Palmilhar Portugal Hiking Trail Aims to Balance Tourism

Alenquer - Photo by Davy De Groote on Unsplash

New plans aim to create the world’s longest circular hiking route, the 3,000 km Palmilhar Portugal (Walking Portugal).

Designed to guide tourists away from crowded spots like Lisbon and the Algarve, this route will traverse 100 less-explored scenic areas across the country. The project is progressing, with the first section set to open this July in the quaint town of Alenquer, just north of Lisbon. A stretch will be developed in the coastal Alentejo region in southern Portugal and then in the mountainous Trás-os-Montes in the north. By the year’s end, 15 sections are expected to be operational, with the entire trail completed within three years.

This innovative ‘360-degree’ trail is the vision of walking enthusiast and communication design consultant Ricardo Bernardes, who aims to “redistribute tourism to lesser-known parts of Portugal.”

While it won’t claim the title of the world’s longest trail—Canada’s 24,000 km Great Trail holds that honour—Palmilhar Portugal will be the longest circular walk globally, comparable in length to Europe’s historic Via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome.

Bernardes was inspired by a simple yet profound idea: “What if this trail encircled the entire country and returned to its starting point without interruption?”

Palmilhar Portugal Highlights:

  • Accessibility: Though named Walking Portugal, this €3.5 million project will be mostly on public land, pedestrianized, and tarmac-free. It will also welcome cyclists on certain parts and include trails for people with reduced mobility.
  • Digital Integration: An app will provide real-time information about upcoming locations and allow users to book accommodations, meals, and tickets for sporting and cultural events.
  • Community Involvement: The trail will require investment and participation from local councils and businesses. A digital and physical ‘passport,’ which can be stamped along the route, is also in development.

What to Expect from the First Sections

Known as ‘crib town,’ Alenquer, where Walking Portugal will start in July, is rich in archaeology, palaeontology, and history, complemented by local vineyard wine tastings. The Fair of the Ascension, the main tourist event, occurs in May or June annually.

Later this year, the trail will stretch to the rural Alentejo coastal region. This area is famous for its national parks, unspoiled coastline, natural harbours, dolphin watching, wild horses, and some of the world’s largest cork oak forests.

In 2024, the path will reach Trás-os-Montes in the northeast. This region, known as the Hot Land, offers UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a biosphere reserve. Visitors can expect olive groves, orchards, vineyards, carved granite pigs, ancient almond trees, and hidden gorges.

Categories: World
Manuel Santos: Manuel, an author for Argophilia Travel News, hails from Barcelona. He started off as a lifeguard at Sant Sebastia Beach and later worked as a barista. Currently, he is a travel writer who is considering writing a book about the surf beaches in Spain.
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