Southwest Alentejo & Vicentine Coast Nature Park & Aljezur: Our favorite place in Portugal

We found it: paradise. And it is located in Portugal, partly in the Algarve, partly in the Alentejo, in the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Nature Park. Close to the sea, in an area surrounded by wild flowers, with boars walking along the dirt road in the evening and nice little surfing villages such as Aljezur and Odeceixe. Yes, we never want to leave the Southwest Alentejo & Vicentine Nature Reserve. It is with some reluctance that we write this blog, because we actually want this place to remain a secret. So that it stays exactly as it is and we can come back here every year. So you know what, don’t go here, skip this blog and go to the more touristy south of Portugal! And okay, if you’re going anyway, don’t tell anyone.Praia de Burgau, Portugal 2

To the Algarve as a family

This holiday to Portugal is the first trip we make as a brand new family. Our son Floris is currently 4.5 months old and a three-hour flight to Portugal seemed like a good first holiday with a baby. It is the end of April and we are lucky because the sun shines every day and it is 25 degrees. And it is wonderfully quiet in the Algarve in April. It is still low season, which means that not all restaurants and beach clubs are open, but also that there are few tourists, there is always space to park the car and you never need to make reservations.

After spending a few days in the more famous town of Lagos, we have now gone to the area of Aljezur for a week. We didn’t know anything about this region in advance, only that we would stay in a great hotel, in the middle of a nature park not far from the sea. This part of the Algarve is quieter, with a rugged coastline and authentic villages. You will find three types of tourists here: surfers who come for the phenomenal waves (both beginners and advanced), hikers who walk the beautiful Fishermen’s Trail and young families.

Heading to Lagos yourself? We write a travel guide for Lagos with the 6 best things to do here! Or have a look at our blog with the 6 best beaches of Lagos

Aljezur, Portugal 2

Our first holiday with a baby

And suddenly we belong to those families. And we’ll be honest, traveling with a baby really takes some getting used to and iscompletely different from how we used to travel. Or so we think, those first days in Lagos. But when we’ve got used to it a bit, have found a nice rhythm and all three have taken a rest, it turns out that we can still do quite a lot. As long as we ourselves are flexible. And luckily Floris is also a very flexible baby!

Instead of 3-5 activities in a day (visiting at least three beaches, seeing a town, doing some sport, working on the website and discovering restaurants), we now take a fixed part of the day to rest. That means lying quietly by the pool, or playing with Floris in the room and then sleeping. In the morning or afternoon (not in the hottest part of the day) we visit one or two beaches, or explore a city.

This western part of the Algarve is perfect for this rhythm. There is more than enough to discover, but it is also beautiful enough to relax here. Especially in our hotel Praia do Canal (but more on that later).

Read here soon more tips about the first holiday with a baby!

Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Nature Park (also called Vicentine Coast or Costa Vicenta)

One of the most rugged and undiscovered stretches of European coastline is located partly in the Algarve and partly in Portugal’s southwest Alentejo. This concerns the 100 km long coastline of the Costa Vicenta Nature Park. A beautiful piece of nature that reminds one moment of the highlands in Scotland and the next moment of the beautiful cliffs in New Zealand, Kefalonia or Corsica. Nature has a free hand here, there are no high-rise buildings and the area is protected, making this one of the best preserved stretches of coast in Europe.

In addition to beautiful cliffs, beautiful bays and extensive sandy beaches, we see wild boars, large coniferous forests, meadows full of wild flowers and high dunes. Birds such as eagles and storks fly everywhere. On the high cliffs, these storks breed on large nests. In the sea there are dolphins, sea otters, lots of fish and oysters!

The nature park extends over 100 kilometers of coast, from Porto Covo in the Alentejo (the area north of the Algarve) to Burgau in the Algarve. And there is more than enough to do here! We stayed here for a total of eight days and easily visited all the highlights of the southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Nature Park! Below we name them.Monte Clerigo, Portugal 1

What to do on the Vicentine Coast?

