Southwest Portugal Coastal Hiking: Part 2 – Odeceixe to Carrapateira

Part 2 of our walking trek down the southwestern Portugal coast on sections of the Fisherman’s Trail and Historical Way. This post covers our time after leaving Zambujeira do Mar for Odeceixe, and onward to our final destination, Carrapateira.

Also see:

Zambujeira do Mar to Odeceixe

Day 4 (18 km / 7 hr)

Breakfast at Hotel Ondazul was a basic offering of grains, ham, cheese, juice, and instant coffee. After a quick chat with another hiker walking southward, we checked out and headed down to Praia da Zambujeira do Mar for some photos. The trail leading out of town passes by the steps down to the beach, so this a convenient detour for a quick stroll across the wet sand (before ascending at the other side). This was the first of five major elevation loss-gain combos along this segment of the walk.

I can best summarize this segment as a succession of beautiful, sandy beaches:

One notable break from admiring the beaches and surrounding cliffs came at Carvalhal, where the trail detours around a fenced area containing a lone ostrich. I later looked this up online to learn that it belongs to the former ostrich farmer Balthasar Trueb, who now runs a B&B just down the road.

The highlight of this day was definitely our lunch stop at the delicious Restaurante a Azenha do Mar, perched atop a coastal cliff and only steps from the walking route. We arrived in the midst of the weekday lunch rush, but were able to stash our backpacks by the entrance and squeeze into one of the few remaining tables. We enjoyed healthy portions of fried prawns and Sapateira (from the tank behind us) — this brown crab was notably cheaper (and markedly more fresh) here than in previous villages. Local toasts and a wonderful vino verde rounded out this memorable lunch.

The final 4km of the walk was along a minor road and rather boring, as it winds you toward the odd little village of Odeceixe. We found our hotel, Casa Morais, near the top of one of the cobblestone streets, where the owner greeted us warmly in Portuguese.  I confused several of her words with similar-sounding Spanish ones, but she seemed to take it in stride with a quiet bemusement.

Still sufficiently full from lunch, we wondered up the tiny, winding streets to the historic local windmill for sunset views of the village and surrounding hills. The windmill did not have its sails framework attached at this time, but other photos on the internet show them, so it may be a seasonal adjustment by the caretakers.

After meandering back down into the village, we ate dinner at nearby Chaparral — the entrees were not the best quality, but we enjoyed our desserts. 

Odeceixe to Aljezur (via circuits)

Day 5 (21.5 km / 8 hr)

Breakfast at Casa Morais was a simple spread of ham, cheese, bread, jam, fruit juice, coffee, tea, and homemade bread (the latter of which was definitely the highlight). As predicted, the day started mostly cloudy, with the lingering threat of rain later in the afternoon.

The trail quickly routes you from the Odeceixe town square, through the flat fields on the southern side of the Seixe River, and back out to a view across Praia de Odeceixe. You quickly regain some elevation as the Odeceixe Beach Circuit route skirts the cliffs southward. One of the first beaches beyond Praia de Odeceixe is a clearly-marked nude beach, but it was too cold on this particular morning for any takers. These coastal cliffs vibrantly display their folded layers, cut by erosion and blanketed by fragrant shrubs and seabirds (herons, sanderlings, turnstones and sandpipers).

As we neared the end of the coastal section of this circuit, I knew we would soon rejoin the Historical Way near Monte João Roupeiro, but that the trail would progress southward along the (let’s be honest, disinteresting) irrigation channel. Fortunately, the increasing clouds in the forecast rolled in only after we made it to the irrigation channel, and cast the interior landscape in a myriad of grays. Walking along the channel was rather mundane, but we made excellent time despite the intermittent light rain.

Our (ambitious) original plan was to complete both of the optional circuit add-ons and skip sections of the Historical Way / irrigation channel, bringing the total distance to 24km. Due to rainy weather and the worsening condition of my feet (I clearly needed new hiking shoes!), we skipped the last Amoreira Beach Circuit. This reduced the distance to 21.5km. I would have preferred to see the beach at Carreagem, but with the clouds, wind, and rain, moving on toward our hotel was definitely the better choice.

We arrived to the old section of Aljezur to increasing rain, making our way slowly up the steep, winding roads to overlook the valley and the newer half of the village. We saved the Castle for the next day, hoping for a break in the clouds and rain.

After trudging back down to the bridge across Ribeira de Aljezur, we had a quick, very wet, walk to the Vicentina Hotel (Booking.com). Tired, but now in dry clothing again, we ventured back across the bridge for dinner at Restaurante III GERAÇÃO. I had the seafood cataplana, which was good, but not a standout among the other (better) cataplanas of this trip.

Aljezur to Arrifana

Day 6 (18.2 km / 6.5 hr)

Having paid our rainy dues the previous day, we gratefully awoke to partly cloudy skies on day 6. The breakfast spread at Vicentina was delightfully more diverse than the past few mornings, despite a rocky 30 minutes during which the coffeemaker malfunctioned. With the sun shining, we headed back to the old section of town and climbed up to the castle for sweeping views of the countryside.

From the west side of the Castle, we descended a footpath through the trees that connects back to the minor dirt road leading toward M1003-1. This placed us back on the official route, without having to loop through the old section of Aljezur. We left the Historical Way at the junction with the Ponta da Atalaia Circuit, to begin the loop toward Praia da Arrifana. For a brief stretch, some dark rain clouds rolled by and we had to break out the rainjackets and pack covers. I ended up cold, wet, and a bit grumpy as we walked around the manmade lake near the beginning of this circuit, thoroughly upset with myself for not bringing gloves.

Until you reach Monte Clérigo, the trail follows various roadways through recent development, as it avoids some uneven terrain. By the time we reached the coast, the sun returned and my mood improved considerably.

