It's summer, the weather is warm and days are long. Even for those who are not beach lovers, this is the right time to go for a stroll by the sea, have a cool drink on a terrace with a view, watch the sun dipping into the Atlantic. With almost 950 kilometres of coastline, there is no shortage of places in our country to spend good times outdoors, with your eyes on the ocean and feeling a fresh breeze that smells of salt. From north to south, these are some of my favourite places to enjoy the summer days (and nights).
Windmills by the sea: APÚLIA
Noticeable by its iconic windmills – which served their fundamental purpose for many years but now are only holiday homes – Apúlia beach is a long stretch of sand protected by dunes and interrupted by shallow rocks. Windy and with cold water, it's ideal for those who do not appreciate heat. It’s a blue flag beach, which guarantees environmental quality, and there is no shortage of places to eat in the vicinity. A stone wall follows the beach line and serves as a viewpoint. The Masseiras Trail begins and ends next to the mills, a 7 km hiking route uniting sea and land – the environment of the sargaceiros (sargassum collectors) who now are only part of local tradition. At Praça dos Pescadores, small colourful boats brighten the atmosphere even on the greyest days. The fish market stands right next to the square, where fresh fish is available early in the morning. To complete the picture, there is also an abandoned palace, which has seen better days and takes on the air of a haunted house on foggy days.
A very original chapel: MIRAMAR and AGUDA
The Chapel of Senhor da Pedra stands at Miramar beach, on a rock near the waterline, a place that is believed to have once been a pagan altar. It has its “back” to the sea, which is unusual for Portuguese chapels, but certainly justifiable to protect the entrance door from the violence of the waves in stormy days. However, it is with the ocean in sight that it is worth strolling along the beaches of Miramar and Aguda. The path is about 3 km long and can be walked by foot, on a walkway, or cycled along the cycle path. Along the way, you'll find several on-the-sand bars, restaurants for dining after sunset, a few dunes and rocks, and a long stretch of empty (or almost empty!) sandy beach.
Walkways and an eco-park: ESMORIZ
Esmoriz is one of those places that can satisfy everyone’s interests. Those who enjoy hiking or birdwatching in their natural habitat, because they have at their disposal a beautiful 8 km long wooden walkway that goes around the Paramos Lagoon, where they can spot water birds of various species, ospreys and some less common birds. For those who like the beach or a meal watching the sea, there's sand and water as far as the eye can see and no shortage of places to have a drink or a bite to eat. And for those who are not beach lovers but want to enjoy a good time outdoors and in contact with nature, they can go to the Buçaquinho Eco-Park to relax and escape the heat in its wide green areas, where there is everything you need to spend many hours in a very pleasant way.
A lagoon and the sea: FOZ DO ARELHO
Foz do Arelho is a sort of bipolar beach: on one side the Atlantic, with the habitual strong swell of the Portuguese west coast; on the other side, the Óbidos Lagoon, which in times gone by was almost a swimming pool but now, after the removal of the sand that closed it, has plenty of sea water. Sometimes, the contrast between the low water temperature and the warmth of the sun creates a mysterious mist, which gives the lagoon an unreal atmosphere and even greater charm. There’s a well-landscaped promenade with colourful kiosks and several restaurants facing the beach and sea, some on a higher level, which are also excellent viewpoints. There are also wooden walkways over the dunes, on the Atlantic side, good for exercising your legs and heart. Despite all this, Foz do Arelho has not lost the simple and unpretentious atmosphere that it has always had, which gives it a very particular allure.
Spectacular cliffs: CABO CARVOEIRO
To the west of Peniche and at the tip of the peninsula with the same name, Cape Carvoeiro is an exceptional place for a stroll. On this rocky promontory with particular characteristics, we can see large areas of lapiás (limestone) and other rock formations, created by erosion over many thousands of years. Apart from the lighthouse, its icon is the Nau dos Corvos, a huge rock alone in the water, which resembles a ship heading offshore. On the path to Furninha, south of the Cape, the Furna que Sopra (Blowing Cave) offers a fun and unusual experience. To the north, among the rocks with exotic shapes (one of them resembles an elephant’s head), the Pilatos Balcony is an excellent viewpoint to watch a memorable sunset, with the Berlengas Islands standing out in the distance from the ocean waters.
