Walking holidays in Portugal Overview
Forget the golf courses and beach resorts. Portugal is much more than a summer hotspot and there’s no finer way to discover its hidden villages and rural heartland than by walking. From the coast, where Atlantic rollers crash against isolated beaches, to soft hills crowded with cork and eucalyptus, flower-choked valleys, wheat fields and rocky uplands – most trails are delightfully crowd-free. Self guided trips run throughout Portugal, with well-marked routes and generally easy terrain. But small group guided tours are definitely the best way to discover the Azores and Madeira, Portugal’s wilder offshore territories. Our walking holidays in Portugal travel guide has more details.
Our top Walking holidays in Portugal
From €4608 days ex flights
Independent coastal walking holidays in the Alentejo Coast
From £1006 to £16928 days inc UK flights
Small group walking tour of madeira
Small group2021: 19 Jun, 7 Aug, 4 Sep, 18 Sep, 2 Oct, 16 Oct, 30 Oct, 20 Dec, 27 Dec, 2022: 12 Feb, 5 Mar, 19 Mar, 2 Apr, 16 Apr, 14 May, 28 May, 18 Jun, 6 Aug, 3 Sep, 17 Sep, 1 Oct, 15 Oct, 29 Oct, 20 Dec, 27 Dec
Map & highlightsEscape the crowds in the Algarve by heading south-west towards Sagres, or inland on classic walking routes such as the Rota Vicentina. And walking is definitely the best way to explore the magnificent Sintra-Cascais Natural Park just outside Lisbon. The Portugal Way is a classic Camino route, one that can take you either into the countryside or along the Atlantic coast. Alentejo, bordering the Algarve, is all rural splendour and empty trails. Then there are Portugal’s islands, the whale watching dynamos of the Azores and volcanic Madeira – both sublime locations for walking holidays with a difference.
The Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina is the largest coastal park in Europe, a rolling landscape of river valleys, dramatic cliffs and golden beaches. The Fishermen’s Trail, part of the Rota Vicentina, sits within it, hugging the cliffs for 120km and often skirting precipitous drops. Views are long and spectacular and there’s wildlife to spot, from rare fishing eagles to the world’s only shore-living white storks.
Base yourself a mere 10km inland from Faro and you’re perfectly placed to access the Algarve’s most unspoiled walking routes. Follow the ‘backbone’ of northern Algarve on the Via Algarviana, head for the wild west coast between Sagres and Odeceixe or explore the unspoiled east, with its rolling hills, rivers, sandy beaches, natural parks and elegant towns such as Tavira.
This lush, green archipelago of volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean, peppered with steep craters, feels a long way from Portugal. Each of the nine islands is ideally explored on foot, so you can get close to the lava plateaux and volcanic lakes. You’ll have flat, well-maintained paths under your feet with the odd stretch of rough terrain, too.
Madeira has a great mix of walking for such a compact island. Trek the remote, dry eastern tip at Ponta de Sao Lourenco or the spectacular north coast path, or stroll along the flower-lined levadas, the irrigation canals that thread through the island. Want to test your calves? Hike through chestnut and eucalyptus woods, fragrant with wild thyme, to climb the 1,862m Pico Ruivo.
Sintra-Cascais Natural Park
5. Sintra-Cascais Natural Park
Just 25km from Lisbon, this UNESCO World Heritage site is home to the Serra de Sintra mountains, where dry stone walls divide fields between picturesque villages. Its wild landscape stretches right to the coast, where Cabo da Roca is continental Europe’s westernmost point. The park contains miles of walking trails, with centre based trips popular here, and its mild Atlantic climate means you can explore year-round.
The Portugal Way
6. The Portugal Way
Among the most popular of the many Camino de Santiago walking routes, the Portugal Way lets you embark on either a charmingly pastoral inland meander, or follow the wildly beautiful Atlantic and Galician coastline. It’s a comparatively forgiving route, mostly flat, with highlights include Ponte de Lima, the university city of Coimbra, and gorgeous Porto on the Douro River.
