I found myself spending a few days after Christmas in the southwest coast of Portugal. After a couple of weeks of heavy rain, the weather became sunnier, so it was perfect for walking in the many local trails of the Rota Vicentina. One of my favourite routes is number 24, a circular path that starts in the town of Vila do Bispo and heads to the coast. I have done this trail a few times before, but I like it so much that I don’t mind repeating it. In fact, this route takes you into direct contact with the essence of this land: a high coastal plateau characterized by hills and deeply cut ravines, leading to some of the best wild beaches in Europe.
The following map shows the trail, which is around 16 km long.
The morning is sunny, and even though it is winter, the temperature is forecasted to reach 23 Celsius, which feels more like springtime. After the rain the land is covered with green grass and yellow flowers; it does look like spring. The trail is easy to follow, and after a couple of hours, it starts to approach one of its highlights, the descent towards Barriga beach. It is impossible not to stop to admire the view, with the hills transitioning abruptly to the azure of the ocean.
Take some time to stroll in the beach and enjoy the surroundings. The dark schist cliffs are still covered by the morning mist. When the tide is low, it is possible to walk for several kilometres along the sand.
Leaving Barriga beach, the trail climbs up the steep hills, until it reaches the second highlight of the day, the viewpoint over Cordoama beach. From here it is possible to admire a good part of the Vicentina coast, starting at Arrifana in the north, and extending into Castelejo and beyond, to the south.
These beaches are a fantastic place to spend the rest of the day, but after a picnic lunch, it is time to return to the trail. It is a steep ascent from the beach to the top of the hill, but the view from is well worth the effort. From here, the rest of the walk is easy, crossing a quiet woodland in a secluded valley, before arriving at Vila do Bispo.
On the way from Vila do Bispo to my house, I stopped at another one of my favourite beaches, Arrifana. I wanted to make some photos at sunset, so I parked the car, and went looking around, trying to find a good viewpoint. There are several places from where to make good photos looking down onto the beach, but I chose one that is not so obvious, near the edge of the cliff. Even though I have been here so many times, I always feel elated every time I return. The tall dark cliffs, with their folded rock layers, are constantly buffeted by the waves.
This coastal region is a treasure trove for Nature lovers, and is beautiful all year round. Walking the many available trails is the perfect way to experience it. A final mention about the photo gear I had in my backpack, which included a wide angle lens (Fujinon 16mm f/1.4) and a standard lens (Fujinon 33mm f/1.4).