The Roto Vincentina consists of over 400 plus kilometers of marked routes in the Southwest of Portugal.
It’s the brainchild of local merchants, hoteliers, restaurant owners and municipalities who woke up one Autumn Day to exclaim, “Hey! Where the heck did all those Euro spending tourists go now that summer’s over! Eureka! (Or the Portuguese equivalent of that). Let’s establish a trail system to get us through the lean low season.”
Thus, the Roto Vicentina was born a few years ago. The locals traded the Bikini/Speedo crowd for the bearers of backpacks. So far, there’s not an awful lot of hikers. A smidgeon here, a dollop there and a few guided groups. From my observations the walkers are mostly European.
It’s no Camino de Santiago.
That’s a good thing. I haven’t seen a shell flopping on the outside of a backpack. I haven’t overheard any New Agey conversations where the concepts are as foreign to me as Quantum Mechanics. I haven’t had to say, “Pardon!” or “Excuse me!” as I hustle past. There are no Yellow Arrows to chase. It’s mostly scenic, sandy and quiet. It’s a pleasant break for me.
The villages and towns are virtually empty. Many restaurants and hotels are shuttered. The owners apparently are sitting it out until summer and the bathing beauties return. It’s off-season and I’m happy to be here.
The Roto V is divided among three choices of hiking. There’s the “Fishermen’s Way” which consists of mostly seaside slogs through or over sand dunes. There’s lots cliffhanger walking too. It’s not easy or fast getting from point A to B.
There’s the “Historical Route” which is more inland. It connects the small Portuguese population centers. The trails are Terra Firma. It’s easier walking. A Wanderer gets to breeze past cattle, cork trees, eucalyptus forests and hay fields. It’s quiet too (except for the occasional roadside walking).
There’s also “Circular Routes” for the day hikers.
All the routes are well marked complete with signs, painted arrows and 4X6 posts to follow. The Roto Vicentina Folks did a great job of putting this together.
Before you book a ticket to Portugal, let me say this. It’s not Wilderness hiking. One is always close to a dirt track, a tarmac road or a cultivated field. Hey! It’s Europe! It’s been settled for a long time and there’s plenty of people here. It’s the European idea of two National Parks.
I’ll take it.
Cheers from Almograve, Portugal
The last photo is the most ecstatically pleasing WC in Europe.