The Best Place in Europe for Hiking: If Madonna has not been able to resist to know the “California of Europe”, sharing in social networks her horseback riding on the Alentejo beaches, will you be able to do it? Portugal has become, in recent years, one of the favorite places to find peace and tranquility.
The Alentejo area, which borders the south with the Algarve and occupies a third of the country, is one of the jewels of tourism increasingly booming. The Vicentina Route is the great attraction of the region for the restless traveler. A dream path for those who love nature and trekking.
With two ways to make the path: the Historical Way, crossing 230 kilometers of the interior thicket in twelve stages of less than 25 kilometers each, from Santiago Do Cacem to Cape San Vicente; and the Fishermen’s Trail, which covers 100 kilometers of coastline and cliffs between Porto Covo and Odeceixe.
In addition, there are also eight circular trails (totaling 90 kilometers) whose route ends in the same place from which it begins.
Chosen by the European Hiking Federation as one of the best destinations for walking in the world, it has 300,000 hectares of the protected area, 20,000 visitors per year and 300 volunteers who are periodically responsible for maintaining the signs and posts that indicate the way, plus of the long acacias that tend to invade it.
“The road has hostels and hotels in each of the stages and many at an affordable price of 18 or 20 euros,” says Jose Granja, responsible for the area of Environmental Conservation and Volunteering.
The Vicentina Route offers many ways to discover it and on its way it is possible to live unique experiences such as horseback riding along completely wild paths, sailing in a fishing boat by the mouth of the Mira River in the Atlantic Ocean or surrendering to try to tame the waves of its beaches on a surfboard.
In addition, the most ambitious and experienced can make, if they dare, the European Coastal Path, which links this route with the Camino de Santiago and from there too, nothing more and nothing less than Russia.
Of superb thickness in its interior, the inhabitants who have renounced to leave the life that they knew from small people populate their places in small groups of old houses, with the intention of protecting themselves against the solitude.
The beloved Odette is one of those people and in the deepest and most extensive part of the territory, she receives with open arms-and brandy distilled by herself-to small groups of visitors who decide to travel through Alentejo immersed in the Vicentina Route.
Her residence, a traditional farm that includes an old mill and an old school that her father built in 1968 for the surrounding children who had no possibility of schooling because of their isolation, exudes as much peace as her sweetness.
The commitment to make known the wonders of this land and its traditions have been acquired by renowned personalities of the country who try to contribute to the increase of sustainable tourism that mimics the landscape, without corrupting or distorting its authentic and natural essence.
“Our intention is that those who decide to visit Alentejo do so in the most realistic way possible, that they know their farmers and fishermen, who have lived here since time immemorial, participating in a cultural exchange without limits,” says the prestigious choreographer Madalena Victorino, responsible for promoting this part of the tour among visitors.
Until the 14th century, planting wheat in these lands was forbidden both by the Crown and by the church. And later, its argillaceous soils of difficult cultivation have contributed to make the region a landscape so inhospitable and forgotten by the human being who is now whole to discover.
If it were not for the nakedness of its innumerable cork oaks, from which the cork is removed every nine years and which contributes to making the country the world’s largest producer and exporter of this material, it might seem that we are at the end of the world.
However, Alentejo is much more. And as we get closer to its coast, we discover the remnants of villages of white houses, cheerful colors, and overwhelming charm. Santa Clara-a-Velha is one of the most special and best communicated since it has a train station halfway between Lisbon and Faro.
Its views, especially from the renovated Pousada de Santa Clara-a-Velha (essential to try its caldeirada made with fresh fish from the coast) allow us to contemplate the immensity of the reservoir that shares its name with the municipality.
A landscape that blends rugged paths surrounded by fresh water and that serves as an ideal complement to the visit of coastal towns such as Zambujeira do Maror Sines. Among wild cliffs full of vegetation, we witness the formation of coves and beaches that will leave us breathless as soon as we see them. And next to them, only some fishermen.
How to Get
One of the best options, if we decide not to move with our personal vehicle, is to travel by Air Europa to Lisbon. Once in the Portuguese capital, it is recommended to rent a car or travel by train to Faro, which stops in Santa Clara-a-Velha, where we will have to get off.
Where to Sleep
Naturarte-Rural Tourism Field (Estrada De Vila Nova De Milfontes, Km1, São Luis 7630-440). Its rooms have a special charm and its pool, overlooking the vast expanse of land that surrounds the hotel, and that lights up at night, is the ideal place to cool off in summer. It also has a tennis court.
From 105 euros. Quinta Do Chocalhinho Hotel (Estrada 123, KLM 2 -Bemposta, 7630-028 Odemira). Its great attraction lies in being able to cook vegetables extracted personally from the orchards of the farm.
Maximum comfort in a completely rustic environment that has donkeys and horseback riding. Also with the pool. From 85 euros per night. Pousada de Santa Clara-a-Velha(Barragem Santa Clara).
Spectacular views of the reservoir that shares its name with the hotel. It is, without a doubt, the best accommodation in the area to enjoy the landscape. From 80 euros. Guard Rivers (Rua dos Aviadores, 18 B, 7645-225 Vila Nova de Milfontes). Recently inaugurated. Excellent service and spacious and modern rooms. From 99 euros.
Where to Eat
Al Ilha restaurant (Praia da Ilha do Pessegueiro, Porto Covo 7520-437). By the sea. Homemade and quality food. It is essential to try their homemade desserts, especially their Bolo de Bolachas.
Porto Das Barcas (Estrada Canal, S / N, Vila Nova De Milfontes, Odemira, Beja). Its strong point is the variety and creativity of its broad gastronomic cuisine.
One recommendation: its hake with lemon.Pousada de Santa Clara-a-Velha. In addition to the hotel, it is a good place to come to eat. His specialty is the caldeirada made with fresh fish from the coast.
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