Catching the Best Waves in Portugal
A land fringed with some 1,800 kilometres of coastline opening onto the wild Atlantic, where winds and currents drive the build-up of waves, is bound to be the perfect destination for surfers. We now reveal the reasons why Portugal exerts such a pull on surfers and pinpoint some of the best beaches for doing this thrilling sport.
Why Surfing in Portugal Rocks
Waves of all sizes and for all tastes. The long Portuguese coastline has ample room for everyone wanting to surf, be they beginners or those who have had loads of waves behind them; that is, under their surfboard.
The good climate. In Portugal, the weather is usually good most of the year around, except in winter, when temperatures go down. The rest of the year is conducive to having a good dip with your surfboard in tow.
The food is fantastic. After a hard day’s riding waves, regaining your strength by downing some great sardinhas asadas (grilled sardines) or savouring an exquisite dish of bacalhau à brás codfish is a delight on the palate.
Affordable prices. In Portugal it is comparatively easy to find quality food and accommodation at more than reasonable prices. What more could you ask for?
The Best Beaches for Catching Waves
Portugal boasts a vast array of surfing beaches, but here are the most outstanding ones:
Apart from being a charming fishing village, Ericeira, situated 30 kilometres north of Lisbon, is one of the favourite destinations for surfers heading for Portugal. It has the distinction of being Europe’s first listed World Surfing Reserve on account of the quality of its waves, the great number of surfing spots and its environment. One of the most prominent spots is the area of Coxos, a small cove with waves of up to 5 metres high, suitable only for daredevils. Another of the noteworthy enclaves is around Ribeira d’Ilhas, ideal for all kinds of surfers and well-known for its beach bars, where people congregate to refuel and socialise. Any time of year is suitable for surfing on these beaches.
Situated in the central area of Portugal’s coastline, Peniche offers what is probably the best set of surfing beaches in the country and draws enthusiasts from all over Europe. One of the best beaches is Supertubos – known among surfers as “Eurotube” – with powerful waves that will meet all surfing aficionados’ expectations. Its reputation has earned it the honour of hosting the world surfing championship once a year. Apart from surfing, its beaches are also ideal for bodyboarding and diving.
Nazaré – Praia do Norte
Like Peniche, it is situated in the central stretch of the country’s seaboard. The American, Garrett McNamara, has the honour of having surfed the biggest wave this year, an amazing 20-metre-high wave on the Praia do Norte. Indeed, herein lies the particularity of this spot on the coastline, where waves can often get to 10 metres, which is therefore a major draw for the big riders. The best time of year for viewing and experiencing this marvel of nature is in winter.
Situated on the Costa Vicentina in the northern Algarve, Arrifana is another of those destinations surfers should be considering. The beach is flanked at both ends by cliffs, accessed by a steep stairway. Apart from being a surfing spot, visitors to this area can also enjoy nature in the magnificent South-west Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park. The best time for surfing here is in early spring, as in summer it tends to get overcrowded.
Also located in the Algarve, Sagres has become a veritable surfing hub. It is the ideal spot for signing up for a Surf & Yoga course at the Freeride Surf Camp, where surfing goes hand in hand with meditation, and for going on a boat ride, ideal for enthusiasts of whale- and dolphin-watching.
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUISmore info
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Alentejo, a stone's throw from Lisbon
Only an hour’s drive from Lisbon, we discovered an area little known in Portugal, but one that is certainly worth visiting. It’s a place to get lost in whilst taking in the incredible landscape. Alentejo has become a refuge for celebrities such as Valentino, Christian Louboutin and Sarah Ferguson. Even Spain’s Queen Letizia has been spotted around these parts.
In Portuguese, Alentejo means ‘Beyond Tajo’. It was the furthest point reached beyond the Tajo River during the reconquista. It’s a beautiful region blessed with endless planes, heavenly beaches and lots of sunshine. It is the perfect place to escape from the hustle and bustle and enjoy its local food and unique character.
With well-maintained historic streets and dozens of incredible shops where you can purchases artisan products, Évora is the most visited city in Alentejo. If travelling to Alentejo from Spain via Badajoz, the first city you encounter is Elvas, which is also well worth visiting. Builton high ground, its old military fortifications remain, reminding us of Spanish-Portuguese skirmishes over the centuries. Between Elvas and Évora lies Évora Monte, a tiny yet utterly charming village. Other destinations for the visitor include Portalegre, Monsaraz and Marvão, as well as the fascinating Estremoz and Vila Viçosa. It’s here that we make a stop to seek out the highly recommended Joao Portugal Ramos winery.Famous all over Europe, this bodega houses a number of wines of exquisite quality, and here you can see how they are made.South ofÉvora, in lower Alentejo, take a detour to Beja, Serpa, Moura, and above all the incredible town of Mertola.
One of the major reasons to visit this gorgeous part of the world is the beaches. In reality, they are an extension of Algarve, but a lot less crowded.Alentejo has remote beaches, where you can sunbathe, surf or simply get lost. Vila Nova de Milfontes isknown as ‘The Princess of Alentejo’ for its crystalline waters and sand dunes. It is a place you won’t want to leave. Instead, lose yourself in this slice of paradise.
WHERE TO SLEEP
If you do come to Alentejo, take the opportunity to sleep in one of the famous Pousadas Portugusesas and especially the Pousada Flor da Rousa in Nisa. This beautiful town is famous for its ceramic work, cheeses and local stew. But it also has a curious connection with France (in fact it is named after the French city of Nice). In 1199, after the conquest of the Sancho I and the Templars, a fort was built where Nisa now stands. Its first inhabitants came from Nice, and still today French culture seeps throughout this beguiling town.
If travelling from Lisbon, the Pousada da Nossa Senhora da Assunção in the village of Arraiolos, the Pousada Convento dos Loios in beautiful Évora or the Pousada Raínha Santa Isabel in Estremoz are good options. All are reasonably priced and all possess a certain type of magic.
Alentejo's local food is not complicated. On the contrary, it’s simple, somewhat humble, yet delicious and abundant. It tends to be flavoured with herbs and other earthy produce. A good example of this is the typical açorda alentejana – a dish made with breadcrumbs, eggs, garlic, coriander and olive oil. It’s an explosion of flavours that everyone loves!
In Alentejo you will find exceptional bread, very good olive oil and mouth-watering pork. There is also a certain Arabic influence in the local cuisine, a sign of the long Moorish occupancy in the region. This can be appreciated in dishes such as migas à alentejana (paprika-spiced pork with breadcrumbs,) lamb stew and in the soups and local bread. Fish is also on the menu, best enjoyed at the fishermen’s bars situated close to the beaches.
Standout desserts include Pan de Rala from Évora or Sericaia con la Ciruela, a local speciality in Elvas. Or really any one of sweet treats from ovens of the local convents – abundant in this region! If you like good food, Alentejo is the place for you.
So there you have it, a fantastic plan for a short break. What are you waiting for? Book your seat now with Vueling.
Text : Tensi Sánchez www.actitudesmgz.com
Photography : Fernando Sanz