Self guided or small group?
For Madeira and the Azores, you’ll definitely benefit from joining a small group walking tour, as these islands have some quite challenging terrain. A local guide will ensure you enjoy the views while someone else handles the directions. Plus, you’ll get to know a great band of like-minded walkers as you go along. In mainland Portugal however, there are many superb walking routes that are well-marked, so you can confidently head out on your own. These trips are ideal for those who like to take things at their own pace, adding a rest day or an extra challenge whenever they fancy it.
If it’s solitude you seek, you’ll find it in Portugal’s agricultural heartland. Bordering the much better-known Algarve region, and sometimes combined with it, in Alentejo you can very quickly find complete peace and quiet on the trail. The pastoral landscapes are magnificent, fragrant pine groves give way to coastline made up of beaches, sea stacks and picturesque fishing villages, and plains studded with cork oaks, grapevines, olive trees and eucalyptus, all framed against brilliant blue skies. Alentejo walking holidays are usually tailor made, self guided trips, and often follow parts of the Rota Vicentina like the Fishermen’s Trail.
Revered as one of the world’s top places for whale watching, the Atlantic archipelago of the Azores has a growing reputation for walking holidays. Best explored on a small group trip, the main islands of Pico, Faial, São Jorge and São Miguel offer routes between UNESCO-protected vineyards, tea plantations, blackened lava fields and dramatic coast where you could see whales breaching the waves. While walking poles are recommended, daily routes are fairly short, leaving plenty of time for boat tours, wine tasting or taking a shower beneath a waterfall. Come in spring for your best chance of seeing blue whales.
More holiday ideas
From £1499 to £17498 days inc UK flights
The very best walks from the 125km selection of coastal trails
Small group2021: 18 Sep, 25 Sep, 16 Oct, 2022: 12 Mar, 9 Apr, 7 May, 14 May, 4 Jun, 18 Jun, 17 Sep, 24 Sep, 15 Oct
From £1099 to £13498 days inc UK flights
Walk through the wild and varied scenery of Madeira
Small group2021: 10 Jul, 4 Sep, 18 Sep, 25 Sep, 9 Oct, 23 Oct, 6 Nov, 20 Nov, 23 Dec, 2022: 8 Jan, 22 Jan, 5 Feb, 12 Feb, 19 Feb, 26 Feb, 5 Mar, 12 Mar, 19 Mar, 26 Mar, 2 Apr, 9 Apr, 16 Apr, 30 Apr, 7 May, 14 May, 21 May, 4 Jun, 18 Jun, 9 Jul, 3 Sep, 17 Sep, 24 Sep, 8 Oct, 15 Oct, 22 Oct, 5 Nov, 19 Nov, 30 Dec
From €1060 to €20608 days ex flights
Self guided walking tour in Portuguese Schist Villages
From €435 to €4557 days ex flights
Fishermen's Trail, S W Portugal self-guided walking.
More about Walking holidays in Portugal
Walking holidays are unquestionably the best way to explore this volcanic Portuguese island and the man-made levadas that carry water (and walkers) through mountainous peaks and laurel forest. Typical Madeira walking holidays are week-long small group trips led by expert local guides, and you’ll cover much of the island during that time. Certainly, you will be able to tackle highlights including the São Lourenco Peninsula, the Caldeirão Verde waterfall, and perhaps even the summit of Pico Ruivo, Madeira’s highest mountain. The terrain is challenging much of the time; some hill-walking practise before departure will not be a wasted effort.
The Portugal Way
A classic Camino de Santiago, the Portugal Way has evolved over the centuries so that there are actually two possible routes. The original route takes you inland from Lisbon to Santiago de Compostela, 616km north, through magnificent Portuguese and Spanish pastoral landscapes. But you can also veer off at Porto, onto a route that follows the Atlantic and Galician coastline before the two routes rejoin over the Spanish border in Redondela. With Portugal Way walking holidays you can take your pick of scenery, and either hearty rural fare or fresh seafood for dinner every evening.
If you'd like to chat about Portugal walking or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.