The southern Alentejano coast of Portugal is often overlooked as people set their sites on the more popular Algarve region and zip down the interstate as quickly as possible. Indeed, we almost missed it ourselves only catching it because the 300 KM radius we drew from our last camping spot dropped us right near Zambujeira do Mar. All I can say is thank goodness for limited driving rules! What a gorgeous place.
The town is small, with a plethora of small restaurants and street-side cafes all seeming to cater to Portugese tourists (no English options on the menus and very little English is spoken in the shops.) I can’t blame them for trying to keep the foreign tourists away; the coastline and beach are simply stunning in their natural beauty, lacking [so I have read] the over-developed ocean frontage to be found in the Algarve region. (We are heading down there eventually so I reserve the ability to change that comment!)
The town also sits right along the Rota Vicentina hiking trail, which you can follow along the coast in either direction, landing in another seaside village in as little as 11 KM. Along the hike, the multitude of blooming wildflowers draw your eyes across the plateaus to the drama of the black rock cliffs. The cliffs, in turn, lead your gaze down to the peach-colored beaches and then back out to the aqua sea. With so much stunning beauty at your footsteps it is easy to trip over your own tongue. As SP put it, “A hike that is good for your soul.”
Our campground, the Parque de Campismo Zambujeira, although not nearly as close to the beach as the website would have you believe, is only a short walk to the town and ocean. Given the time of year there were ever only a few of us caravaners on site so we enjoyed the peace and quiet as well as the freedom of running The Noses off leash. (They, incidentally, have become quite good at the “Caravan Come” command; no matter where we are if we give it, they will rush to the front of Salt, and, if the door is open, they will jump right inside. A very handy new trick!)
Being so alone in camp, we thought we would break out the P90X workouts on our first day. However, the sun started to peak out so we called, “Carpe Sunem” and opted to head south along the Rota Vicentina trail. We hiked two and a half miles down then returned to town for what we thought would be a fast snack. Language is a huge barrier here for us; my French and Alan’s Spanish only combine to make things more difficult as most Portugese try to speak to us in German. (Although once we figured that out, things became a bit smoother.)
Anyway, our quick snack of what we thought would be deep-fried calamari turned out to be a long wait for a giant dish of very delicious teriyaki infused calamari, French fries and bread. Plus two beers. Good thing we hiked five miles!
Our second day in town we stopped at the Padaria for some fresh bread before heading for a shorter hike along the cliffs to the north. The northern side, although equally stunning, lacks the large beaches found to the south.
The weather remains a bit too cold for sunbathing otherwise we might never leave. But leave we will – heading down to the more popular Algarve region where I am sure more stunning photos are awaiting us (and hopefully more warmth and sunshine!)