In Praise Of The Wild Atlantic Coast
Although real travel is taking a backseat during this Covid bubble, it doesn’t mean you stop dreaming about travel, right? As they say – imagination is free! In the spirit of keeping the dreams alive, we continue our three-part photo series on Picturesque Portugal with a collection of our most memorable coastal experiences. In Part II, we’re highlighting scenic seaside spots along the wild Atlantic coast, from the Algarve in the south near the Spanish border to the Silver Coast of the north.
With 1800 km of wild coastline, Portugal has no shortage of seaside escapes. Perched on the Atlantic Ocean at the western edge of Europe, visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to seductive seascapes and beguiling beaches. It’s another tempting reason why we keep returning for holidays. Thank you for enjoying our travel images of coastal Portugal, collected from different trips. Perhaps you can picture yourself visiting some of these places, one day!
Stay well and keep travel dreaming! – Kathy, Kake2Kale
<< See Picturesque Portugal Part I
<< See Picturesque Portugal Part III
The Scenic Seaside: Algarve, Costa Vincentina, Comporta, Setubal & Costa de Prata
For starters, it’s a travesty that most visitors think the Algarve is the only or best choice for a sun and sand escape in Portugal. Sure, it’s a hot spot for fly-and-flop packaged holidays, and resorts or holiday rentals are bountiful. But as you can imagine, there are plenty of beautiful oceanside alternatives in the country. The following scenic seaside areas are our top picks for a less tourist-packed ambiance, from south to north: Tavira and Sagres in the Algarve, Odeceixe and Vila Nova de Milfontes on the Costa Vincentina, Comporta and Setubal near Lisbon, and Santa Cruz on the Costa de Prata.
The charming village of TAVIRA reclines on the easterly fringe of the Algarvian coast, far enough away from the myriad of bustling, resort towns. Quaint or quirky highlights include: i) the sleepy parish of Cabanas de Tavira best known for octopus fishing (covos de polvo), ii) the Anchor Cemetery of old tuna-boat anchors, iii) signature hand-shaped door knockers of Tavira, iv) salt flats near Ilha de Tavira, v) unspoiled beach of Praia do Barril, and the historic centre of Tavira with appealing shops and streets.
If you’ve ever wanted to take a walk at the end of the world, then go to SAGRES on the western end of the Algarve. Thirty years ago, Sagres was my favourite stop on a backpacking circuit. I recently returned and was grateful to find this small outpost of 2000 inhabitants had not been spoiled with time. Lucky for all of us, this backpacker haven has managed to evade mass development. Located at the most south-westerly corner of Europe, it was once considered the edge of earth until the Age of Exploration (15th to 17th centuries), when Portugal’s explorers set sail to discover new worlds. Many of the Portuguese explorers – like Vasco da Gamma, Ferdinand Magellan, Pedro Cabral and Bartolomeu Dias – trained at the school of navigation in Sagres.
These days, you can only get a glimpse of Sagres’ nautical past at two scenic landmarks: Cabo de Sao Vincente (lighthouse) and Fortaleza de Sagres (fortress). Both sites offer epic views, especially at sunset (top image); but the 200 ft severe cliffs and turbulent seas below are not for the faint of heart.
More than anything, Sagres is a mecca for the surf obsessed and those seeking a mellow beach vibe. It’s also the start or end of the Rota Vincentina, a set of well-marked hiking / cycling trails stretching 400 km between Sagres and Santiago do Cacém along one of the most stunning and well-preserved coastlines in Europe. It takes about 10 days to hike, depending if one follows the Historical Way or the Fishermen’s Way. We only did day trips but hope to return one day to complete one of the routes.
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Maybe you hike, maybe you don’t. It doesn’t matter to visit a few of the quaint communities on the Fishermen’s Way trail. The nicest being ODECEIXE and VILA NOVA DE MILFONTES on the Costa Vincentina. These tranquil enclaves have largely flown under the radar of foreign visitors. They are quintessentially Portuguese, particularly Vila Nova de Milfontes (“Thousands of Fountains”) with its charming whitewashed houses. Nearby are countless deserted, sun-soaked beaches surrounded by unspoiled scenery.
If there’s one thing COMPORTA has going for it, it’s the 60 km stretch of sublime, lonely beach – arguably Portugal’s best-kept secret! There’s a dreamy aesthetic to the landscape – sand dunes, a barren stretch of beach that fades into infinity and large grids of rice-paddies. The other big draw of Comporta is its hip farm-to-table ethos, boho-chic vibe and eco-elegant accommodations, creating a stylish sanctuary for the fashionable crowd.
A short-ferry ride from Comporta is the historical port city of SETÚBAL, located less than an hour south of Lisbon. It’s home to the country’s other national fortified wine – Moscatel de Setúbal, a sweet, complex and fragrant dessert wine. The area is small but packed with stunning historic wineries, like José Maria da Fonseca and Quinta da Bacalhôa, housed in a 15th century palace. Tucked into the rugged, hilly terrain are beaches and castles to explore.
We didn’t know what to expect when we booked a hotel near SANTA CRUZ to break up a long drive along the northern coast. To our unadulterated glee, we found a hyper whimsically decorated, modern hotel – think Alice In Wonderland vibe meeting Arthur Erickson architecture. The hotel is a marvel, a work of art. I mean ‘holy cow’ our bathroom had an indoor tree, fireplace and a waterfall shower! For this kind of hotel, the stunning scenery is merely an afterthought. Nevertheless, the beaches are gorgeous and low-key. People come here to purely escape. Further up the coast, along the Costa de Prata (also referred to as the Silver Coast), Nazaré is known for having the biggest waves in the world!
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And, there you have it, our top picks for seaboard experiences in Portugal with a range of wild Atlantic scenery and distinctive coastal towns. If you’re interested in visiting Portugal after the “Great Pause of 2020”, the biggest dilemma may be deciding where to go first!
Pensao Agricola (Boutique farmhouse retreat near Tavira)
Memmo Baleeira Hotel (Large design hotel in Sagres)
Monte do Cardal (country house near Odeceixe)
Sublime Comporta (Upscale retreat with villas near Comporta)
Quinta da Conceicao (Refurbished 1715 baroque manor house near Setubal)
Hotel Areias do Seixo (Eco-conscious boutique hotel near Santa Cruz)
All photographs and images are copyrighted © 2014 – 2020 Kake2Kale Photography.