Costa Vicentina is one of the biggest pearls of Portugal. And a trip through this Portuguese treasure is unforgettable. And so… I put the map on my hand and I walked, walked, walked. From Setúbal to Sagres.
The experience was superb and now I will share with you some of my memories. And today, follow our trip through Zambujeira do Mar and Aljezur.
Costa Vicentina, a true treasure in Portugal
Travelling through Costa Vicentina (St. Vicente Coast) is always a great option. Portugal has countless treasures to discover and this is undoubtedly one of its biggest pearls. Talking about Costa Vicentina means talking about beach, sun, good weather, surf, delicious food, beautiful landscapes… well, talking about it means talking about the best of Portugal.
Most people travel to Costa Vicentina by car. Indeed, in Portugal we can find many low cost companies for renting a car. People can also go by bus, available in most locations. However, and like thousands of young people, I travelled on foot. Especially because the wine from Alentejo and Algarve is so good and cheap and a cold beer perfectly combines with beach.
And the best tour through Costa Vicentina is this one: walk and travel without planning. Put the bag on your back, put the map on your hand. Feel free to explore. The trick here is to lose yourself, do not look to the watch and just enjoy…
My journey began in Setúbal and ended in the complete south of Portugal. I scoured all the Costa Vicentina. Three endless weeks, as my friends suggested. Such stupendous days. Time spent near busy places but also in peace and tranquility. Costa Vicentina is right this: it seems an oasis relatively close to the confusion of Lisbon, combining the best of two worlds, the countryside and the beach. I would also say that it blends three great dimensions: the cosmopolitanism of Lisbon is very close, but we can feel the quietness of Alentejo and its marshlands and the tranquility of the beach life of Algarve.
Thus, it was possible to climb to the top of the cliffs, down and bury the feet in the fine and fluffy sand, see and enjoy the ocean, the immense and limpid sea of the Atlantic coast (remember: here you can find some of the most beautiful beaches in the world). I also could hike through the marked paths, called Vicentina Route, which allowed me a direct contact with Nature. I walked through dirt, crags, green and flashy vegetation, towns and truly wonderful villages. I still had time to surf irresistible waves, take long baths of sun and make seaside bicycle tours.
And the food? Oh well…the food! Absolutely fantastic!
And there’s a bit of everything here… from the grilled meats (the Portuguese chicken barbecue is one of the most distinct dishes worldwide), seafood, some typical sausages and (it’s so mandatory to taste) the fresh fish. Portugal has these characteristics: its Gastronomy is so peculiar and abundant that allows a meal that can vary from the unique meat delicacies to the Mediterranean diet that includes a good fish.
In short, traveling around Costa Vicentina is a sin, because you will feel that one day you must return. It’s like an addiction. You will feel the need to discover even more places, you will feel the need of discoveries, you will feel the need to rest in heavenly spots, which have the best that Portugal has to offer. In short… travelling around Costa Vicentina is one of those trips that will make you dream.
And now, I will share with you some of my memories…Some people say that “there are moments which we prefer to remember in silent and so nothing and nobody can touch them”. However, I prefer to talk about them. Talk about everything that I saw, that I felt, that I experienced. Because this is a dream trip. These are some of those moments, sites, tips, that I will share with you…there is no chronological or geographical order… I just tell everything which comes to my mind of this magnificent journey!
Memories from Zambujeira do Mar
Zambujeira do Mar it’s a small village of Odemira with about 900 inhabitants. Previously, this village was a quiet, little fishing and farming community. Nowadays it remains calm but, in summer, it hosts thousands of visitors.
Zambujeira do Mar is beautiful, with its wonderful beaches and fishing ports. Perched on a cliff, it becomes a natural viewpoint to the incredible Ocean. It is located along the western coast of Alentejo, south of Cabo Sardão, with a coast dotted by small cliffs and beaches of fine white sand, as the beach of Zambujeira, Alteirinhos, Nossa Senhora and Tonel. This place still depends on agriculture, livestock, fisheries and, increasingly, on Tourism.
In addition to the (more or less) wild beaches, it’s mandatory a visit to the square of Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Mar and the fountains of Amores (Love) and Santa Catarina. And Santa Clara Dam or the lighthouse of Cabo Sardão is also a pleasure to visit.
And in the main square of this village, it is a pleasure to be sitting in one of the main terraces and enjoy a fresh and grilled fish dish. By the way, among the dishes, I stand out the fish soup or the soup of purslane, the fisherman stew, “feijoada” with whelks, “açorda” with seafood or the seafood rice. Every meal here will be a delicious moment!
The village of Zambujeira also offers the opportunity to enjoy countless activities. Some interesting examples: fishing, hiking, biking or horseback riding. Phenomenal!
And if you are fan of music, confirm your departure date and schedule your trip for watching the famous Festival Sudoeste (Southwest Festival). This popular event is one of the biggest summer music festivals in Portugal. During the event, both national and international bands perform concerts without stopping, supported by world-renowned DJs.
