When you think of a beach or seaside holiday in the Algarve, you immediately see in your mind the picturesque bays with their typical rock formations, caves and grottos, which are visited by masses of people in the summer months.
However, those who prefer deserted beaches and wild nature to the crowded beaches of the western Algarve will find a wonderfully beautiful natural paradise with natural beaches and magnificent dunes in the south-west of the Algarve in the nature reserve of Costa Vicentina.The barren and rough coastal landscape between Sagres and Odeceixe, especially, is dotted with steep cliffs and headlands, from which one can get an incomparable view down into bays and across endless sandy beaches. Often, the narrow paths from the main roads to the beaches meander endlessly through the countryside towards the sea, until they suddenly provide you with views of a beautiful coast.
This impressive coastal and beach section begins in Sagres on the south-western point of Portugal and leads the visitor up to Aljezur. The most beautiful bays and beaches are described below.
Vila do Bispo
Going north from Sagres, Vila do Bispo offers you two of the west coast's most impressive beaches, Praia do Castelejo and Praia da Cordoama.
A narrow, signposted road winds from the outskirts of the town towards the coast until you come to a fork. Here, the left path takes you to Praia do Castelejo, while the right path leads to Praia da Cordoama. It doesn’t matter which choice you make, because at low tide both beaches combine to form a single endless sandy beach, and beachcombers can enjoy miles of beach walks here.
Praia da Cordoama, Vila do Bispo
Leaving Vila do Bispo heading north, you will arrive at the small town of Carrapateira, a small village shielded from the coast by a vast dune landscape. Carrapateira is very popular as a surfing area, because the two beaches Praia do Amado and Praia da Bordeira are in the immediate vicinity.
The Praia do Amado beach can be reached along an inconspicuous street on the left from the outskirts of town, through pleasant hills up towards cliffs at the beach. This long, flat, sandy beach is very popular with surfers as it is easy to get to and offers plenty of space.
Not so easy to reach is the Praia da Bordeira, which is hidden behind the dunes of Carrapateira. The small "Ribeira da Bordeira" river flows into the sea, and a lagoon forms a natural barrier here. If you want to get to the beach, you have to wade through the lagoon. The water is usually only knee-deep, and small children love to splash in the warm, shallow water of the lagoon.
The approximately 3-kilometre-wide beach is often deserted, and tourist infrastructure such as restaurants cannot be found here. But there are very good restaurants in Carrapateira, where the fish is served fresh and at affordable prices.
Between Carrapateira and Aljezur lies the small fishing village of Arrifana with its beautiful beach, Praia do Arrifana, which is situated in a shell-shaped bay. The beach is narrow, no more than 700 metres, and is protected by imposing black slate rocks. From the northern tip of the beach, you have a panoramic view of the ruins of the fortress of Arrifana..
At the northern end of the beach, next to the fishing port, there are good conditions for diving. The beach is also popular with surfers and bodyboarders.However, the Praia do Arrifana is classified as a beach with limited use, because due to the high rock walls at the back there is danger of falling rocks.
Praia da Arrifana, Arrifana, West Coast
If you follow the coastline further north, you will reach Aljezur. Here you should absolutely pay a visit to the Praia da Amoreira. When leaving Aljezur, turn left and follow the paved road through the valley of the “Ribeira de Aljezur”, at the end of which the river flows into the sea. The estuary is of great natural beauty. The contrast between metres-high dunes, steeply towering black rocks in the north, impressive remnants of a fossilized dune in the south and the white sand gives this exceptionally beautiful beach its characteristic touch.
In the standing water of the lagoons in the estuary, you can swim or paddle, but they are also the habitat for several rare birds and other animals.
Praia da Amoreira, Aljezur, Westküste
Natural and deserted beaches on the Costa Vicentina
Between Sagres and Aljezur, the adventurous holidaymaker will find countless other unspoiled beaches, some of which are difficult to access. These beaches are often lonely and deserted, are not guarded and have no tourist infrastructure.
The climate on the Costa Vicentina, which is exposed to the west wind, is a bit harsher, and the water is cooler. As well as your parasol and sunscreen, you should also have a sweater in your luggage.