Castle with a view: SESIMBRA
Sesimbra and its bay have an old history dating back to many thousands of years and closely related to fishing and neighbouring activities. Nowadays, the town is mainly famous for its restaurants, where you can eat good fish and other delicacies from the sea, and for its south-facing beaches sheltered by the houses that climb up the hillside to the castle. Dating back to the 9th century, when the Iberian Peninsula was still occupied by the Moors, the castle retains its medieval layout and walking along its walls offers stunning views over the region’s landscape and the town nestled below. Despite its modern outskirts, Sesimbra still has a peaceful atmosphere, even during high summer season, and the narrow streets of its old centre have not lost their most genuine characteristics.
A quiet Alentejo: ALMOGRAVE
Set in the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park, Almograve beach is one of the most beautiful (and least crowded in summer) spots on the Alentejo coast. Bordered by black schist rocks, which create a beautiful contrast with the colours of the sea and the sand, it is half a kilometre long and has two distinct faces, visually separated by the Rocha Furada, with a narrow passage that connects them. The north side is protected by dunes covered with understorey vegetation, and the south by rocky cliffs. It offers everything you may need: car parks, lifeguard surveillance, places to eat, and quality certified by a blue flag. The north car park gives access to another beach, small and absolutely charming: Nossa Senhora Beach. The village is a short walk away. It is white and clean, quiet, with small houses, mostly modern but well integrated into the urban setting. Almograve is (still) one of the best-kept secrets of the Alentejo region.
Surrounded by cosy rocks: PRAINHA
On the far eastern side of Alvor, but away from the hustle and bustle of Praia da Rocha, Prainha is one of those oases in the Algarve which aren’t affordable for all people. However, its beach is open to the public. Accessed from Três Irmãos beach – through a passage between the rocks on the east side – or from a dead-end street that starts on the municipal road connecting Rocha to Alvor, and then down some stairs, Prainha is sheltered, surrounded by cliffs, therefore ideal for those who like cosier places with some shade for much of the day. In fact, there are three small beaches separated by rocks, and during high tide they are only connected by tunnels carved into the rocks by erosion. Also part of the charm of this beach is a bar/restaurant nestled into the cliff, with a rustic-clean and quiet atmosphere. Prainha is the right place for those who like to enjoy the Algarve in a carefree way.
A unique spot: ALGAR SECO
About 750 metres away from the centre of the small town of Carvoeiro, on the road that climbs east along the coast, there is a spectacular rock formation that gave origin to a network of caves flooded by sea water. Access is made via a cemented staircase which takes us to a sort of “indoor pool” surrounded by rocks. The outdoor areas are a favourite place for fishermen and a privileged spot to watch the sea and the coastal shoreline of this part of Algarve. There is a bar with a terrace pleasantly shaded from the sun, and a wooden walkway that also leads to Carvoeiro – a small town which remains one of the most pleasant locations in the western Algarve.
Reed beds and birds: SALGADOS
Located between Armação de Pêra and Galé, Salgados beach is long and wide, with fine, clear sand and almost no waves in the warmer months. It also has the added bonus of being next to the Salgados Lagoon, which is a nesting place for many birds. The area around the lagoon is home to endemic and rare species of flora and fauna, or species of great heritage value. The proliferation of tourist developments in the area has been creating environmental problems, which is why a proposal was launched some time ago for the creation of the future Salgados Lagoon Nature Reserve aiming to defend this valuable ecosystem. A few years ago, the lagoon was equipped with wooden walkways, which serve both to protect its natural habitat characteristics and as a walking and observation path. It is one of the most beautiful places in the Algarve, and perfect for any time of the day.
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