Contrasts of the Costa Vicentina Walk

From $1814 per person

****. Based on 13 customer reviews
  • Sleepy white villages, coastal trails, forgotten farms and windmills, colourful fishing harbours untouched by tourism
  • Superb birdlife: chiffchaff, azure-winged magpie, green woodpecker, blue-winged rock thrush
  • Crystal-clear lakes, lush river valleys, Atlantic cliffs, deserted beaches
  • Intimate rural hotels; wonderfully friendly, charismatic owners

What's included?

  • 7 nights, hotel-to-hotel
  • Departs Selected dates from 5 Mar '17 to 28 May '17
  • All continental breakfasts, 6 picnic lunches and 7 evening meals
  • Managed by Headwater appointed agent
  • Sustainability rating: 86%
  • Route notes and maps provided
  • Luggage transfers between hotels
  • GPS unit
  • Bird watching checklist
  • Walking transfers

Excellent for...

Contrasts of the Costa Vicentina Walk

In the far south-west corner of the Iberian Peninsula between Lisbon and the Algarve lies the Alentejo, a genuine hidden treasure. The Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina is the largest protected coastal Natural Park in Europe, encompassing a rolling sea of verdant hills and river valleys, and over 100km of wild and pristine beaches and coast. This is one of the best areas in Europe for birding too - you can see 50 species in a day!

Over the week, our walks skirt shimmering inland lakes with lush green river valleys that lead to a grand finale of the wildest and most spectacular coastal walking we've ever seen as we follow the Rota Vicentina. Having started inland where, in sleepy white villages, local bee-keepers drink fiery medronho with their morning coffee, and horses pull carts along country tracks to white-washed farms, your final stretch takes you to the sea, where you end your holiday taking off your boots and paddling up the beach in the surf!

Where you stay is extra-special too. Frank McClintock is one of the foremost birding experts in Portugal, and the first three nights are spent at his beautiful lakeside Casa Rural. You then follow the Rota Vicentina, hugging the coastline, to Luis's Herdade do Touril, before walking to Brejao for your final two nights. We've included six picnics, as well as all evening meals on this holiday, so all that's left for you to decide is which wine to enjoy with your meal; the Alentejo is best known for its prized hardy red wines - saude!

Read more about this holiday on the travel blog.

Read press reviews of this holiday in Inside The Travel Lab and Active Traveller.

Day-by-day itinerary

Day 1 - Arrive in Santa Clara a Velha

Arrive at Frank and Daniela's retreat on the shore of a stunning freshwater lake where you spend the next three nights.

Day 2 - Cortes Pereira Circular Walk 11km/7mi/3.5hr or 12km/7.5mi/4hr

A track lined with purple gladioli dips and weaves between ridges offering shimmering lake views. Descend to the hamlet of Cortes Pereira from where a panoramic ridge offers excellent views across the lake before a leafy trail leads you back through cork forest sprinkled with greenwinged orchid. Relax on your jasmine-scented terrace before dinner or head to Frank's birdwatching hide.

Day 3 - Corte Brique Valley Walk 17km/11mi/5hr or 19km/12mi/5.5hr

Today's walk takes you over a low range of hills into the Corte Brique Valley. Nightingales sing in rustling oaks before you emerge into yellow wheat fields guarded by the low hills. Chat to farmers in the local bar before a picnic by a sparkling reservoir overlooking the valley. A track loud with cicadas leads you home via a panoramic descent through perfumed rockrose. Relax with a sauna or book a massage (payable locally) from Daniela before your final convivial dinner.

Day 4 - Santa Clara/Almograve to Touril 15km/9.5mi/4.5hr or 17km/11mi/5hr

After a 75-minute transfer to the small village of Almograve, your walk starts with stunning cliff-top views. You follow the aptly named Fishermen's Trail along the coastline, which, despite being exposed to the ocean breeze, is a nesting place for over 20 species of birds! Look out for rock doves, white storks and peregrine falcons to name a few. Then head inland through golden wheat fields to Luis's 900-acre Herdade do Touril, where you'll spend the next two nights.

