Praia da Luz
Praia de Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Luz, (‘Beach of the Church of our Lady of Light’) – far too much for a tourist (and many locals) and shortened to Praia da Luz.
A very safe beach with a gently shelving beach. This is a beautiful sandy beach perfect for sun bathing and water sports with the coveted ‘European blue flag’ indicating clean sand and clean water.
It can be quite popular in the height of summer near the centre but walk a short distance along the beach towards black rock and you will have the beach much to yourself. There are many excellent restaurants and little is ever going to change the unique attraction of Praia da Luz with its quaint two floor Luz Bay Cottages and narrow roads lined with oleander, hibiscus and bougainvillea. There are two excellent very well equipped water sports centres offering scuba diving, boat trips and other activities.
Until the tuna changed their migratory routes this was a fishing village and nets were stretched across the entire bay from the Fort to Black Rock to trap the tuna. The famous Black Rock was formed approx 150 million years ago by lava from volcanoes in the Monchique mountains 20 kms away.
Prainha da Luz, Rua da Calheta
A small sandy cove tucked under the western side of the Fort (Forteleza Restaurant). The small fishing boats still go out every night from this beach and return with their catch at dawn. This beach is also popular with snorkellers.
Beaches in the Western Algarve
Lagos has often been called the ‘gateway’ to the unspoilt Algarve and is surrounded by spectacular picture postcard beaches. Most of the area to the west of Lagos is now part of the protected Costa Vicentina Natural Park.
When you see the sign ‘Praia’ this means ‘beach’ in Portuguese. The delight of the Algarve is the variety of beaches that vary from endless stretches of golden sand to the many small sheltered coves flanked by a spectacular variety of colourful cliffs including the much photographed Algarve red rock that glows in the 3000 hours of Algarve sunshine.
Many beaches have coveted ‘Blue Flags’ for cleanliness and high environmental standards and in recent years all the beach bars/restauarnats have been re-built to comply with rigourous new regulations. All the main beaches have lifeguards on safety patrol in the season and they display flags for safe bathing.
There are scenic coastal walks connecting most of the beaches around Lagos, Praia da Luz and Burgau.
Beaches around Lagos
There is a new ‘small’ bus service to most of the local beaches and a very enterprising ‘three carriage train on wheels’ that completes the Lagos circuit of beaches approximately every half hour which you can hop on and off all day for a fixed fare.
The largest and longest Lagos beach is surprisingly called Meia Praia (‘half beach’) since the beach is separated from the other half (Praia dos Três Irmãos) by a river estuary and lagoons. The other half stretches past Alvor as far as Portimao. This beach curves around the great Bay of Lagos from where the great explorers set sail in the fifteenth Century. It can be reached by foot over the drawbridgeat the entrance to the Marina or by a little boat across the river next to the car park at the centre of Lagos or by car around the back of the Marina. Take the road to the railway station and follow the track to the beach or take the lane to Palmares Golf course stopping anywhere on the way.
This is a very long, wide beach with miles of sand-dunes and apart from the few hundred metres close to Lagos is never crowded. Within a few minutes walk you can find a private sand-dune and deserted stretch of beach even in summer. There are half a dozen excellent beach bars/restaurants spread well out along the beach. Very useful for those who walk its length and require refreshment on the way. There are a couple of fairly well equipped water-sports centres. This beach has easy access and you can park close to one of the beach restaurants or car parks scattered along the length of the beach.
Praia do Batata
Praia da Batata (potato beach). The closest beach to the town centre, by the little fort at the entrance to the harbour. A few steps down and you are on the sand.
Walking along the cliff path you will find several small sandy coves:
Praia da Estudantes (students beach)
Praia da Homens (mens beach)
Praia do Pinhao (pine beach)
Praia Dona Ana
Praia Dona Ana is among the 50 best beaches in the world, according to Conde Nast Traveller. A picture postcard beach near Lagos by the original Golfinho Hotel. A very pretty beach with two main coves and caves through to other coves which you can reach at low tide. There are steps down to this beach. It faces east and is flanked by north and south cliffs that shelter it from westerly winds.
