Portugal III – Nazaré

Have you heard of Nazare? We hadn’t but we both had seen a video on youtube of a surfer who won the 2018 Ride of the Year award there. A flick through our facebook feed showed the most spectacular waves and a guy just a dot in the sheer immenseness of the water but managing to negotiate it with amazing expertise nonetheless. Neither of us are surfers ourselves but we can completely appreciate the skill involved and were in awe of this video we saw. Imagine our excitement when we realised a town near to us was where it was filmed. We had to go and check it out!

Nazare is under two hours away from Lisbon and we had an easy bus ride here with Redeexpressos, costing €10 each and taking just under 2 hours. We booked accommodation through Airbnb at Quartos Vila. The accommodation was nice and suited our needs but like a lot we seem to have encountered recently there was quite the hill to walk with our backpacks to get there. Also it was a hell of a walk downhill to the town but even worse back up and to make matters worse there was no Uber here. Not the fault of the property though it just seems to be Portugal in general and we had a sea view of sorts.

Nazare itself is a lovely little town with loads of restaurants and shops and a nice beach. The main attraction here is clearly the waves but actually even if that wasn’t your thing the town itself would be enough to occupy you for a few days. One thing we had noticed in Portugal but more so here was that there is a significant lack of corner shops just to grab those essentials you need. It was quite a walk to our local Spar and due to the amount of people there were some significant queues just to get in. Stocked up for the next few days we were ready to explore what Nazare had to offer.

Unfortunately we were out of luck to see the big waves, these happen between November and March and it was August so bad timing on our part, it was still a lovely place in its own right. In order to visit where the waves are the biggest you need to get to the top of the hill just to the right of the town, Praia du Norte. There are two options; a funicular from edge of the main town which takes you up to the top or a footpath which climbs right up to the top with copious amounts of stairs. We didn’t find the entrance to the funicular (we didn’t really look too hard either) so guess which one we took! A very slow walk ensued but actually the views more than made up for it.

Also on the way to the top is the Ladeira swing which is a big favourite for instagrammers. When we stopped to have a go we had a family in front that were filming an entire photoshoot which was quite funny but we eventually got our turn and acted like the big kids that we are.

Eventually we made it right to the top and were greeted by even more amazing views, street performers, copious restaurants and souvenier shops which were around the main square. After that walk we were in need of a drink and a sit down!

After a brief recovery we headed on round to Praia du Norte where the surfing action happens. Much to Carol’s relief most of this was heading downhill, we took some cliff photos (which weren’t quite as scary or dangerous as they looked). We passed the entrance and the scuplture of a giant stag with a surfboard…not sure what that was about but we never really need a reason to take a photo of something unusual.

After the walk downhill we reached the famous lighthouse, Fort of São Miguel Arcanjo, we had seen in the video. It’s not a huge area but you can pay to enter here; for a nominal fee of €1. It is definitely worth it because you not only get the views but also a small museum which shows video clips of the huge waves and interesting facts about different surfing records and attempts here by both men and woman. Surprisingly given the size of the waves as of August 2021 nobody has died here; there have been some serious incidents and some nasty injuries and near drownings but everyone has survived.

The hill back up from the lighthouse was pretty scary looking but luckily help was at hand with a very reasonable €2 tuk tuk ride back up. We didn’t hesitate and hopped in to get a lift back up the top.

We made our way back down to the main town; unfortunately although we found the funicular the queue was massive so we ended up having another slow walk down the stairs but took our time and enjoyed the views again. Enough excitement for one day – we headed back to our quarters having some dinner on the way.

The next day after a lazy start to the day we headed to the beach with a brunch stop en route. The good thing about Nazare is that there is definitely no lack of choice of restaurants and we were able to find exactly the sort of breakfast we had been looking for; bacon, eggs, toast and more importantly nice coffee! The place we liked was called The Village which had really good food and was in a small square near the seafront.

For me, the best reason to go to the beach is to swim or snorkel in the sea, for everyone else it must be for the seaside air and sunshine. People don’t go to Portugal to swim in the sea; unlike its Iberian neighbours who have the Mediterranean Sea to swim in, here it’s the Atlantic Ocean, and that’s cold! We did manage to get our feet wet though, with a brief paddle, and I was right about that water 😉

We had a really lovely little walk along the seafront towards the two lighthouses by the marina on the left of the town. There was no doubt Nazare is a popular little spot as there were loads of people; lots of families together on the beach or going for walks. It was also a really lovely temperature here; the sea breeze took the edge off the strong sun and even at night it was comfortable in August; unlike the other parts of Portugal we had been to so far.

We headed back with an ice cream on the way – we had packing to do as we were moving on the next day but had really enjoyed our time here; it was beautiful. As for the hills; Carol was not upset about leaving those behind! The highlight of Nazaré for us were the views from the top of the cliffs overlooking the town and Praia du Norte. The views, the lighthouse, and the photos of the giant waves complete with mad as a hatter surfers riding them!

If we visit again we’ll get a beachfront apartment, take the funicular and go in wave season 😉

Carol & Nigel x

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