LISBON, June 11 ― A country-wide walking route could help take the pressure off tourist-packed hotspots, while bolstering the economy of regions that are still relatively unknown to travellers. Such is the plan in Portugal, which is developing the world's largest circular walking route, the first part of which is opening this summer.

From Lisbon, the Douro Valley and the Algarve to lesser-known corners such as the mountainous Tras-Os-Montes region ― if you thought you'd seen everything in Portugal, then get set to explore a new circular walking route, promising to take visitors off the beaten track.

And there'll be plenty to take in, since this circular walk will be 3,000 kilometres long! Indeed, Portugal has found a way to support its tourism sector while relieving the density of visitors from crowded hotspots, by creating a circular walking route that claims to be the world's longest. It offers an alternative way of keeping Portugal on the map as a major destination for vacationers, while encouraging them to look beyond Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve. It's also a way of boosting the economy of lesser-known parts of Portugal, which could benefit significantly from tourist growth, especially outside the high season.

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This project is known as Palmilhar Portugal. The trail will be available to explore on foot or by bike from July, when the first section opens in Alenquer, north of Lisbon. By the end of the year, some 15 sections should be open.

A mobile application is being developed to accompany walkers on their journey, providing them with significant points of interest, as well as accommodation options and restaurants where they can take a break. The project aims to appeal to both walkers and thrill-seekers looking to take part in sporting activities at the same time. It also promises to be accessible to people with reduced mobility.

While this is a circular hiking trail, meaning that you never need to turn back (if you follow the route), the longest non-circular walking trail can be found in Canada. “The Great Trail” opened in 2017 and connects one ocean to the other. ― ETX Studio

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