Day 5 - Touril loop 16km/10mi/4.5hr

You re-trace your steps through fields with farmers in fedora hats, before reaching Cabo Sardao and its delightful red and white lighthouse, keeping your eyes open for white storks whose nests balance on pinnacles of rock amid rainbows of ocean spray. The views along the walk are breathtaking, with the ocean just below, leaving you ready to have a paddle before dining al fresco in the grounds of Herdade do Touril.

Day 6 - Touril to Brejao 17km/11mi/5hr

Today's walk hugs the pristine coastline, taking you between colourful fishing villages and plenty of beaches where you can enjoy a swim, before arriving in the charming village of Zambujeira do Mar, a delightful place to enjoy a spot of lunch. The path will then take you inland to your country retreat, the seven-room Cerca do Sul, in the heart of the Natural Park, where you can relax around the hotel's outdoor pool, before enjoying dinner on the terrace.

Day 7 - Odeceixe to Brejao 15km/9.5mi/4.5hr

After a 10-minute transfer you follow the Ribeira de Seixe, which leads you back to the ocean. You then follow a coastal path, perhaps stopping to chat to cliff-top fishermen before enjoying a picnic at Azenha do Mar. Continue along the wild cliffs above thundering bays as the breathtaking coastal path leads you back to the village, where you can relax in the hotel's hammock, before enjoying grilled fish cooked by Sara and her team.

Day 8 - Leave Brejao


For a longer tour, why not consider combining this with our Walk the Algarve's Wild West

Where you stay

During your holiday you stay at the following hotels. If you'd like to extend your time at any of these or, if you'd like to enhance your stay with an upgraded room, just let us know at the time of booking. You can call our sales team on 1-800-567-6286 to discuss accommodation options.

Quinta do Barranco da Estrada, Santa Clara   (4 Acorn)

Quinta do Barranco da Estrada, Santa Clara

Barranco da Estrada is a unique property. Frank McClintock moved here and bought the land in the 70s, and his Casa Rural has taken shape slowly but surely over the intervening years. The rooms are set out in a row above the Santa Clara Reservoir with panoramic views over the water. The landscaped garden is stepped and leads down to the waterside with many beautiful secluded corners. It was created specifically to attract local and migrating bird life, and does the job brilliantly. The lounge and dining area has an amazing open feature window with perfect views, and dinners are taken around a large table in dinner party style. Rooms are homely rather than luxurious, each with a private terrace and en suite bathroom. Daniela, Frank's wife, is an expert in Shiatsu massage, so after a great walk you can book a session with her locally if you would like to.

Further details on the hotel website, and independent reviews on Trip Advisor.

Local facilities:

  • Mastercard accepted
  • Swimming pool
  • Wifi hotspot

Herdade do Touril , Touril   (4 Acorn)

Herdade do Touril , Zambujeira do Mar

Situated in an idyllic natural park amid 365 hectares of sunflowers (the perfect symbol of the Alentejo), grazing cattle and manicured lawns is the Herdade do Touril, a farm house and its out buildings that have all been carefully renovated to incorporate elements of modern design while retaining an authentic rural air. The property is decorated with numerous models of sheep, chickens and pigs made from a variety of materials and enjoys terraces draped in Bougainvillea, warm earthy colours, the smell of lavender and rosemary and artfully displayed farm implements.

When the owner Luis took over the family estate, he decided to add a luxurious spin. The rooms, which are simply but tastefully decorated, can be found within white-washed houses accented with blue, with tiled roofs and ceramic floors all of which lead out onto private terraces. The furniture and fittings (while much of it reproduction) adds to the sense of authenticity, a feeling that is further enhanced by the fact that the Touril remains a working estate with around 150 cattle.

The property also offers a salt-water pool (with poolside bar) and outdoor barbeques over which guests can meet, but should the sea breeze and the sound of the ocean waves (easily audible on windy days) prove too enticing, you can walk across the cliffs to nearby secluded beaches where, among other things, you can seek out rare nesting storks.

Further details on the hotel website, and independent reviews on Trip Advisor.

