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World’s Longest Circular Hiking Trail To Combat Overtourism In Portugal

Portugal to open world's longest circular hiking trail
Portugal to open the world’s longest circular hiking trail [Image by 畅 苏 from Pixabay]
The dreaded word “overtourism” keeps appearing in headlines for many European destinations, but Portugal is doing something about this. Instead of packing out the popular cities and beaches with wall-to-wall tourists, Portugal aims to create the world’s longest circular hiking route, the 3,000 km (1,864 mi) Palmilhar Portugal (Walking Portugal). Are you up to it? Get those comfortable walking shoes ready and experience a different side of the European country when the first part of the trail opens in July.

Palmilhar Portugal to be the world’s longest circular hiking route

Alenquer, Portugal - start of the new circular hiking trail
Alenquer, Prrtugal [Image by GualdimG on Wikimedia Commons]
A new circular hiking route is on the cards for Portugal in an effort to divert tourists away from the familiar (and overcrowded) locations like Lisbon and the Algarve. Instead, the new hiking route will head through 100 lesser-known natural beauty spots nationwide.

The Palmilhar Portugal hiking trail is still in progress, but the inaugural section is set to open in the small town of Alenquer, north of Lisbon in July. Meanwhile, the next section to be created is in coastal Alentejo in Portugal’s south, followed by the mountainous Trás-os-Montes in the north. Moreover, 15 more routes are scheduled to open by the end of this year, with the full, circular hiking trail to be completed within the next three years.

Off the beaten path in Portugal

Hiking in Portugal
Hiking in Portugal [Image by Steven Weirather from Pixabay]
The new, 360-degree hiking route is the brainchild of communication design consultant and hiking enthusiast, Ricardo Bernardes. Speaking of the new project, he said he was walking a trail and asked himself, “What if this trail went around the whole country and returned to the same point without interruption?”

Bernardes hopes the new loop will “redistribute tourism to parts of Portugal that are currently little known”.

While Palmilhar Portugal is the longest circular walk, it isn’t the world’s longest trail, as that honor goes to the 24,000-km (15,000-mi) Great Trail in Canada. Moreover, Walking Portugal will be around the same length as the Via Francigena in Europe – an ancient pilgrimage from Canterbury, England, to Rome, Italy.

The hiking trail will offer something for everyone

Walking in Portugal
Walking in Portugal [Image by Nikolaus Bader from Pixabay]
Walking Portugal is a €3.5 million ($3.7 million) project that is planned to always be on public land and will mostly be pedestrianized and without asphalt. However, some parts will also be open to bikers and aim to include sections that are accessible to those with reduced mobility.

Moreover, an app will be available for the trail, offering current information about the next stop along the route. It will also offer hikers a choice to book accommodations, meals, and tickets to cultural or sporting events. Meanwhile, it is hoped to also offer a digital and physical “passport,” to be stamped along the way.

What to expect from the first trails of Walking Portugal

Walking Portugal will open in July in the town of Alenquer, a location known for its paleontology, archaeology and history. Moreover, the town is known for its wine tastings at local vineyards, while Alenquer’s main tourist event is the Fair of the Ascension, held in May or June of each year.

Wild horse in Portugal
Wild horse in Portugal [Image by Marcel Dominic from Pixabay]
Meanwhile, the route will extend later in the year to the rural southern coastal region of Alentejo. Here, hikers will find beautiful national parks protecting the idyllic and unspoiled coastline. Moreover, it features dolphin watching, wild horses and some of the largest cork oak tree forests in the world.

Later this year, the route will reach the remote Trás-os-Montes region in the northeast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and biosphere reserve featuring orchards, olive groves and vineyards to explore.

Get a taste of the new, eventually circular, trail in the video below and visit the still under construction website here.





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