the jewel in the crown of the Azores

Where: Santa Maria, Azores

When: April-October

Distance: 69 km

Difficulty: T3 (hard)

Best known for: Cosy scenic huts and dramatic coastline

A hut-to-hut trek on a small island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean? The Azores aren't typically associated with hiking, and even those who are aware of it might not know about the Atlantic's best-kept secret for trekking: the Grande Rota de Santa Maria . This 5-day circular trek is undoubtedly one of the most diverse trekking experiences in Portugal. You're always close to the ocean, featuring rugged, windswept cliffs and both black and white sand beaches. At the end of each day's hike, you can find comfort in one of the cozy shelters along the route. Santa Maria’s mild temperatures, evergreen forests, steep coastal cliffs and tranquil villages make the Grande Rota de Santa Maria a worthy alternative for hut to hut treks in the Alps and the Pyrenees .

When is the best time for hiking in Portugal?

In theory you can go hiking in Portugal year-round. It depends a little on personal preference. There is a clear distinction between mainland Portugal and the islands, as the climate and elevation is rather different.

The best time for hiking in mainland Portugal is spring and autumn. Temperatures are more pleasant as the summer months can be scorching hot. It’s also less crowded on the trails. Winters are still possible, though it can get a little chilly and it rains more. It’s likely you have the trails for yourself. The islands of Madeira and the Azores have a longer continuous hiking season, as temperatures are influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. The period from April until October is a great time to explore these island’s wonders. Outside of these months you can still go on a walking holiday to these places, but you should expect more rain and plenty of wind.

How can I reach the start of my hiking route?

Portugal is well-served by airlines from both sides of the Atlantic. The main hub is Lisbon, but especially for the Fisherman’s Trail and the Via Algarviana the airport of choice is Faro in the Algarve Province. This airport is the main entry point for holiday makers in southern Portugal and therefore it’s a direct flight from most major airports. The trailheads of both hiking routes are reachable by public transport.

Despite the remote locations, it’s easy and affordable to fly to Madeira and Azores (Santa Maria) from the USA and Europe. On Madeira getting around is fairly straightforward, though you may have to use a taxi. Both the port and the airport are pretty much next to the trailhead and end of the Grande Rota de Santa Maria, so you can technically start walking straight after your arrival.

Safety tips for the Portugal

Although this is far from being a trek in the Himalayas, unexpected things can always happen and you might also find obstacles on the hiking trails along the way. The Portugal is safe, the trails are quite straight forward and there is not an extreme difference in altitude. However, for your safety, every hike deserves a level of respect; respect for the terrain, the trails, wildlife and vegetation, local rules and regulations, and above all, your physical capabilities and safety. Therefore, for an unforgettable and safe hiking memory, please keep the following safety recommendations in mind:

  • Know your limits

    Always prepare each stage carefully to use your energy wisely, respect your physical and mental limitations, and avoid taking unnecessary risks. When ascending or descending, if applicable, always use the aids provided, such as handrails and ropes. Is this trek suitable for you? Well, familiarize yourself with the grading system and figure out if this trek matches your capabilities. If you still need professional advice you can always contact Bookatrekking.com experts.

  • Stay on marked trails

    The most important thing is to never leave the marked paths. For easy navigation we work with our trusted partner Komoot, whose interactive maps, also available offline, provide you with the necessary digital means to get from A to B in the Portugal. As a backup, make sure to bring a hiking guide or a paper map with you.

  • Fully equipped

    Make sure you have the necessary gear for the conditions you'll be facing, including appropriate clothing, footwear, and any necessary equipment for the terrain you'll be hiking on. Always wear clothing adapted to the weather of Portugal and protect yourself from cold and wetness or heat and sun. Besides, make sure you carry enough food and water for the duration of your trek. On the way, you might (or might not) be able to buy snacks.

  • Stay reachable

    If you are hiking solo or in small groups it is advisable to inform people back home about your plans, what route you are taking and when you plan to return. Even small incidents can lead to unpleasant emergencies so make sure you are available at all times. Bring a charged phone containing at least the phone numbers of immediate family members, your accommodations en route and the emergency phone numbers operating in the Portugal.

  • Respect for nature

    Do not litter, prevent noise, stay on the marked trails, do not disturb wildlife or grazing animals, and respect protected areas.

Where can I book my walking holiday in Portugal?

At Bookatrekking.com you can book many treks in Portugal. We take care of all the details for you, give you personal trekking advice and give you the best service possible. Find all our offers for Portugal here. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to browse and compare different trekking options and find the perfect fit for your interests, abilities, and budget.

If you have any questions about a specific trek or need help choosing the right one for you, our team of Trekking Experts is here to assist you. Simply reach out to us and we will be happy to provide you with personalized recommendations and advice to help you plan the trekking adventure of a lifetime.

Is a walking holiday in Portugal not your cup of tea and are you looking for other epic adventures? Check out one of our following blog posts:

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