Praia do Camilo
For many this is their favourite view in the whole of the Algarve so taking a camera is a must. There is a great little fish restauarant at the top of the cliffs but for some the 100 or so steps right down to beach maybe too much and they will content themselves with the view which in itself is well worth the visit. The beach itself is a real gem with a quaint little beach bar decorated with walls of shells. There are caves linking through to other coves which are easily accessible at low tide. If you miss the tide you may have to swim back.
Ponta da Piedade (Mercy Point).
This is not a beach but has to be mentioned because of its fabulous caves and rock formations. Steps down take you right into the caves where you can take a small boat trip to explore the fabulous Algarve coastline at its most dramatic. The fishermen who offer these tours are hugely skilled in their boatmanship and have an entertaining story or nickname for many of the rock shapes.
Praia do Canavial
This used be the nudist beach and is very secluded with quite testing access. The new Cascade Hotel is built on the cliff tops above this beach so this area in not the wild unspoilt coastline that it used to be.
Porto do Mos Mos
A few years ago this small bay was out in the countryside between Lagos and Luz but in recent years Lagos has grown and this beach is now very much on the Western outskirts of the town. Like Meia Praia this is a great beach for easy access and a large car park right next to the beach. Flanked by tall cliffs that usually give shade and shelter. There are several excellent restaurants. This is still a great favourite.
Beaches to the West of Praia da Luz
Burgau is on the edge of the Costa Vicentina Natural Park. The old village has narrow and steep cobbled lanes down to the beach which it is not advisable to drive down. Park at the top and walk down. The fisherman still repair their nets on the slipway and there is a thriving fishing fleet of small colourful boats. The beach is flanked by cliffs but apart from the steep hill there are no steps so access is good. There are excellent beach bars. It is good for snorkelling and scuba diving.
Boca do Rio
Follow the road on from Burgau there is dramatic scenery as you enter the Costa Vicentina Natural Park wind your way around the valley that leads to Boco do Rio beach set in a wild unspoilt natural setting with not a villa in site. This is the unspoilt Algarve. Easy parking close to the beach. You can also find the beach by turning right off the EN125 at Budens or on the back road out of Salema.
There is a French man-of-war lying on the seabed about 300 metres offshore for the scuba divers and snorkellers to explore.
Salema is located within the Costa Vincentina natural park. There are cliffs at either end of the sandy bay. It is said that the erosion of the sea has revealed fossilised footprints of huge dinosaurs. Hunting for dinosaurs beats checking out rock pools ! This beach is popular for scuba diving, snorkelling and windsurfers. Still very much a fishing village with colourful boats pulled up on the sands and fishermen repairing their nets and octopus pots by day. Rise early in the morning to buy fresh fish as the boats come in with their catches of sardines, bream, mackerel, sea bass, octopus and other fish or head for the fish market in Lagos.
An undeveloped beach but with a new development nearby by the Vigia Group who run Parque da Floresta Golf Resort. The Vigia group now run the excellent restaurant but this is a natural unspoilt beach with no other buildings in site. An attractive beach flanked by cliffs and natural hills.
Praia das Furnas
A very peaceful beach approached by a track about 2 kms from Figueira off the EN125. Its name comes from the local description of the overhanging cliffs and grottos created by erosion from the sea. It lies to the east of Ingrina and Zavial. There is parking but no supervision, beach bar or toilets on this isolated beach. Wild scrubland goes right down to the beach.
Praia da Ingrina
Follow the EN125 past Budens and turn right at Raposeira. As you leave the village fork left for Ingrina and follow the road for several kms to the coast. From Ingrina there is short coastal road to Zavial. It is worth taking in the ‘megalithic’ monuments in this region. An idyllic shell shaped beach in a natural unspoilt setting with just a single beach bar/ restauarant. The beach is supervised during the season and is good for diving.
