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Best known for its terrific views and the iconic chapel of Nossa da Senhora do Mar (Our Lady of the Sea) standing sentinel over the ocean cliffs, Zambujeira do Mar Portugal is a small, peaceful fishing village. Located close to the beautiful Costa Vicentina along the famous Fishermen’s Trail hike, it is a great place for anyone who loves wild beaches and expansive cliff views.
Located in the municipality of Odemira within the region of Alentejo, Zambujeira do Mar features a small cluster of whitewashed buildings with picturesque terracotta roofs. The chapel sits on a small square overlooking the ocean and is a popular gathering point for the amazing Atlantic sunsets. There are many different beaches to choose from, as well as hiking, biking and various water sports.
A standard stop along the magnificent Rota Vicentina trek that runs all the way from Sines to Lagos, the popularity of Zambujeira do Mar only figures to grow as hikers around the world discover that one of the best long-distance treks in Europe is also one of the only ones that can be hiked in pleasant weather year-round. We spent 11 days on this fantastic trail in early March and enjoyed near-perfect weather throughout.
Zambujeira do Mar Map
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Praia da Zambujeira do Mar
Located directly in front of the village and included in the Natural Park of Costa Vicentina and Southwest Alentejo (Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina), Praia da Zambujeira boasts tremendous views both of, and from, the steep surrounding cliffs. While swimming is possible, the rough waters are usually better suited to surfing and body boarding. Along with the great views from the chapel, around the beach to the south you’ll find the Fonte da “Ti Catarina”, the best lookout point for the Palheirão rocks.
The Zambujeira do Mar beach is an internationally recognized Blue Flag beach, meaning clean water, good facilities and responsible environmental practices. There is also a convenient parking lot and public showers.
Other Beaches Near Zambujeira do Mar
Zambujeira do Mar is very popular with Portuguese tourists in the summer, so you may want to consider venturing over to one of the other nearby beaches if you prefer something a little quieter.
Praia dos Alteirinhos
The first beach to the south from Praia da Zambujeira do Mar, Praia dos Alteirinhos features a fair-sized swathe of nice sand backed by impressive cliffs. This rocky area provides clear waters, interesting rock formations, fascinating tide pools and secluded swimming areas. Access is via a long, steep staircase down from the parking areas at the top of the cliffs and there are no facilities here so come prepared. Some of the smaller coves at the south end are popular with nudists so don’t be shocked if you come around a corner to a slight surprise.
Praia das Costas do Lajão
This tiny but beautiful beach just south of Alteirinhos is hard to reach but worth the effort. To get there you either need to climb down the rocks from above or come around the rocks along the water (only possible at low tide).
Praia do Alvorião
Yet another wild, secluded beach with looming cliffs and cool rocks. There are wooden walkways from the parking lot that lead to a steep, rocky trail down to the beach.
Praia do Carvalhal
A little farther along, the swimming and surfing spot of Praia do Carvalhal can be reached by a short drive (easy) or spectacular 1-hour hike along the cliffs (fun). Mind you, even the road is fairly scenic, running through some unique pine forests and rice paddies.
Praia da Nossa Senhora
Right next to the village’s main beach on the north side, this quiet beauty is about a 10-minute walk and is accessed through the dunes to another steep staircase.
Praia da Nossa Senhora
Next up in the same direction, Pedra da Bica offers yet more cliff and ocean scenery with no facilities and almost no crowds. At low tide it is possible to reach it along the water from Praia da Nossa Senhora, while at high tide there is almost no beach left to see.
Praia da Baía da Arquinha
Just 80 metres across, this tiny gem offers very little sand at any time and almost none at high tide. It is also very gravelly, the water is generally too rough for comfortable swimming and the climb down the cliff can be tricky. All of which is why people mainly come to Praia da Arquinha for the stunning view from the top of the cliff. The scenery is well worth the 1.5-kilometre hike from the village, and you can also wander over to Praia do Tonel to see the nesting storks.
Things to Do in Zambujeira do Mar
Hike Along the Cliffs
As part of the amazing Rota Vicentina trek, Zambujeira do Mar offers terrific cliff and dune hiking in both directions. The trail is well-marked and reasonable for hikers of all fitness levels.
North to Almograve
22 km / 6-7 hrs / 260m elevation gain
Many people just walk part of this section and return the same way but if you do walk the entire way it is possible to take a bus or taxi back to Zambujeira do Mar.
