Bicycles, Big waves and Beaches

Nazaré, Portugal 

We had four days free between coming into Portugal from Spain and being in Porto for the weekend, staying at a cousin’s apartment. An excited conversation with my Brazilian cousin, Chris, who had visited us in Scotland during the summer, was the catalyst for our journey to the fishing town of Nazaré. A little over two hours south of Porto and an hour and a half north of Lisbon, all we knew about Nazaré was that it had huge waves and the biggest wave ever surfed, by Garrett McNamara in 2011 (78 feet).

Praia do Norte (35mm)
Narrow street leading to the beach


And we did find big waves and beautiful beaches. But we also discovered a sleepy fishing town (bear in mind this was in November and I’ve heard it’s quite different in the summer) with narrow steep streets, huge cliffs, white sandy beaches with gentler waves and fantastic cycling north along the coast on the EuroVelo 1.

Euro Velo 1 cycle route

We stayed at the Vale Paraiso campsite, a short downhill 20-minute walk to the centre of the town and only a 5-minute cycle from the EuroVelo cycle path. As it is cold at night (but still like a lovely Scottish summer during the day) we chose not to wild camp so we could have heating and laundry facilities.

A little rest stop on the climb out of town 

We spent our days walking around the town, cycling north along the coast to pretty, deserted beaches and villages (but thank god the coffee shops were still open) and of course, heading to see the famous Praia Do Norte beach and lighthouse where ‘that’ wave was surfed.

Praia do Norte from the lighthouse (35mm)

The town is split into three areas; Praia (along the beach and where the main town is situated) and two villages high on the cliff and hills around the town – Sítio and Pederneira. My favourite spot was Sítio. The funicular wasn’t running when we were there but it was only a 15-minute walk up the hillside (albeit a very steep 15 minute walk). The views were spectacular over the town and out to sea, the village winding dangerously close to the vertical cliffs. From here you can walk down to the lighthouse with views over Praia Do Norte, which appears wilder and more remote than the towns beach.

Beautiful old fishing boats

I loved seeing the fishermen’s wives in their traditional dress of 7 skirts with long patterned socks, sat in cafes or helping their husbands on the sea front. And some of the traditional fishing boats, brightly painted are still in use today. You can walk south of the town to the harbour for a good look. There was little about Nazaré that felt like it was particularly for tourists (of course there are hotels, restaurants etc. but they are not overwhelming in their visibility), this is a town that would continue without it’s influx of visitors every year, with traditions, livelihoods and the sea so closely intertwined.

The old town on the cliff (35mm)

Note: If you are used to cycling in France or the UK where our long distance routes are well marked and mapped, Portugal is a little different. The tourist office seem surprised we knew about the Euro Velo 1 (which runs the whole Atlantic coast of Portugal and Spain, although appears patchy in places) and there was no signs to direct us to it. Once on the path, which is an obvious segregated wide cycle path, there are again no signs with destinations, way markers or other infrastructure. However, it was wonderful, well built and smooth and took us along a gorgeous stretch of coast, north of Nazaré, for 30 miles.

Cameras: Iphone 6, Pentax Espio mini and Pentax ME Super.

The old town (35mm)
Nazare on film (35mm)
Cycling the coast
Cycling the coast and finding gorgeous beaches
Paul and the lighthouse in town (35mm)


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