EXPLORING THE COASTLINE OF ALENTEJO AND COSTA VICENTINA (November 21 – December 7, 2016)

Almost everybody goes to Algarve in Portugal. Not many people realize that the coastline of Portugal is not only about Algarve. There is also the less-touristic coastline of Alentejo and Costa Vicentina. The coastline which runs from Sines to Cabo de Sao Vicente (comprises of 110 kilometers of wild rugged coastline and 75,000 hectares of protected area within the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentina Coast National Park). The park is the best preserved coastal area of Southern Europe. And there is no better way to discover this amazing coastline than to walk the Firsherman’s Trail, a foottrail that runs along the coastline and follows the trail used by locals to get to the beaches and hot fishing spots. The trail gives one the most amazing views on Alentejo’s ruuged and wild coastline and gets you to the most exciting viewpoints and secluded, almost paradise beach spots in the region.

 We did not do the trail. However, we explored the coastline by using our motorhome, driving from one beautiful place to the next, stopping and staying the night where we found safe, quiet and beautiful. Sometimes the police asked us to transfer (late at night!) , as it was not allowed to stay overnight on the protected areas of the park. We even received a warning notice one time that we stayed overnight in one beach area. The problem was, the rule implementation differs from one municipality to another. One municipality is stricter than the other. Especially in the municipality of Odemira where motorhomes are totally not allowed to stay overnight in the beach areas, and sometimes at parking areas at the village. They are required to go to the campings. But anyway, that was only a side story to our exploration. It was all part of the excitement of travelling with a motorhome.

 Our exploration , which took us two weeks to complete , began in Porto Covo in Sines and ended at Cabo de Sao Vicente in Sagres.

 Here are the places where we have been to:

 1. PORTO COVO

It is a tiny fishing village with lots of beautiful intimate beaches, separated by big rocks, which are all accessible through footpath-stairs. The best time  to access these beaches is during low tide. Otherwise, there is always the path along the cliffs and a stair going down to the beaches.  There is a big parking area reserved for motorhomes in the center of the village, complete with facilities. Overnight stay is also tolerated at beach parkings.

 2. ALMOGRAVE

This beautiful long beach with brown sand and rock pools is situated in the town of Odemira. It has pretty mild waves. The beach is nice for long strolls along the beach and on the big sand dunes behind it. There is a big parking area on top of the cliff where overnight stay is not tolerated. Police came at 22.00 and asked us to leave the parking area and park in the village instead. The village of Vila Nova de Milfontes doesn’t allow motorhomes to stay at the beaches also for overnight , hence, we skipped the place.

 3. CABO SARDAO

Located about 9 kilometers from Almograve is Cado Sardao. There is a lighthouse and a nice walking trail which is of course part of the Rota Vicentina –Fisherman´s Trail. The views here are amazing! There are some wooden viewing platforms which however have no use as they only give the vast ocean views and not the special rock formations you see when you get a bit closer to the cliffs. Special to see in the Cabo are the nests of the storks nestled on top of rock islets in the sea! This is a really a unique and special scenery. There is a small parking area at the entrance to the lighthouse, where overnight stay is tolerated.

 4. PRAIA CARVALHAL

Praia Carvalhal is a very beautiful somewhat secluded beach in the municipality of odemira. Located 5 kilometers off the road from N120, it has a steep beach road access with rather big parking area. The beach is rather small and deep, with mild waves. It is so tranquil here, ideal for a quiet day on the beach. Except for few hikers and visitors, the beach is almost deserted.  It is however not allowed to stay overnight here. Police came at 22.30 and issued a warning notice to us.

 5. PRAIA ODECEIXE

Praia Odeceixe , which is about 5 kilometers off the road N120 following a steep winding concrete road, is a beautiful beach where the water of River Odeceixe meets the water of the Atlantic ocean. A big sandy area appears between the sea and the river, backed up by high cliffs. The best view is from the viewing point near the clifftop parking. Breathtaking, especially when it is high tide and you see the water is almost white because of high weaves. Overnight stay is allowed on a big gravel parking area on the cliff top.

 6. PRAIA AMOREIRA

Praia Amoreira is located 8.5 kilometers north of Aljezur town center. The road to the beach is narrow and winding. The last kilometre is good. It is one of the most beautiful beaches we have seen in the coastline, which we were fortunate to see during both high and low tides. It has a wide expanse of fine golden sand, backed up by huge sand dunes and sheltered by towering cliffs. On the northern part of the beach are several rock pools teeming with mussels, small crabs, fishes and shrimps. We were even lucky to see a baby octopus swimming there! We had a wonderful time here in the beach, just strolling, getting out feet wet, and even harvesting about 4 kilos of mussels! The beach is accessible via a wooden boardwalk with separate path for disabled. No matter how much we wanted to and although there was no sign that overnight stay is forbidden, we did not dare to spend the night here, afraid that we would get a second warning!

 7. PRAIA BORDEIRA

Praia Bordeira is located 2 kilometers from the small fishing village of Carrapateira in Aljezur. It is considered one of the finest beaches in the region. It has a wide expanse of fine sand and extensive sand duens. However, one has to cross a shallow river to get to the beach. There are high rugged limestone cliffs on the area, which are rather popular for locals for fishing. The beach is also popular for surfers. There is a spacious parking area near the beach, where overnight and even long stay is tolerated.

 8. PRAIA CASTELEJO

Located 5 kilometers from the town center, the beach of Castelejo is dominated by huge black cliffs. Though it is not a big beach, there is a long expanse of fine sand, and on the northern sides, special rock formations. There is a restaurant which is open only in the summer. The drive down to the beach is spectacular, driving past beautiful hilly surroundings, and the last kilometre is really narrow, steep and winding.  We visited the beach on a stormy day and the waves were really so huge and wild, they reminded us of  Nazare!

 9. CABO DE SAO VICENTE

The final stop and the fitting finale for our exploration of the Alentejo and Costa Vicentina is the Cabo de Sao Vicente. It is where the name of Costa Vicentina came from, and is the most south westerly point of Continental Europe. In the early years up to 14th century, it was believed to be the End of the World, which is understandable because the way to the cape is one long way and there are almost no vegetation here. At the end, all you see is the vast Atlantic ocean. The cape has towering and frightening cliffs and ferocious waves!  The lighthouse which was formerly a Franciscan monastery stands at the end of the cape. It is open on Wednesday afternoon. We were able to climb up the lighthouse under the guidance of the lighthouse master who also gave us interesting information about the lighthouse. Entrance to the lighthouse is free. Giving tip is appreciated.

 LAST WORDS

 Truly, the coastline of Alentejo and Costa Vicentina is one of the most beautiful and amazing coastlines we have seen during our travels. The beaches are just so beautiful, unspoilt and not yet victimized by mass tourism. The environment is protected which make it difficult for business and profit-minded people to build their mega resorts and hotels in the area. I hope it remains that way so that many more people would be able to enjoy this beautiful nature!

*A separate blog is made for our campsites in the Alentejo and Costa Vicentina.

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