Tucked away only a short two hour drive south of Lisbon, you’ll find the stunning south west coast of Portugal.
Still very much an unexplored and a hidden gem, the area encompasses not only a wildly rugged and beautiful coastline, but also the Costa de Vicenta National Park and parts of the rural Alentejo countryside.
It is a region rich in diversity, authenticity and history, not to mention the sheer natural beauty, and it is no wonder that it’s becoming increasingly popular as more visitors discover it.
It is exactly for this reason that you absolutely should visit Portugal’s south west coast now, before everyone else gets in on the secret too!
Just in case you need any more convincing, here are three reasons why you cannot miss out on exploring this incredible corner of Portugal.
A nature-lovers paradise
My very first introduction to the south west coast was arriving at our first beach stop, Praia do Amado. It was a slightly overcast and windy day, but still a spectacular foretaste of what was to come as we continued our exploration of the region in the days to follow.
Praia do Amado is an expansive beach with stunning rocky cliffs in various shades of colour flanking it on both ends. Since this coastline is located along the Atlantic Ocean, it is a firm favourite for surfers and water sport enthusiasts alike.
The more we explored, the more we stumbled upon an array of other gorgeous beaches, each one surprisingly different from the previous. Beaches such as Praia de Odeceixe, Praia da Arrifana and Praia de Monte Clérigo, to name but a few, are all well worth a visit.
If you are a beach lover, then this entire coastal stretch will no doubt be right up your alley. With so many beautiful beaches to choose from, it’s hard to decide on a favourite.
Tip: Do take into account that many of the beaches found along this coast are still unspoilt with few or no facilities available. Be sure to pack some lunch, drinks and any other essentials you may require to make for a comfortable day out.
However, the region is not only known for its beaches, but is also blessed with a diverse natural beauty.
Whether you are into cycling, hiking, surfing, horse riding or kayaking, there is an activity to suit just about any outdoors enthusiast too.
The most well-known drawcard in the south west is undoubtedly the Rota Vicentina which is favoured for its hiking and cycling trails.
There are three different types of walking routes to choose from (the Historical Way, the Circular Routes or the Fishermen’s Trail), covering around 750 kilometres and varying in difficulty, length and scenery.
Equally, for cycling enthusiasts, there are around 38 circular routes covering over 1,000 kilometres of mountain bike trails, including a long-distance trail. These are also split up into 4 different difficulty levels, making it suitable for beginners through to even the most ardent and experienced riders.
Be sure to consult the Rota Vicentina website for more information on these hiking & biking routes as well as a host of other activities and programmes on offer.
Experience a truly authentic and undiscovered part of Portugal
It’s no secret that Portugal is one of western Europe’s most up and coming tourist destinations.
But think of Portugal and you’d be forgiven for immediately imagining Lisbon, Porto or the Algarve. While these are absolutely stunning destinations in their own right, there are lesser visited parts that deserve equal measure of praise and accolade, such as the south west coast.
Although becoming increasingly known and popular, the area is still mostly frequented by local Portuguese holiday-makers and it’s not uncommon to find yourself the only car driving through some of the smaller countryside or fishing villages.
Still very much a hidden gem in the true sense of the word and encompassing a fairly diverse area of Portugal, this south western stretch combines coastal areas, a natural park as well as the Alentejo countryside, offering up a glimpse into a truly authentic Portuguese way of life.
From gorgeous, traditional white washed fishing villages and towns to the farms, cork forest and vineyards of the countryside, you will get to enjoy the very best of different worlds whilst travelling around the region, no doubt appreciating the ever-changing landscapes.
Where else will you be able to enjoy fresh seafood for lunch and then get to delight in a delicious and traditional ‘Alentejano’ Bochechas de Porco Preto stew (Black Pork cheeks), for dinner? Not to mention sipping on award winning Alentejo wines.
Noteworthy towns and villages worth a visit include, Vila Nova de Milfontes, Odemira and Zambujeira do Mar.
A perfect location, linking Lisbon and the Algarve
At roughly two hours’ drive south of Lisbon and located right beside the Algarve region, the south west coast is perfectly situated, allowing you to explore the very best of southern Portugal.
To get here, and travel around would require a car. You will struggle to really get to grips with all the area has to offer by only relying on public transport (which in most parts would be near impossible).
Start off by travelling from Sines, located further north, all the way down to tip of Sagres in the far south.
Truth be told, I left a piece of my heart in the South West of Portugal. Surprisingly close to Lisbon and yet still so hidden from the throngs of visitors headed to Portugal every year.
Beach to countryside, fishing village to farmstead, you will get to experience and explore a region of Portugal that is truly varied, genuine and traditionally Portuguese as well as breathtakingly beautiful