Where the circuit meets M1003-1 again, we continued west to our next accommodation, the charming Falésias da Arrifana (Booking.com), situated near the overlook for Praia da Arrifana. By this point, my feet were aching again so I was satisfied to shower and nap before dinner. After resting, the rain clouds returned and we had just enough time to walk down to the beach before it started raining.

The owner of Falésias recommended we try either of the neighboring restaurants (Tasca d’Arrifana or Restaurante Marisqueira), but only the latter was open so it made the decision much easier. Despite wearing my rainjacket, I was thoroughly soaked by the time we entered Marisqueira, and spent most of the meal warming my hands over the steaming seafood rice. While several other tables ordered the popular hot stone steak, we happily enjoyed another delicious seafood meal.

Arrifana to Carrapateira

Day 7 (24 km / 7 hr)

Breakfast at Falésias was quite the treat, complete with (real!) expresso and freshly-cooked eggs made-to-order. The owner’s care and effort toward our breakfast highlighted that we made an excellent choice booking this place. But with a long stretch ahead of us, we checked out shortly thereafter and paused for a final, sunny overlook of Praia da Arrifana.

The route toward Carrapateira is part of the Historical Way, and diverges from M1003-1 just outside of town. With the recent rain, the dirt track was a bit muddy and we had to navigate around (or through, in one case) some large water-filled holes, but was otherwise straightforward. Unlike other sections of the Historical Way, this section showcases the stunning Praia do Canal before turning inland. We stopped here for a snack and to watch the locals surfing, before regaining all the elevation lost getting down to the beach.

Thankfully, the inland stretch beyond Praia do Canal routes you through varied, lush landscapes that, while not as impressive as their coastal counterparts, are nonetheless beautiful. We especially enjoyed the vast green pastures of a local farm before Bordeira, complete with old farmhouses in varying states of decay, cattle, chickens, goats, herding dogs, and a lone rancher — who, in retrospect, did not seem very keen on having random hikers passing through his stock.

When we reached the tiny village of Bordeira, we could easily hear a lively gathering of locals at the bar. We stopped in the charming town square for another snack and rest, and said hello to a very friendly local woman and her dog. The route continues from the town square and climbs along a hillside with many new homes under construction — some of which appeared to have a very small livable space in some degree of completeness while the owner works slowly on the remainder of the structure.

The rest of the way between Bordeira and Carrapateira was rather mundane, and slightly frustrating in its repetitive climbing and descent among the hills. Then, shortly before 5PM, we caught a glimpse of Praia Da Bordeira as the route begins a final descent toward highway N268, which you then follow into Carrapateira.

This night, we stayed at Casa Da Estela (Booking.com), where we met Estela in the middle of a family emergency, and made our best attempts at expressing our gratitude and understanding for providing us a room regardless. Because we made our reservation with Estela via Booking.com, we really had no way for her to let us know ahead of time that she was in the middle of a family emergency. If I spoke Portuguese and were redoing this trip, I would call ahead to each hotel the night before, just to confirm our details, and to make sure they are actually open (since some of the hotels are operated by a single owner). Those details aside, Estela has a charming little hotel and a snack area for the weary traveler, so we definitely recommend her during a stop in Carrapateira.

Most of the restaurants in Carrapateira were still closed for the season, so we walked to the nearby square and settled on Trigo Vermelho. This is a quirky restaurant, with an extensive vegan menu and gluten-free pizzas. Our salads, pizzas, and german beers were all very tasty. The staff even sat down together for dinner and conversation at the end of the night.

Before settling in for the night, we considered our options for the next (and final) day: explore the Pontal da Carrapateira circuit, or continue hiking to Vila do Bispo (another 22km). Our biggest concern was figuring out how to transit from Carrapateira back to Lisbon at the end of the day. We could not find any reliable information about the low season bus schedule online, nor was it posted anywhere visible around the town square. The only solid lead we found was the telephone number and email address of a local taxi service. Given the uncertainty, we chose the shorter circuit hike and then emailed the taxi service to arrange a pickup around noon.

Day 8 (10 km / 3.5 hr)

For our final day on the Rota Vicentina, we got an early start on the Pontal da Carrapateira circuit, and completed most of it before heading back into town. The circuit initially skirts the expansive Praia Da Bordeira (shown below), and continues along the impressive limestone and red clay cliffs. We aborted the circuit near Praia do Portinho do Forno and followed the dirt road by Restaurante Sítio Do Forno back into town.

By this point, we had enough time for a late brunch before meeting the taxi driver, so we returned to Trigo Vermelho for delicious omelettes and fresh-squeezed juice. The taxi arrived on time, and the driver-owner was very friendly and professional for the quick trip to Lagos. From the Central Bus Station, we spent the interim hour walking around the pier to the Edge of the Port, before returning to the station and catching the express bus back to Lisbon.

At the Lisbon bus terminal, we opted for airport shuttle bus which runs every 40 minutes or so, instead of taking the metro. We had spent the last of our small bills already, but one of the bus ticket counter agents was happy to break one of my larger bills. Our last hotel was the Tryp Lisboa Aeroporto (Booking.com), where we left our excess baggage at the beginning our trip. After checking in, and a long day of hike-taxi-bus-bus, we looked briefly at dinner options within walking distance of the hotel. Most were closed or closing soon, so we ate at the hotel restaurant for simplicity. The food and atmosphere was not memorable, but we enjoyed a local wine (albeit for a considerably higher price tag than at other restaurants).

After a short night’s rest, we took advantage of the hotel’s very early breakfast hours (4AM!) before walking to the airport. To their credit, this hotel has an admirable breakfast spread with a satisfying selection of hot and cold items, breads, fruits, and drinks.

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