Aljezur Portugal offers the rare combination of vibrant surfing scene, fascinating historical site and traditional architecture. Located just inland on the amazing Costa Vicentina, Aljezur is split in two halves by a small river, each side with its own unique personality.
On the west side you’ll find the ancient Moorish quarter, full of old buildings, narrow alleys and a prominent medieval castle. Across the river and up the hill, the east side is more modern, with a pair of impressive churches, a pretty main square and many excellent restaurants with outdoor terraces.
In keeping with its popularity as a surfer hangout, the Aljezur new town features some good hostels, bars and pizza places. Aljezur is actually located around 10 kilometres in from the coast but the beaches are still easily accessible.
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Things to Do in Aljezur
Take Advantage of the Aljezur Surf Scene
Great waves and a fun surf scene are Aljezur’s main claims to fame. There are numerous excellent breaks spread across a few different bays on the nearby coast.
Beginners flock to Praia da Arrifana from all over Portugal for its useful practice whitewash and two easy beach breaks at either end. There is also a much wilder reef break out farther near the harbour that should only be attempted by experts.
Praia da Amoreira offers more variety, with high tide breaks to match almost any skill level. It is fairly exposed, though, so you’ll want to keep a close eye on the forecast. Atlantic Riders is a good surf school right on the beach where you can rent gear or take lessons.
Monte Clerigo is usually much quieter than the other two beaches, despite a terrific sandy north side beach break that features both lefts and rights. You can occasionally find big, hollow waves in front of the village but some of the landings are pretty nasty so make sure you do your research or go with a local.
Visit one of the Nearby Aljezur Beaches
Even if surfing’s not your bag, there is still plenty to love about the scenic beaches around Aljezur. With several to choose from you should have no trouble finding the perfect fit.
Praia da Amoreira
One of the larger beaches on this part of the coast, Praia da Amoreira is unique in that it is located right at the mouth of the Aljezur River. The option to swim in either the river (warmer, calmer and less chaotic) or the ocean (colder, rougher and arguably more fun) makes it popular with families and adrenalin junkies alike. Backed by picturesque sand dunes and hemmed in on both ends by dramatic cliffs, Amoreira is also a favourite of photographers.
At low tide a shallow lagoon is formed which is perfect for kids, especially since the currents can be dangerous where the river runs into the sea. Another Blue Flag beach, Praia da Amoreira is clean, environmentally responsible and features lifeguards in summer. There is an excellent viewpoint on the southern cliffs that overlooks the entire beach that is more easily reached from town than from the beach if you’re on foot (you need to cross the river, best done at low tide).
There are parking areas near a beach leading to the boardwalk and another near the viewpoint and Paraíso do Mar restaurant provides food, drinks and restrooms.
Praia de Monte Clérigo
This nice little beach has some decent surfing (see above) but is also a local favourite for the high, scenic cliffs on the north side and the little cluster of pink and white cottages at the south end. A little more condensed than other beaches in the area, with some fun tide pools and a shallow lagoon at low tide, it is another that is popular with families. Several of the cottages also house long-term expats. Also a Blue Flag beach, Monte Clérigo offers toilets, cafés, clean water and even disabled access via a gently sloping wooden ramp. Lifeguards are on duty in the busier summer months.
Praia da Arrifana
While the village of Arrifana is quite touristy, it does have some hotels, hostels, cafés and bars to meet the needs of visitors and the Arrifana beach is beautiful. There are some ruins of an old fort overlooking the beach, which is reached on foot by a steep single lane road that is no longer open to vehicles. The sandy beach is nicely sheltered and has decent swimming and surfing, with a toilets available as well as a small café.
Praia da Fateixa
Close to Praia Monte Clerigo is the usually deserted Praia da Fateixa. It used to be a pirate beach in the old days as fateixa is the Portuguese word for a grapnel anchor, a hook pirates used to catch another ship. You have to climb down using ropes so take care.
Praia do Medo da Fonte Santa
Another usually empty beach that can be quite difficult to get down to from the trail on top the cliffs. But once down, this long stretch of sand is worth the effort.
Go for a Hike
Aljezur is one of the more unique and interesting stops along the world-famous Rota Vicentina trek and is in the Southwest Alentejo and Costa Vicentina Natural Park. Running from Sines all the way to Lagos, the entire trek usually takes over 3 weeks but it is possible to break it into smaller sections to match your schedule and fitness.
The longer coastal route to Arrifana (17 km) is the recommended route on the Rota Vicentina and includes all the great scenery you would expect, with amazing beaches and stunning cliffs.
The inland alternative to Praia da Arrifana (11.6 km) features quiet roads and pleasant rural scenery. You can do this either there and back as a long day, get a ride in one direction or just walk as far as you want, then turn around.
The Praia da Amoreira Beach Loop starts about 5 km from Aljezur and follows an 8.5 km loop through tremendous scenery with some great cliff views along the ocean.
The Aljezur river runs for around 10 kilometres from the village to Praia da Amoreira. It is both scenic and features loads of birds, including kingfishers, nightingales and grey herons. If you visit between March and early September you should also be able to spot the unique bee-eaters.
Have a Drink on the Square and Listen to the Church Bells
In the 1755 earthquake that destroyed much of Aljezur. In the aftermath, Bishop Francisco Gomes de Avelar decided to build (or decided other people should build for him) a new church in what is now known at the “new town”. The creatively named Igreja Nova (New Church) is the highlight of a nice square surrounded by restaurants with outdoor terraces perfect for eating, drinking and people watching while enjoying the ringing of the church bells every 15 minutes.
