The Alentejo coast (Costa Alentejana) is, on the one hand, a totally different area from the rest of the Alentejo, south of Portugal. Especially in what the landscape is concerned, obviously. But the coastline is still a peaceful place which continues to resist the mass tourism we find further south, in the Algarve.
This coastal strip in Portugal has been considered the last wild coast in Europe and also one of the most beautiful in the world. Most beaches are wild and spacious. So, there is a place for every type of traveller who wants to come here, to enjoy the views provided by the rocky cliffs and the wonderful dunes.
To visit the Alentejo coast you will have to go south from Lisbon, southwest from Evora or north/northwest from the Algarve. The area includes the municipalities of Alcacer do Sal, Grandola, Santiago do Cacem, Sines and Odemira. Formally, it is located between the Setubal Peninsula (north) and Aljezur municipality, already in the Algarve (south).
However, it is important to clarify that this last “frontier” becomes inexistent since the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park (Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina) spans across 68mi (110km) of beaches and ocean, starting in Sao Torpes, in Alentejo, and ending in Praia do Burgau, already in the Algarve, south coast.
Alentejo coast – fascinating for everyone
The entire Alentejo coast is known mainly as a Summer destination, sought by its many fabulous beaches and for outdoor activities. Surf lovers, naturists, birdwatchers, fishermen, horse riders, divers and all those looking for a pause in the hustle and bustle of everyday life wish to have a time off in the Alentejo coast.
However, if you wish to discover its charm peacefully, we suggest that you go through the rugged coast enjoying the stunning landscape. Taking it easy. Visit the Alentejo coast in the off-season (which is Summer), escaping the hotter days and a larger number of visitors.
Dare to venture throughout the whole Alentejo coast. You will find a diversity of incredible landscapes: steep and jagged cliffs which hide small beaches; several islets and reefs; River Mira estuary and Sardao Cape (Cabo Sardão). These places have a unique natural beauty, accommodating an enormous variety of flora and fauna forming distinct habitats.
Alentejo is all about active tourism and nature tourism. The beauty of the scenery invites us to go hiking or trekking, to ride a bike or horse. In the rivers, lakes and the Alentejo coast it is possible to have multiple nautical activities. The sky, thanks to a spectacular climate, is ideal to practise skydiving, paragliding, ballooning and fly in ultralight aeroplanes.
The cities and villages have a special charm. Their squares and streets have one-story houses painted in lime, with blue or yellow paint around windows, doors and closer to the ground. They are worth visiting. Find them on foot and connect with the “alentejanos” (Alentejo people), always welcoming and ready to help.
For history lovers, to visit the Alentejo coast can also mean getting in touch with the past. As any other coastal area, its defence was essential for the safety of the settlements and trade. For this reason, it is no wonder that rulers felt the need to build several castles and forts. Equally striking, the Roman ruins of Miróbriga (Ruínas romanas de Miróbriga) and the Roman ruins of Troia (Ruínas romanas de Troia) are a reminder of the importance of the Alentejo seaside strip for this great empire.
Alentejo coast – brief history of the region
Since the Neolithic, the southwest coast has been visited by foreign people that settled, for a short or long period of time. The prime location and abundant resources were extremely attractive. Long before the arrival of the Romans to the Iberian Peninsula, the Phoenician and also the Greeks had already visited this coast.
The Moors conquered a large part of the Iberian Peninsula. So, it is not surprising to find evidence of their presence in the Portuguese southwest coast. The Aljezur Castle (Castelo de Aljezur), built in the 10th century by the Muslims, is an example of that. Another one is Arrifana Ribat (Ribat da Arrifana), a fortress-convent founded by the Sufi master Ibn Qasî, 12th century, in Atalaia Point (Ponta da Atalaia).
Due to its growing importance, the Alentejo coast became a place more and more desirable by the corsairs. So, it was necessary to develop a set of fortresses during the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. The objective was to protect the coastal lands and the ones inland that were reachable through the rivers. The following are a testimony of the past and exist still today:
- Arrifana Fortress (Fortaleza da Arrifana);
- St Clemente Fort (Forte de São Clemente), in Vila Nova de Milfontes;
- Pessegueiro Island Fort (Forte da Ilha do Pessegueiro);
- Ilha de Dentro Fort.
Alentejo coast – what to visit, see and do
Being so rich in terms of history and nature, the answer to the question “what to visit in the Alentejo coast?” varies depending on the tastes of each traveller. Whatever your options may be, there will be no shortage of things to see and do. The suggestions below do not make a full list of places to visit but are a starting point for many planned or random explorations. Your will most certainly find “your” place in the Alentejo seaside. Start memorising some of these names.
Troia is the beginning of the Alentejo coast for those coming from the north. It is also the area which has the best infrastructures in this stretch of the Portuguese coastline. Arriving by car to Troia Beach means making choices. You can use the ferry departing from Setubal or go around the River Sado Estuary driving along the 60mi (100km) road.