Local facilities:

  • Mastercard accepted
  • American Express accepted
  • Swimming pool
  • Hairdryer
  • Television
  • Air conditioning

Cerca do Sul, Brejão   (4 Acorn)

Cerca do Sul, Brejão

Lying just off the old coast road, at the bottom of Odemira municipality where the Algarve melts with the Alentejo, is the Cerca do Sul. Modest in size but with views over the Monchique Mountains and the ocean, the property is made up of two single-storey, whitewashed cottages surrounded by eight hectares of sun-drenched fields. The simple, rectangular houses take up two sides of a perfectly manicured lawn and are similar in appearance to many of the old farmhouses and homes that can be found along the coast of Portugal's Alentejo region.

The simple but lovingly furnished rooms feature exposed wooden beams and sloped ceilings; bright, upholstered footstools; vibrant, modern paintings and antique furniture; and bathrooms with mosaic-tiled showers, or baths. Each has been uniquely designed to reflect a relaxed, eclectic ambiance and the simple pace of country and sea living.

Amid the well-tended grounds you will find an orchard and a small pool with hammocks, loungers and day beds adorning the nearby decking. The sandy beach is within short walking distance and Cerca do Sul is also just 3km from the Costa Vicentina Natural Park, which has been protected since 1995. The park is home to the rare white stork and is also one of the last places in Europe where otters can be found in a marine environment.

Further details on the hotel website, and independent reviews on Trip Advisor.

Local facilities:

  • Swimming pool
  • Hairdryer
  • Wifi hotspot
  • Television
  • Tea/coffee facilities

Nearby facilities:

  • Shops
  • Market
  • Banking / cheques cashed
  • ATM / Cash machine



Extra nights and stop over hotels

If you'd like to extend your trip with extra nights at the start or end, or if you'd like to arrange a stop off point en-route, then we recommend the following hotels.

Hotel Lisboa Plaza, Lisbon   (4 Star)

Hotel Lisboa Plaza, Lisbon

Owned by the same family since 1953, the 4-star Hotel Lisboa Plaza is an imaginatively designed hotel, just off the famous Avenida da Liberdade. All rooms have en-suite marble floored bathrooms, air conditioning, satellite television, direct dial telephones, hairdryers and mini-bar. The public rooms are elegantly furnished and there is a pleasant bar and dining room.

Further details on the hotel website, and independent reviews on Trip Advisor.

Local facilities:

  • Shops
  • Market
  • Banking / cheques cashed
  • ATM / Cash machine
  • Mastercard accepted
  • American Express accepted
  • Hairdryer
  • Wifi hotspot
  • Television
  • Minibar
  • Air conditioning
  • Safe

Travel options

Transfers included from Santa Clara Saboia station at 14:57, and back to Santa Clara Saboia station at 11:15. March 2017 Transfers included from Santa Clara Saboia station at 16:26, and back to Santa Clara Saboia station at 08:15.

Please call our sales team on 1-800-567-6286 or email info@breakaway-adventures.com to arrange connecting flights.

Customer reviews

Everyone who goes on a Headwater holiday will be emailed a link to our post-holiday questionnaire where they can give us an honest assessment of all aspects of their holiday - everything from how quickly we answer the phone to how clean the hotels were - plus, of course, an overall rating and comments about their holiday.

Any feedback collected is posted straight to our website - totally unedited. So, for the real tales, twists and turns of our holidays, look no further than the reviews from our previous travellers.

Reviewed by Dr Adams on 19/10/2016

*****
This was a lovely part of Portugal which luckily for us is not spoilt by too many tourists. Well thought out and planned. Very remote locations so do not expect to pop into town for anything.

Reviewed by Dr Smith on 25/05/2016

**#..
Very poor because of the Herdade do Touril experience.

Reviewed by Dr Hodgson on 29/10/2015

***#.
A holiday in two parts ...the rural hills with lake, birds, flowers and superb hosts followed by clifftop walks, beaches,birds, Going in October we did have a bit of rain but this only stopped one day's walking and we were still able to fully enjoy this unspoilt part of Portugal.