1. Visit Aljezur: surf village with relaxed atmosphere

Aljezur is one of the larger villages in the area. It is also the municipality that covers most of Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Nature Park. Aljezur itself is a cozy village with a nice atmosphere. You will find nice surf shops, restaurants and markets are often held at the river that flows through the village.

Aljezur consists of an old and a new part, split by a bridge over the river. The old part is built against a hill. From here you have a nice view of the surroundings. Aljezur is built against a nature reserve and that provides a lot of greenery. In this old part you will find museums and beautiful houses, some even covered with Portuguese tiles. Finally, on top of the hill, you will find the old Fort of Aljezur. This is worth seeing. Walk up the old narrow streets or take the car and park at the top of the hill next to the fortress.

Restaurant tip Aljezur: We ate a snack at Pont’a Pé, typical Portuguese and soooo delicious! Other nice restaurants in Aljezur are Arte Bianca, for delicious pizza (completely kid-proof), ROOTS for the best coffee and Várzea for a more upmarket dinner.

2. Learn to surf on great waves or relax on the beautiful beaches

Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Nature Park has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world! The waves of the Atlantic Ocean are perfect for learning to surf and the beaches vary from small coves surrounded by rocks and cliffs to wide sandy beaches where rivers also flow into the sea. Below are a number of beautiful beaches that are definitely worth a visit, but also read our blog with the 6 best beaches of the Costa Vicentina

  1. Praia da Arrifana: a great surfing beach between the cliffs
  2. Praia de Monte Clerigo: nice family beach and tiny village
  3. Praia de Mareta: family beach at Sagres
  4. Praia da Amoreira: beautiful surfing beach on the river bed
  5. Praia de Odeceixe: nice family beach with a river bed
  6. Praia do Burgau: the Santorini of Portugal
  7. Praia da Bordeira: the surfing beach of the Algarve!
  8. Praia da Salema: beautiful quiet family beach

3. Stroll through Odeceixe: hiking village with great beach

You can recognize the small village of Odeceixe directly by the mill that towers above the village. Odeceixe is built in a green valley along a river that flows into the sea. The village is a well-known stop on the Fishermen’s Trail, a 230 km walk along the coast of Portugal. Everywhere you see walkers who spend the night in this village or recover from walking. It creates a friendly atmosphere, a little hippie but above all nice and cozy.

Besides the fact that Odeceixe is a nice village to see, the area is also worth a visit. When you drive from the village towards the beach, you see how beautiful this valley is. Everything is very green, cows graze along the river and the fresh water eventually ends up at the sea. This creates a beautiful beach along both the sea and the river bed. On the day we visit Odeceixe and the beach, the weather is not great, but this causes very high waves. And the surfers benefit from that!

Restaurant tip Odeceixe: at Au Largo you can eat delicious spicy tuna, hamburgers and delicious cakes. The cool restaurant ODX (just outside the village) is not only a restaurant but also a place where parties are held. On the beach you can eat fresh fish at Bar da Praia.

Will you also visit the eastern part of the Algarve? Don’t miss out on the pretty town of Tavira. Read all about this place in our Tavira blog!

Do you also want to know more about the best beaches surrounding Tavira & Faro? Make sure to check out that blog too!

4. Go to Sagres and Cabo de Sao Vicente: the southernmost and southwesternmost point of Europe

The town of Sagres is located on the southernmost tip of Portugal. Sagres is also called the end of the world, because people used to think that the world was flat and that Sagres was the last piece of land. When you walk around here and see the high cliffs against which the sea hits hard, it’s not even such a crazy thought. In any case, it would be a very nice end of the world.

Fortress of Sagres

A large fortress has been built at the extreme point of Sagres. Definitely fun to visit (entry is 3 euros per person). Not only are the remains of this fort beautiful, you will also find the most beautiful viewpoints along a walking tour over the cliff. Even with a stroller, this walk is easy to do. There is a small museum with a nice exhibition about Sagres, San Vicente and the explorers of Portugal.

Tip: take a sweater with you, it is always windy here and therefore it is quite chilly even in the summer.

Sagres city

Sagres is a small town with many typical Portuguese buildings, white with blue shutters. It really is a surf town. Everywhere you will find surf shops, campers with surfboards on the roof and on the beach you see people walking into the water in wetsuits. There are a few nice restaurants here and some nice resorts. It is worth taking a walk through Sagres and having a bite to eat.

