Vila Nova de Milfontes
Little village in coastal Alentejo
While doing some travel research for a road trip, I stumbled upon information about a little village in coastal Alentejo called Vila Nova de Milfontes and discovered that it’s one of the most popular coastal villages especially for folks who enjoy nature, hiking, walking, surfing, camping, and cycling. Or for folks like Paul and I who enjoy taking the road less traveled to the find less touristy spots.
Sitting at the mouth of the Mira River and fed by the nearby Atlantic Ocean, this village was built around the Fort São Clemente. The fort and castle were built in the late 16th century for the purpose of defending the village from attacks by Barbary pirates from North Africa and other conquerors.
Although Vila Nova de Milfontes has expanded over the years, it’s the original village center that has retained much of the charm associated with a traditional Portuguese fishing village and is the focus of this article.
The original village.
On this road trip, we drove from Lisbon on the motorway and put directions into GPS for Sines. Once in Sines (where the waterfront is marred by a huge oil refinery), we followed the signs for Porto Covo (a pretty fishing village). From there, we entered Vila Nova de Milfontes into GPS and traveled several miles through the winding roads with views of the ocean and countryside.
It’s not difficult to find the original part of the village (even the newer part isn’t very big). You know you’ve arrived when you drive down narrow cobbled streets with whitewashed buildings leading down to the river and the Fort (now a private residence).
The village was also an important part of early Portuguese aviation. In 1924, the first air crossing between Portugal and Macao was achieved by Brito Paes and Sarmento Beires. To honor the airmen and their contribution to aviation history, a monument next to the fort in Barbaca Square, was erected.
The Rota Vincentina.
One of the most popular attractions to Vila Nova de Milfontes and the surrounding area is the Rota Vincentina, a network of over 750 km (466 miles) of hiking and cycling trails (in some areas) that run through small rural villages and farms, and miles of seacoast complete with coves, cliffs, jaw-dropping scenery, and rock formations. Popular for hiking and walking from the village is Fisherman’s Trail.
Tourists but not touristy. Yet.
Visitors from all over the world come to Vila Nova da Milfontes to walk and hike the many trails within the Rota Vincentina. The people who live in this area are mindful of the often-delicate balance between the value of tourism and the preservation of the land – the small farms, the animals, the birds, the ocean, the terrain. The fact that this area is off the beaten path with no easy highway access may help to preserve it from becoming too touristy.
View the Rota Vincentina video:
We visited this village during off-season. Even so, there were many people who were obviously there for hiking or biking. This is the kind of place that attracts people who appreciate the simplicity of old Portugal. I hope that this lovely little village and its surrounding beauty can continue to keep things in balance and that visitors continue to respect the traditions and the land.
If you visit:
Due to its location, the village is not easily accessible by public transportation. A car is recommended.
Parking in the village center is limited and mostly on-street. Many of the village roads are narrow. There is parking along the beaches.
In off-season (November to March), many shops and restaurants in the village are closed.
Since this is a popular spot for hiking, walking and bike riding, the village can get crowded with nature-lovers during the spring and summer months. It’s recommended that you book accommodations in advance. To avoid disappointment, I suggest making reservations for dinner.
English is spoken in most shops, restaurants, and accommodations.
If you’re looking for a guide to show you the best places for hiking or walking the Rota Vicentina, contact Nature Transfers.
Praia (the name for beach in Portuguese) da Franquia is the main beach in the village. Praia do Farol is the beach at the mouth of the estuary. Across the estuary a ferry that runs during the summer months takes visitors to Praia das Furnas.
To learn more about where we stayed in Vila Nova de Milfontes, along with recommendations for restaurants, look for my post next week.
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Until next time…