Reviewed by Mr Hodgetts on 15/09/2015

*****
Walking in the Alentejo (Costa Vicentina) provided the contrast between Fabulous Frank's creation of paradise in the interior - 4 miles off the nearest tarmac road - and the most stunning cliff top walking I have ever done. The latter is definitely not for the vertiginous but if you're OK with sheer drops on one side the views are fantastic. The walking on the coast, on the Rota Vicentina sometimes felt like a mini-Sahara as some parts are through deep soft sand but we came back fitter with thighs that can shell brazil nuts! The walking in the inland section was delightful through cork oak and eucalyptus forests - hardly saw a soul all day - and the lake swimming at the Quinta was heaven at the end of a hot days plodding.

Reviewed by Mr Morrison on 10/06/2015

*****
From butterfly filled valleys to dramatic cliff tops with storks soaring overhead - this fabulous holiday certainly showed us the 'Contrasts of the Costa Vicentina.' Every step of the way was a delight. Would definitely recommend it. As for Frank's Barranco da Estrada ... what a magical discovery!

Reviewed by Mr Allen on 19/05/2015

*****
It was a great holiday, in a friendly and relaxed country, thank you. Having gone from the tranquil hills & lakes to the sparkling cliffs & sea we understand the full significance of 'Contrasts..' in the title. Particular thanks to Nelson the taxi driver who looked after our transfers in a very helpful and reliable manner.

Reviewed by Mrs Thompson on 11/10/2014

***#.
We enjoyed this holiday andwere pleased with our choice as we had excellent weather (contrasting with rain every day in the Austrian Lakes last year!) - but we do have a major reservation about the coastal walking (the days 2 & 3 'inland' walks were fine). On day 4, the coastal walk takes you away from the coast over the last section (south of Cavaleiro). This is a wide flat, rather boring gravel/sand track with little of interest - partiularly at this time of year when crops have either been harvested or burned off by th sheat of the sun. You are too far from the cliff top to be able to see the beautiful coast. We were then invited to re-walk this route (with only minor variations and in the opp. direction) on Day 5 as part of the Touril Loop. We thought this was a bit silly and walked up the coast path to the lighthouse, and back the same way. We could of course have stuck to the coastal path on Day 5 and we would suggest you specify this in future, omitting the (unnecessary) 'Touril Loop'. You could then perhaps introduce a further day's walking south of Cerca do Sul or - if that proves impracticable, just make the holiday one day shorter. We thought that Day 7 contained by far the best of the coastal walks because you were able to see so much more of the beautiful coast from the trail. On days 5 and 6, quite a bit of the walking seemed to be just that little bit away from the cliff top and the path a bit flat and tedious at times. (When you do get the view though it is certainly spectacular!). The Cercada do Sul is a bit of a dull treck away from the coast path - again on a flat, rather boring path and, again, repeated on Day 7. We accept there's probably not much you can do about this if there's no other suitable accommodation. And, finally, we would suggest you build meals at the Cercado do Sul into the holiday. There didn't seem to be much to offer in Brejao....and it's a bit of treck down a dull flat paved road to get to the village from the Cercado. (We did have a look but didn't fancy the walk back in the dark so ate both nights at the Cercado). Wouldn't want you to think we didn't enjoy our hol. It was fine and the orgabisation / admin was faultless as ever. No problems at all with travel arrangements. Just a bit disappointed with some of the walking (lots of it was good!).

Reviewed by Mr Lipscombe on 01/10/2014

***#.
The hotels were stayed in were all quite different and we enjoyed the variety of style and locations. The walking, particularly along the coastal sections, was excellent.