Praia da Zavial
Follow the EN125 past Budens and turn right at Raposeira. As you leave the village fork right for Zavial and follow the road for several kms to the coast. From Ingrina there is short coastal road to Ingrina. Popular with surfers this beach stands at the mouth of a stream in open unspoilt countryside with a good beach bar/restauarant. A rocky spur marks the end of the golden sandy beach. At the eastern end the cliffs are quite dramatic with furnas – overhanging cliffs, caves and grottos created by the erosion of the rocks by the sea. Parking near the beach and the beach is supervised during the main season.
A very attractive sweeping beach and definitely the beach to stop by on your way to Sagres. Glorious golden sand located in the Bay of Baleeira. Especially good for windsurfing. There is a signpost on your left shortrly before entering Sagres. There are a couple of beach restaurants.
Situated right in front of Sagres and well sheltered for sunbathing from the westerly winds that can be very strong on this the Western most point of Europe
The beach on the other side of the Sagres headland from Mareta is exposed to westerly winds and Atlantic breakers. Strong currents.
Look out for a car park on the cliff top about 4 kms out of Sagres on the road to the cape St Vincent lighthouse. You have to climb down a cliff path to get to this beach at the base of the tall cliffs so it is very secluded.
The next three beaches are approached from Vila do Bispo. Armado and Bordeira both close to the village of Carrapateira and are both worth visiting on the same day if you travel that way.
Praia do Castelejo
Enter the village of Vila do Bispo taking the left road into the village and follow the signs. Located to the north west of the village on the western coast, this small beach is ideal for safe swimming and is very different to the beaches on the southern coastline. Good parking and restaurant.
Praia do Amado
Another one of the best 50 beaches in the world, according to Conde Nast Traveller, along with 3 other Portuguese beaches. Allow about 35 mins from Praia da Luz. Take the EN 125 to Vila do Bispo and take the first right to Aljezur on the N268 for approx 13 kms past the wind turbines. Just as you approach the village of Carrapateira there is a small sign with binoculars that reads ‘Praia’. Follow track over a narrow bridge for 1.8 kms to the beach. The surfers favourite. Here you can hire a wet suit and a surf board for a whole day including a two hour lesson for approx 35 euros. There are at least three surf schools to choose from. Tel: 964 853 023
Praia da Bordeira
This beach is on the west coast of the Algarve and can be reached by following the coastal track from Armado or more directly by entering the small village of Carrapateira. Just as you leave the village watch out for a sign that reads “Praia”. And follow the road to beach. It is a vast open sandy beach with many sand dunes and is virtually deserted out of the season apart from the odd kite surfer. Spectacular scenery. If you drive slowly and follow the dirt coastal track back west you will come back to Amado. This is a highly recommended drive if you wish to take in the breathtaking beauty of completely unspoilt natural coastline. From Armado follow the road on and you return to the main road just before the village. Turn right back to Vila do Bispo.
The last few beaches are located near Aljezur and whilst they can be approached from Carrapateira, this might be a bit much to take in one day. It is now quicker to take the new motorway to Bensafrim (exit 1) and take the road to Aljezur.
Just before Aljezur at the junction of the N268 and N120 take the left fork signposted to Arrifana. The right fork at the same junctiomn takes you to the enormous beach at Monte Clerigo.
One of the few beaches on the west coast with a village. The beach is at the bottom of a steep winding road with little or no parking so you might have to turn back, park at the top and walk down. You will be well rewarded. This is a very special place with glorious and magnificent views.
A rural sandy beach located at the foot a cliff with beach homes snugly built into the hillside overlooking this vast expanse of beach. This magnificent beach has the coveted a blue flag.
There are other spectacular beaches beyond at Amoreira and Odeceixe and small coves not mentioned down small dirt tracks or approached on foot. For safe swimming keep to the supervised beaches that have a beach bar/restaurant as these are usually supervised beaches. If unsure ask the restaurant owner.