The Untouched World Of The Alentejo Coastline
It’s incredible, and I recommend a car. But if that’s all I wrote, no-one would believe me. Come to think of it, that could be a good thing too. The Alentejo coast is like a secret treasure I want the world to see, yet keep it all to myself so it can remain blissfully untouched. None-the-less, travelling Portugal was even more amazing than I had ever anticipated, and I was anticipating great things.
I’m not much of a crowd lover, which is probably why Alentejo spoke to me, and lured me into it’s welcoming quiet without a struggle. In fact, it’s the least populated region of Portugal. Which accounts for the limited selection of public transport and results in reduced levels of tourism. Perfect.
My partner, Sam, and I were nearing the end of our road trip from the UK to Algarve, Portugal, when we stumbled across this gem of a coastline. During our time in the Algarve we made several trips back to the Alentejo coast to explore even more. With so many beaches to choose from, all we had to do was find them… Hence the need for a car. Plus, getting friendly with the locals opened up a vast world of rolling waves and untouched beaches we never would’ve come across ourselves.
Alentejo Coast: Navigating Dunes
Our first encounter with the Alentejo coast was one of dirt roads turning into a seemingly endless network of sandy dune tracks. We nearly got bogged countless times in our gravel grinding, low riding 1999 Audi wags. Picked her up for a nice three-hundred pounds in the UK, plus insurance of course. We avoided getting stuck by driving a fair bit faster than these small roads asked for. It seemed as though we were hooning past the little bushes and random trees scattered across the landscape. Really we were only going about 10 to 30 miles per hour at max.
I felt wonderfully lost in this maze of sand, bushes and trees. Round a few turns and randomly picking our lefts from our rights, we treated that car like a 4 wheel drive. The Wags loved it! Or rather, Sam did. We’d keep cruising along like this until something would catch our interest. Like a colourful house with no way to get to it, or a cliff’s edge that looked like it might have a magnificent view. Of the views we found plenty, and photos can never do it justice. Finally we found the beaches, and in the crack between two cliff faces, turned semi-dunes, we discovered waves. So naturally, we had to stop for a while.
When we decided it was time to go hooning again, we were momentarily waylaid by a man with a shovel. Not the scary kind, it’s ok, he was merely answering natures call. I feel this is a good time to mention that there are no facilities for miles around. Though if we’d decided to do some “wild-camping” here, I doubt we would’ve been moved on. Especially at the start of winter. Not wanting to tempt fate, we left via a larger dirt road.
Portugal: Coastal Towns Worth A Visit
We stopped for the night in a coastal town called Vila Nova de Milfontes. Although it was entirely under construction to redo the cobblestone streets, it remained very charming. Easy to navigate on foot we did our usually aimless wandering the town. Despite having been in Portugal for over a week by this stage, I was still in wonder of how things are put together in this beautiful country. Slack jawed and happy, we found some food to fill our bellies and called it a night.
On checkout we got chatting to the manager at Soldavila where we’d stayed. He drew us a little map to a local beach for some epic surfing. I reckon this one might get busy in summer, but while we were there, there wasn’t a soul in sight. Another good spot for some overnight camps in winter for considerate, nature preserving humans. We came back to this spot a few more times during our months in Portugal. It was exactly awesome.
Another sweet town we accidentally found was Porto Covo. A bit further north than Vila Nova, I am convinced it would be a nice stay. We walked around the market street for a bit and had a look around the cobbled streets. I didn’t want to leave but I was torn towards wanting to see more of the coast that day. So we continued on, I’ll make it back there again one day. It’s a pretty spot for a quick stop and a bite to eat though.
A Little Local Surf Knowledge
We got to know some Portuguese legends, who we ended up going surfing with nearly every weekend. While I wouldn’t dream of sharing all their secrets, but I’m able to point this one out and let adventure seekers and curiosity do the rest. From our home in Algarve we travelled North-West to Aljezur. Not quite into Alentejo, but close enough to keep the enjoyable quiet and depleted levels of tourists.
We surfed, we relaxed, and we found a nice chunk of history too. Dating back to the 10th century with their Moorish castle and plenty more about the development of the town and surrounds. An interesting place for sure, and beautiful is an understatement. A bit of exploring went a long way in the coast near Aljezur.
From here it was only a short 35-40min drive down to Vila do Bispo. This town played the role of a crossroads for the two of us, and we ventured through more times than I can count. I’ve heard the town has much to offer, though I regret to say we never stopped and always missioned on to find waves. And waves we found aplenty. From Vila do Bispo we had several options. Go north towards Aljezur and Alentejo; South towards the swell-magnet Tonel and Sagres; Or head straight west to explore the many dirt tracks leading to several different beaches.
Travelling Portugal was such a unique experience that we didn’t want to leave. With all the exotic landscapes, flavours and culture. A country with a history so full of adventure that reaches so far back into ancient times. It is a place so rich with wonder, beauty and endless activities to cure the restless of their wandering feet. Eventually the decision was made and Sam and I decided we had to return on a more permanent scale. So, beware of the attractive nature of this golden sun country, it might wrap itself around your heart and never let you go.