In Troia, the sea is the colour of the Caribbean. The whole beach, with around 11mi (18km) of golden sand, is extremely beautiful. In what nature is concerned, close by, we find the Serra da Arrabida Natural Park (Parque Natural da Serra da Arrábida). We can see this sierra from the sandy beach, on the other side of the river/ocean waters. Additionally, we can also find, in the surrounding area, the Botanical Reserve of the Troia Peninsula Dunes and its magnificent River Sado Estuary.
There are many activities available in Troia. In the sea, you can try windsurfing, Standup Paddleboarding (SUP), canoeing or sailing. Some of the companies in the marine take you looking for the nice dolphins that live in the estuary.
On the land, you can keep on being in close contact with nature setting of to the estuary grounds to go birdwatching. For those who appreciate the sport, the golf course in Troia is one of the best in Europe, perfectly integrated in the environment. The casino in the marina also provides some relaxed holiday moments.
By the ocean, you will find the already mentioned Roman ruins of Troia, built in the 1st century. This was the largest complex producing preserves and fish oil in the Western Roman Empire. Moving a bit away from the beach, discover the Carrasqueira Palafitic Pier (Cais Palafítico da Carrasqueira). Local fishermen built the pier (1950s/1960s) on irregular and apparently fragile wooden stakes to allow boats to dock even during low tide.
Always moving south along the Alentejo coast, the first endless beaches you will find are called Comporta, Carvalhal and Pego. You will come across lots and lots of these beaches (“praias”, in Portuguese). After Galé Beach, the dunes are interrupted by Melides Lagoon (Lagoa de Melides) and, further ahead, the Natural Reserve of Santo André and Sancha Lagoons (Reserva Natural das Lagoas de Santo André e da Sancha).
Near Grândola, on road IC33 between Santiago do Cacém and Sines, you can have a unique experience in the Alentejo region. Badoca Safari Park is a theme park with an area of around 222.000ac (90ha) where nature conservation is taken seriously.
You can see over 500 wild animals, covering around 50 different species. They live in a semi-freedom regime, which practically guarantees visitors that they really see the animals interacting with the ecosystem. It is easy to understand why it is such a popular destination for families who visit the Alentejo coast.
Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park
The beaches in Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park (Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina) are greatly appreciated. Why? Because they lie in an area of an enormous natural wild beauty. Here, you will find beaches for all tastes. Some of the best-known are S. Torpes, Porto Covo, Vila Nova de Milfontes or Zambujeira do Mar. Get to know a little bit more about some places in this part of the Alentejo coast in the paragraphs below.
Having one of the most beautiful beaches in Alentejo (according to some people), the village stands out for its typical small houses painted white. During the Summer months, holidaymakers live in many of them. In the Alentejo coast, they look for a place to rest but also to get in touch with what is traditional.
Ilha do Pessegueiro
Pessegueiro Island (Ilha do Pessegueiro) looks like something out of a postcard. It was immortalised in a very famous song by the Portuguese singer Rui Veloso (“Porto Covo”). This small island located off Porto Covo, rises from the Atlantic blue waters in a mysterious and irresistible way. It is a special place that awakes our imagination. Maybe due to the presence of Carthaginian and Roman archeological remains, as well as the small 16th-century fort. You will be transported to other times. Those that include stories of pirates, raids and legends.
Its location is strategic in the Alentejo shoreline, halfway between St Vicent Cape (Cabo de São Vicente) and the River Sado Estuary (Estuário do Sado). Because of that, in the Iron Age and later during the Roman times, it became a valuable port to help coastal navigation. As well as an important trade post, of course. In effect, during the Roman occupation of the Iberian Peninsula, the island had a centre to process fish. We know it today because salting tanks were recently found. Actually, the name “Pessegueiro” (peach tree), according to historians, had more to do with the latin terms “piscatorius” or “piscarium”, related with fish salting.
During the Summer, several boats offer visits to the island. They cross the canal used as a safe haven to Romans and Carthaginians. Today, it has excellent conditions to practise nautical sports, such as windsurfing, canoeing and diving.
Vila Nova de Milfontes
If you want to take it slow in the so-called “Alentejo Princess”, avoid the busy Summer months. You shouldn’t miss the opportunity to see St Clemente Fort (Forte de São Clemente), also known as Milfontes Castle. In the small square next to it, see the Aviators Monument (Monumento dos Aviadores), which celebrates one of the greatest feats in the Portuguese aviation – the plane called Pátria (Homeland) left this place with Macau as its destination.
Also don’t forget to go for a walk in the Portinho do Canal, especially by the time the fishing boats are arriving.
Zambujeira do Mar
This is quite a picturesque fishing village. Its name is known by all the Portuguese because it hosts one of the most vibrant Summer festivals in the country – MEO Sudoeste. The highlights in the village area will always remain to be the wild beautiful beaches, surrounded by steep cliffs.
