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Europe to open world’s longest circular hiking trail this summer



Portugal’s tourist hotspots are currently overwhelmed with visitors, leading to concerns about sustainability and the overall experience for travelers. In an effort to address this issue, plans are underway to create the world’s longest circular hiking route, the 3,000 km Palmilhar Portugal (Walking Portugal) trail. This initiative is designed to encourage tourists to explore lesser-known regions of the country and to shift focus away from popular destinations such as Lisbon and the Algarve. The route will pass through 100 hidden gems across Portugal, allowing visitors to experience the diverse landscapes and cultural offerings of the country.

The brainchild behind the ‘360-degree’ route is Ricardo Bernardes, a walking enthusiast and communication design consultant. He believes that the trail will help to “redistribute tourism to parts of Portugal that are currently little known”. While it may not be the world’s longest trail, the Palmilhar Portugal will be the world’s longest circular walk. Offering a unique way to explore the country, the route will be predominantly pedestrianized, always on public land, and free of tarmac. Additionally, the trail is being designed to accommodate cyclists in certain sections, as well as include accessible trails for individuals with reduced mobility.

The inaugural section of the Palmilhar Portugal trail is set to open in Alenquer, a small town located just north of Lisbon, in July. This region, known locally as ‘crib town’, offers a mix of archaeology, palaeontology, history, and wine tastings from local vineyards. In addition to the cultural attractions, Alenquer hosts the Fair of the Ascension annually, providing visitors with a unique experience. As the trail continues to develop, additional sections will be opened in coastal Alentejo in the south, and mountainous Trás-os-Montes in the north of Portugal. The goal is to have 15 routes operational by the end of the year, with the full trail expected to be completed within the next three years.

In order to enhance the experience for hikers and cyclists along the trail, an app will be developed to provide information about the upcoming locations, as well as opportunities to book accommodations, meals, and tickets to events. Local councils and businesses will play a crucial role in supporting the trail through investment and participation. Plans are also underway for the introduction of a digital and physical ‘passport’, which can be stamped along the route to commemorate the journey. By involving local communities and businesses, the trail aims to create a sustainable tourism model that benefits both visitors and residents alike.

Overall, the Palmilhar Portugal trail offers a diverse range of experiences for travelers looking to explore Portugal beyond the traditional tourist hotspots. From the archaeological wonders of Alenquer to the unspoiled coastlines of Alentejo and the remote beauty of Trás-os-Montes, the route showcases the country’s natural and cultural diversity. Whether you’re a hiking enthusiast, a cyclist, or someone with reduced mobility, the trail aims to provide something for everyone. With a focus on sustainability and community involvement, Walking Portugal is paving the way for a more balanced and authentic tourism experience in Portugal.

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