Restaurant tip Sagres: We ate delicious pizza at Arte Bianca (perfect also when traveling with children). Three Little Birds and the Hang Out also looked cosy.

Cabo de Sao Vicente: lighthouse at the most southwestern point of Europe

A 10-minute drive from Sagres you will find the lighthouse (Cabo) de Sao Vicente. It is located at the most southwestern point of Europe. Here you also have a beautiful view of the cliffs. Are you hungry when you are here? Then order something to eat at one of the food trucks that are here!Farol do Cabo de Sao Vicente, Portugal, Sagres

5. Hike along the beautiful coastline of the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Nature Park

The Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Nature Park is full of beautiful walks! For example, the previously mentioned Fishermen’s trail of 230 km runs here, but you will also find several shorter routes through nature and along the sea (all under the name of Rota Vicentina). These trails are well marked and maintained. Click here for a handy overview of all hiking routes.

We did a hike with Floris in the baby carrier from our hotel to the beach of Praia do Canal. A nice walk of 5 kilometers back and forth.

Tip: do you prefer cycling? Rota Vicentina also includes some nice cycling routes to do. Click here for more information!

Staying in the vicinity of Vicentine Coast Nature Park: Praia do Canal

There are hotels, B&Bs and campsites in almost all the towns and villages we mention above. There are some very nice things in there. But nothing can match the hotel where we stay. We spend eight nights in hotel Praia do Canal and oh boy, this is great! It is so wonderful here that after four nights we decide to book extra because we absolutely do not want to leave!

Every morning I take a yoga class from the talented teacher Sofia. I’m stiff as a stick and not good at yoga at all, but I love it. And especially if you have a good teacher. Well I can tell you, I have never had such a good teacher as Sofia! She sees exactly what your body can and cannot do and therefore gives personal instructions. So I take a yoga class every morning and Ries goes to the gym every evening and then into the sauna.

Bloody Marys and catch up on sleep

The rooms are beautiful! We sleep in a suite with a sea view and every evening we watch the sun set from our terrace. The breakfast is delicious. It consists of an extensive buffet including cava, Bloody Marys and lots of smoked salmon (Ries eats at least 200 grams of salmon here every day). But also with an a la carte menu from which you can choose what you want (hello pancakes and eggs Benedict!).

But the best thing about hotel Praia do Canal is the peaceful atmosphere. Floris finally sleeps a bit here, and since we are so unburdened, we really relax and become completely zen. And we can really use that after five months of little sleep.

All in all, we are so lyrical about this hotel. It is definitely not cheap, but if you book on time you can book a room from 170 euros. We are even considering going back here next year. Oh and no, this is NOT a sponsored post or collaboration!

Practical information for traveling in Portugal with a baby

We received a lot of questions about our first trip through Portugal with a baby, so here’s some practical information:

  • Car rental: We rent a large car (due to luggage with a baby) at Sunny Cars. There is a car seat for Floris and we are fully insured through Sunny Cars. In addition, we can easily change the car just in advance and we have 24/7 support. Click here for more information about renting a car in Portugal.
  • Flight tickets: Yes, flying with a baby is not great, but it was not too bad for us! From Faro you can be in the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Nature Park in just over an hour. Click here for flight tickets to Faro.
  • Buggy: Floris is officially still a bit too young for a buggy, but since we don’t want to take too much luggage with us, we are looking for one anyway. And we also really like a super nice model that can be almost completely flat and of which you can turn the seat towards you.  Click here for more information about the buggy we bought!
  • Baby carrier: we brought our baby carrier with us so that we had our hands free while carrying Floris while boarding the plane and while hiking. Click here for more information about our baby carrier.
  • Baby tent: To be able to travel light and to have the same bed for Floris everywhere, we bought a Deryan travel tent. This was ideal and much lighter and more compact than a camp bed! Beforehand we practiced sleeping in the tent at home so that he was completely used to it. Also very nice for the beach. Click here for more information about our baby tent.

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