Tour the Back Roads by Bike
All along the Costa Vicentina there are mazes of dirt back roads that are perfect for leisurely biking. Depending on the route you choose you can enjoy pastoral agricultural land, quiet forests or desolate beach dunes. If you don’t have your bike with you it is possible to rent at Hashtag Bike Rental (new town) or Algarve Bike (old town). Both can also provide recommendations, maps and tours. Algarve Bike has e-bikes for rent as well.
Visit the Castelo de Aljezur
What is left of this impressive 10th century Moorish castle looms high on the hill overlooking the old town of Aljezur. Up close there isn’t really much left to see, but the views of the town(s) and surrounding countryside are extraordinary.
Go Butterfly Hunting
An NGO dedicated to the preservation of butterfly habitats developed a “Biodiversity Station” along the Amoreira Beach trail that features a wide variety of butterflies at certain times of year. April is usually the best month because some rare, endemic plants such as the Camphor Thyme are at their peak at that time but some butterflies can usually be spotted throughout the year.
Visit a Museum
There are several museums to see in Aljezur, including the Museu Municipal, Museu de Arte Sacre and Museu Antoniano. Arguably the best, however, is the Museu Pintor José Cercas, dedicated to the local painter who left his home, personal belongings and entire collection of artwork to the town when he passed away in 1992.
Shop at the Mercado Municipal de Aljezur
This fresh produce market is located next to the bridge on the eastern edge of the old town and is worth a look, either to take advantage of good deals on fruit and fish or just to soak up the traditional market atmosphere (and traditional fish market smell).
Alternatives to Aljezur
Alternatives to Aljezur
If you are looking for a little more action, Vila Nova de Milfontes is the most popular town along this stretch of beautiful Portuguese coast, with plenty of hotels, restaurants and good night life. If you are looking for a quieter alternative then the pretty nearby village of Porto Covo is a good choice, and Almograve’s traditional Portuguese feel is perfect for some. Odeceixe boasts one of the most unique beaches in all of Portugal, Zambujeira do Mar has a wonderful cliff-top church and a colony of nesting storks, while Carrapateira is known as one of the top windsurfing beaches in Europe. Even if you do decide to stay in Aljezur, these all make easy day trips.
How to Get to Aljezur
The nearest airport is in Faro, 125 kilometres and a 1.5-hour drive away, although it is also just a 2.5-hour drive to Lisbon’s international airport where you’ll probably find more flight options.
Public transportation between smaller towns in Portugal can be difficult so if you’re not planning to hike from village to village, we highly recommend renting a car so you don’t miss out on any of the best spots. Plus, it is nice to be able to set your own schedule. We find that Discover Cars usually has the best deals in the area.
If you don’t want to rent a car you can take a Rede Expressos bus from Sete Rios station in Lisbon (3.5 hrs / €20). From Faro there are frequent buses or trains to Lagos (2 hrs / €10), then you can take an Eva or Rede Expressos bus to Zambujeira do Mar (1 hr / €10). There is great scenery along the way from either direction and the buses are clean and comfortable (and have wifi).
Both Lisbon and Lagos buses stop at the Mercado Municipal de Aljezur by the river bridge and you can either buy tickets on the bus or ahead of time in the Café do Mercado.
When should I go to Aljezur?
Aljezur enjoys typically mild coastal weather with warm, but not hot, summers averaging around 25C. It is much cooler in the winter, with January temperatures averaging just 12C, and there is noticeably more rain.
However, compared with the deep freeze and buckets of snow found in much of the northern hemisphere, this qualifies as positively balmy. And, while 12C isn’t exactly beach weather, it does make this stretch of Portuguese coast a near-perfect winter hiking destination.
If you’re going for the surfing, the best condtions are from July to November, with the summer bringing particularly great waves.
You can visit Aljezur on a full day tours from Lisbon or Lagos but to truly appreciate all this area has to offer we recommend a longer stay.
The Atlantic Lodge Aljezur has a great rooftop terrace overlooking the town square and church. We spent a few hours relaxing there in the sun admiring the view. The rooms are spacious and have decks. While the neaby church bells are fun and atmospheric they are also quite noticeable (every 15 minutes). Don’t worry, though, they stop at night. There was also an excellent self-serve breakfast that included made to order eggs.
The four star Vicentina Hotel offers spacious apartments, studios and rooms that include kitchens and living rooms overlooking Aljezur Castle or the nice outdoor pool.
Guesthouse A Lareira has rooms with balconies with views of the Aljezur Castle and a highly recommended breakfast.
Pont’a Pé – highly recommended for genuine local food with excellent seafood dishes down by the bridge with both outdoor and indoor seating.
For great thin crust pizza try Italian Pizzeria Pomodorino down a little street close to the main square and church.
The Sushinami PT serves amazing sushi with very fresh fish and other ingredients as well as Hawaiian style poke bowls. It is a small place with only one outdoor table but takeout is available if there is nowhere left to sit.
Aljezur is unique among the many popular towns along the Costa Vicentina for its unusual old town/new town design, with the two very different areas split by the picturesque Ribeira de Aljezur. Even though it is located a short drive inland from the coast, there are several great beaches within easy reach. Intrepid surfers and culture buffs alike often choose Aljezur as their base to explore this diverse and fascinating area.
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