Walk the new Rota Vicentina trail in peaceful Alentejo, Portugal, for a back-to-nature family spring escape.
The opening of a new walking trail in 2012, the Rota Vicentina, offers an ideal opportunity to explore the more tranquil Alentejo, away from the sun-lounger hogging hordes of the Algarve in Portugal’s vast but lesser-known cork oak region.
The 130km coastal-walking trail, which hugs the Atlantic-crashed cliffs of the Vicentina Coast Natural Park, is visually stunning and easier to walk than the longer route heading inland through lost-in-time villages. Casas Brancas, an independent association of 60-odd local tourism companies, oversaw the project to boost tread-lightly tourism.
Who is it good for? It's a combination of beaches, walking and abundant nature, making it perfect for families with school-age kids for visit in the holidays.
The trail: From Zambujeira do Mar heading north, you’ll find sweet-lemon rock roses lining the trail and nesting puffins that caw their greetings to you. The trail then twists around idyllic bays before heading inland through a shaded pine forest, curling back round to the coast for the final hike through barren sand dunes towards Porto Covo. With rural hospitality, head-clearing walks and lots of fresh sea air you and the kids will head home with a newfound spring in your step.
Rustic family guesthouses with splashes of local colour are at regular intervals along the trail, all offering home-cooked meals washed down with a glass of the full-bodied local red. They will prepare a packed lunch of crusty-bread sandwiches, juice and fruit and can easily arrange for luggage and onward transfers if kids’ legs tire.
Três Marias is one of the most stylish guesthouses on the trail. A boutique style hotel with the homely feel of a family B&B. The friendly Swiss-born owner will cook a hearty supper of local fare if ordered in advance. The nearby coastal town of Vila Nova de Milfontes offers a break from walking to take in the sea air and go souvenir hunting.
The hotel: Hotel Três Marias has family rooms from £100 per night B&B.
Guerin Car Hire at Lisbon Airport rents cars from £80 per day. Lisbon to Três Marias should take around 2 hours
Travel time: 3 hours and 40 minutes flight to Faro.