Reviewed by Mr Smith on 19/09/2014

***#.
We have used several walking holiday companies and you are thus being compared with your peers. The booking process was poor, uncertain and had to be regularly prompted by me. It took ages to get any proper confirmation. You continually tried to send out documents by email and not by post - good for you, rotten for me - I am not going to print them - you should do so. Your walking notes were a disappointment. We often felt that they had been written by someone whose first language was not English. They were lacking in detail, imprecise and sometimes confusing and wrong.They are flabby in size with small print. On walk number 5, where we had been deceived and delayed by your directions, this section had to be repeated the following day. Fellow walkers at the hotel had given us their notes for the same section from Inntravel, so on that second day we had both sets of notes with us. We would never have made the mistakes that occurred if we had been using the detailed, better formatted and more user-friendly notes of Inntravel. The last point that I want to make concerns your suggestion in the main brochure that after the walk on Day 5 we should 'have a paddle at Praia do Tonel.' The 'beach' there is about 75 feet vertically below you at the foot of steep cliffs. The only access is by a narrow, loosely surfaced and almost vertical gulley created by rain erosion. Ropes have been fitted at a couple of points meaning that one would have to abseil down and haul oneself up again. It would be dangerous on a mountaineering holiday but simply lethal for many people. I am an experienced walker but would only attempt this if suicidally inclined. There is a notice there warning to stay clear because of possible rockfall. There is only one explanation: the person who wrote the notes has never seen the beach!

Reviewed by Mrs Bowen on 17/09/2014

**#..
I have put fair for value this time, our 9th Headwater holiday, as the standard of the notes was poor and this is what we are going on the holiday for. I have written a separate email to explain. Also the Cerca do Sol was situated too far away from the coastal route and the 4km walk back on the 2 days was long and boring. The room was disappointing after the other 2 places as small and no terrace to sit out or put boots etc. Lovely helpful people though and ate there on the second night which was excellent. One other point at the Herdade the first night we were expected to eat octopus for our main course so I declined and was offered a dry and tasteless pasta dish cooked for the children which was inedible so I went hungry. The second night however the meal was delicious and enjoyed by all.

Reviewed by Mrs Donaldson on 17/06/2014

*****
Our 3rd Headwater holiday, some wonderful places and characteful hotels. Everything good except: 1. Brochure implies more opportunities to get down to sea level for paddle or swim. In fact there wee only a couple of places an the notes did not make it clear that if you went on there wold be no other place to get to the sea. 2. Some of the terrain (cliff pathways that were rather a 'scramble') were a challenge fo a 2 boot walk. 3. One days route took us away from the coast and along a boring road for miles when we could have been following the spectacular coastal footpath. This was presumably so we could do that coastal section on a loop walk the next day. This was misguided though because we would much prefer the coast route in two directions than 5 miles along tarmac road inland with little of interest either side! 4. Lack of communication with last hotel over one of us being vegetarian (though fish eating). Hotel wasn't aware and with no local shops it was difficult to put new meal together.

Reviewed by Mrs Dewar on 05/05/2014

*****
A really good holiday, much enjoyed.

Reviewed by Mr O'Hara on 21/04/2014

*****
Beautiful scenery, some challenging aspects to the walking, helpful staff and interesting locations.

Departure dates & prices

March 2017 departuresTour only 
Mar 5$1890
Mar 12$1890
Mar 19$1890
Mar 26$1890
April 2017 departuresTour only 
Apr 2$1905
Apr 9$1905
Apr 16$2000
Apr 23$1905
Apr 30$1905
May 2017 departuresTour only 
May 7$1935
May 14$1935
May 21$1935
May 28$1935

Holiday details

Holiday type

Self-guided walking, hotel-to-hotel. Managed by Headwater appointed agent.

Departures

Selected dates from 5 Mar '17 to 28 May '17, for 8 days (7 nights). Non standard on request. Can also shorten. Can extend at beginning and end in first or third hotels.

Meals

All continental breakfasts, 6 picnic lunches and 7 evening meals.

Other details

Please see our Planning your holiday and What's included in the price? pages for additional information. Please call us for single room supplements, room upgrade options and child prices.

Starting your tour

Transfers included from Santa Clara Saboia station at 14:57, and back to Santa Clara Saboia station at 11:15. March 2017 Transfers included from Santa Clara Saboia station at 16:26, and back to Santa Clara Saboia station at 08:15.

Enquire about this holiday

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