South to Odeceixe
18 km (Odeceixe) or 22 km (Praia de Odeceixe) / 5-7 hrs / 350m elevation gain
The gorgeous, horseshoe beach of Praia de Odeceixe is one of the highlights of the Costa Vicentina and is well worth a day trip, whether you choose to walk or drive. Once again, most opt to hike just a portion of this route but there are transport options if you feel energetic and walk the entire thing.
Watch the Sunset from the Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Mar
With its ideal location directly in front of the village and at the very edge of the steep cliffs, this pretty square is a terrific place to relax and watch the sun sink into the Atlantic.
Attend the Festival do Sudoeste
Taking place the first weekend of August (in normal years, anyway), the 3-day Festival do Sudoeste (Southwest Festival) usually attracts hundreds of young music fans to Herdade da Casa Branca for revelry and socializing. Things quiet down again once this Zambujeira do Mar festival is over.
Visit the Storks
Storks are commonly seen all along the Rota Vicenta and Fishermen’s Trail but on the cliffs of Praia do Tonel it is usually possible to see them tending their nests as well. These rocky outcroppings favoured by local storks are found at Cabo Sardão, very close to Praia da Baia da Arqhinha. If you are particularly stealthy, you should be able to get up nice and close for great photos, although they were immediately suspicious of me and my sweaty, awkward tiptoeing and I had to settle for a slightly distant view.
See the Working Fishing Boats
The narrow cove at the Posto de Vendagem de Zambujeira do Mar (weigh station) you will find a large collection of traditional fishing boats which are still in use today. While you aren’t allowed to buy fish directly from the fishermen here, you can still enjoy the photogenic scene. We recommend settling in for a drink and some boat-watching at one of the outdoor tables at nearby O Saca’s or A Barca Tanquitanas.
While Zambujeira do Mar is not considered one of the best surf spots along this excellent stretch of coastline, it is still a good place to find uncrowded waves which, when there is a light offshore wind, can be surprisingly good. The surfing in this part of Portugal is best in the winter, with December offering the best conditions as long as you can handle the cooler temperatures.
How Do You Get to Zambujeira Do Mar?
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.
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).
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.
When to Visit Zambujeira Do Mar
Summer is high season in Zambujeira do Mar, when people flock to the coast to lay on the beach and swim in the ocean. August is particularly busy thanks to the Festival do Sudoeste and Nossa Senhora do Mar celebrations. Outside of summer the entire region is very quiet, the perfect time to hike and enjoy the scenery. With most top treks in Europe only being accessible from June to September, the Rota Vicentina and Fishermen’s Trail hikes are great off-season choices for avid hikers. February to April, in particular, tend to offer clear skies and perfect hiking temperatures (highs of 17, lows of 9).
Alternatives to Zambujeira do Mar
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 nightlife. 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, Aljezur has a fascinating old castle and is close to some of Portugal’s best surfing, while Carrapateira is known as one of the top windsurfing beaches in Europe. Even if you do decide to stay in Zambujeira do Mar, these all make easy day trips.
Where to Stay in Zambujeira Do Mar
Zambujeira do Mar Camping
The Camping Villa Park Zambujeira do Mar has terraced camp sites with both shaded and unshaded pitches. You can also rent studios, one-bedroom houses and 2-bedroom homes. Each has a living room, dining area and a kitchenette equipped with a microwave and refrigerator. There is a year-round pool and the park is a relatively short walk to town.
Zambujeira do Mar Hotels
We stayed at Hostel Nature which has both private and dorm rooms, as well as a shared kitchen. We enjoyed the front deck for an afternoon beverage in the sun and chatting with the friendly owner. We can highly recommend this choice as long as you don’t mind shared bathrooms.
The Sol Dourado Guesthouse has rooms equipped with private bathrooms, TV, refrigerator and electric kettle in a great location.
The Sunset Beach House has four bedrooms – you can rent the entire house or an individual room. The views from the rooftop terrace overlooking the sea and sunset are particularly good.
Zambujeira do Mar is yet another fabulous destination along the incomparable Costa Vicentina. A picture-perfect little village on spectacular cliffs with a wide range of beach options within walking distance, it is an ideal place to base yourself to enjoy your time in this vastly underrated area of Portugal.
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