Not very far away from Zambujeira do Mar, you will find the westernmost point of the entire Alentejo coast, Cape Sardao (Cabo Sardão). Guarded by the lighthouse with the same name, it has a stunning view over the ocean.
Estuário do Mira
The wettest area in the region is definitely River Mira Estuary. Its fauna and flora have unique features. The area includes beaches, sand banks, cliffs, marsh, rice fields, bush, forest area, dry and irrigation farming.
Forte de Beliche and Fortaleza de Sagres
Rising over an unstable cliff, Beliche Fort (Forte do Beliche) was, for centuries, both a defensive point against pirates and a support for the profitable fishing business. As for the Sagres Fortress (Fortaleza de Sagres), it is the peak of successive rebuilds and alterations, which extended since the 15th until the 18th century.
Hiking/Trekking in several trails, in close contact with nature, is one of the challenges set by the itineraries of the Rota Vicentina. Explore the southwest coast of Portugal in over 280mi (450km), between Santiago do Cacém, in the Alentejo coast, and Cabo de São Vicente, in the Algarve.
Rota Vicentina is a network of 28 trails, that you can navigate on foot or, sometimes, on a mountain bike. They are divided into 3 different categories.
- 12 Historical Ways – based on the trails followed by past pilgrims. They go through the main villages in the Alentejo southwest and the Costa Vicentina.
- 9 Fishermen’s Trails – drawn from the paths that the locals use to go to the beaches and the fishing grounds. These trails can only be used on foot.
- 7 Circular Routes – short tracks starting and ending in the same location. This way, it is even easier to explore the Alentejo southwest because it only takes less than half a day to go through them. Additionally, there is no need for a transfer service from the end point back to the starting point.
Best beaches in the Alentejo coast and the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park
It would be unfair to do some sort of a “top 10 best beaches in the Alentejo”. Why is that? Because they are all incredibly beautiful in their own way. Besides, there is no accounting for taste. Having into consideration the diversity of people who visit the Alentejo coast throughout the year, each person will have their own preference.
Some people like surfing, windsurfing or kitesurfing. Others prefer lying peacefully on the sand. For some, exploring the magnificent rocks and the life in them is even better. In any case, we repeat some already-mentioned names. And we also add others equally important.
Take note of the following beaches in the Alentejo coast and others already in the Algarve but that are still part of the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park. There is no specific order in the list.
- Zambujeira do Mar
- Porto Covo
- Azenha do Mar
- Nossa Senhora
- Ilha do Pessegueiro
- Lagoa de Santo André
- São Torpes
Alentejo coast map
In this map of the Alentejo coast, you will be able to locate the most important places mentioned above. You can zoom in to see them closer. Click the icons to read the names.
Alentejo coast weather
Any time of the year is a good one to come near the Alentejo ocean. Even so, it makes sense to get to know a little bit of the weather you can expect to find.
The climate in the Alentejo coast is Mediterranean. However, because of the obvious proximity to the ocean, there is a strong maritime influence, coming from the Atlantic Ocean.
Temperatures along the Alentejo coastline are usually mild practically during the whole year. The north is colder than the south and, with such a lengthy coast, it is hard to present average figures. However, we can generally say that the temperature varies between 48ºF and 81ºF (9°C-27°C). It is not frequent that it gets lower than 42ºF (6ºC) or over 90ºF (32°C). But there might be some radical peaks.
Winter is between December and March; Summer is between June and September. The sun is present in the vast majority of the days throughout the year, as well as the wind.
The rain comes mostly between November and April. Fog is not so common. Even so, even with hotter temperatures, air humidity is usually high. As for the temperature in the ocean water, it varies between 57ºF (14°C) in February and 70ºF (21°C) in September. The water is fresh and pure.
For those who like to practise nautical sports, the Alentejo coast has a calmer sea than the one in the north of Portugal. However, it is more agitated than the Algarve sea. The combination of the climate and the conditions of sea and waves make this destination very desirable for surfers eager to go in the water and feel nature in its purest state. Amado, Carrapateira, Castelejo, Beliche, São Torpes, Arrifana, Malhão or Amália are names of some of the best beaches to surf, where you will find both waves and surf schools.
Next step: hit the road. Destination: Alentejo coast!
If you read all the way through this webpage, you most certainly fell in love with the idea to stay in such a fascinating shoreline. It is time to invite your friends, your better half or the whole family and make plans. Pick a hotel to serve as base and explore the entire Alentejo coast? Stay only one or two nights in each accommodation?
Our suggestion is that, right now, you do a quick search for hotels in the Alentejo coast. You will be surprised by the diverse selection, appropriate for every price range, by the ocean or a few miles inland.
It is not an easy decision… What we know is that you will come. We guarantee unforgettable moments. Happy findings!