Memories from Aljezur
Aljezur is simply beautiful. It is simple, calm and beautiful. From this little town, I highlight its beautiful surroundings, integrated in a region that has less than 6000 inhabitants. To contextualize, this is considered the best Region of sweet-potato production.
In Aljezur, I began to explore its imposing castle. This castle doesn’t often appear in tourist books but I must tell you that this is one of the seven castles that mark the seven edges of the arm that exists in the Portuguese official flag. It is undoubtedly mandatory.
This castle was built on a hill overlooking the river, with human occupation dating back to the Iron Age. It was built during the Arab period, in the tenth century, and decades later the castle was rebuilt with robust watchtowers and massive walls. This castle was very important for this Region, because it ensured the control of the river port, defending the population from the enemy attacks. Inside it, I also highlight the cubic tank, covered by a dome, which was formerly the place for water supply and the silos in the rocks were authentic food storage containers. In addition, the walls of this castle offer unique panoramic views over this little town.
Furthermore, there is the Church of Mercy and the Mother Church, this one with a fine statue of Nossa Senhora de Alva. I also suggest a visit to the Municipal Museum of Aljezur, with archaeological finds that witness the human presence in Aljezur since the ancient times.
A walk through the historic center is also an amazing moment. When we strolled the streets of Aljezur, we could see the characteristics houses with rural architecture, the friendliness of its people, the pillory and the Fountain of Lies. Here, you can (or must!) taste some of the best delicacies of your life. What about a sausage pizza, sweet potato pastries or a very good and typical bread?
And, of course, talking about Aljezur is talking about beach, sun, sea! Beaches with long, soft and golden sand, many of them remarkable for surf. I walked by the spectacular beach of Odeceixe, the northernmost beach in Algarve, the beach of Monte Clérigo, and the gorgeous beach of Arrifana, with a century fortress and a huge rock known as “Pedra Angular” (Angular Rock).
Memories from Santiago do Cacém...
In my absolutely fantastic trip, I followed the renowned “Caminho Histórico”. This trail has mainly rural roads and this is the “Grande Rota” (The Great Route) and you can cover it on foot or with a mountain bike. This track includes mountains, valleys, rivers, streams. It has approximately 230 kilometers.
This “Caminho Histórico” starts here. That’s what people say. Santiago do Cacém is a town located in Alentejo coast. It has the particularity of being located just a few kilometers from the sea, offering the chance to discover the wonderful beaches and its natural and architectural heritage.
You can start, perhaps, by exploring its historic center. Its imposing castle is a real must-see, as well as its Mother Chapel. The Chapel of São Pedro and the Loreto Convent are also spectacular monuments. Furthermore, you should stroll through the steep streets that flank the noble and stately houses, as well as other houses more modest, but equally beautiful.
Then travel to the Ruins of Miróbriga. These ruins are the remains (in excellent conditions by the way) of a Roman town that would probably be a sanctuary with all the necessary infrastructures to support the pilgrims: we can recognize a thermal complex, houses and a hippodrome for the festivities.
Memories from Odemira...
Odemira is the largest municipality of Portugal. This municipality is undoubtedly a masterpiece: it blends the wonders of river, sea, mountain and plains.
The best way to explore this town is on foot. Keep calm and no rush. The Churches of Salvador and St. ª Maria are fantastic, as well as the fountain located right in the main square.
In addition, please take a look to the place where there was a castle centuries ago, which establishes the original nucleus of this town. The castle was built during the Islamic era but it gradually disappeared. There is also a windmill very well preserved and it still works! Enjoy and learn about the traditional milling grain.
Memories from Santa Clara-a-Velha...
And talking about Odemira, the awesome village of Santa Clara-a-Velha comes to my mind. This is a small, rural and very genuine village. Here, agriculture is the predominant activity. The forest occupies the major area of this community. Around here, everything is green, very rough, very healthy. Ah! And it’s so close to the fantastic village of Vila Nova de Mil Fontes that also deserves a long visit.
The village of Santa Clara-a-Velha is very white, flowery and it was developed around the Church of St. ª Clara de Assis, the patron saint. It still preserves its ancient identity and, therefore, visiting this village is like invading a territory that only exists in the most epic movies. It's simply lovely. And people here are friendly, they always smile and give us a lovely welcome.
In this village, you cannot forget a visit to its Church, which dates from the first half of the sixteenth century, the D. Maria Bridge, built in the eighteenth century and known as the Roman Bridge, the fountain of Azinhal (with a beautiful picnic area) and the water mirror of Santa Clara, a giant lake with numerous nooks and islets (one of the most important site of Odemira).
In addition, the Santa Clara Dam, around four kilometers from the village, also deserves a visit. It was built during the Portuguese dictatorship and it is considered one of the largest in Europe.