Portugal – Taking the Scenic Route From Lisbon to Lagos

Parque Natural da Arrábida

After our brief stay in Lisbon, it was time to see the famed Algarve region of southern Portugal.  The southward route via highway can be driven in as little as 3 hours, but being funemployed and having nothing but time (and no income), we opted for the slower (and toll-free) local roads. As cheesy sayings go, the journey is half the fun, right?  Not to mention that the highway passes through the interior of the country with limited sights or ones that would otherwise be passed by so quickly they can’t be appreciated.  On the other hand, local routes slow the pace as they travel through one roundabout after another and meander through rural farms and age-old fishing villages along the cliffsides of Portugal’s western coast.  With so many panoramic ocean views, varying landscapes, and small towns to soak in, we found ourselves constantly pulling over our diesel hatchback to “oooOOOooo” and “aaaaaah.”  So it goes without saying, we took our time getting down there.  A three hour drive turned into an mutli-day trip.  Here’s where we stopped:

Ponte 25 de Abril

Not a stop, but both being civil engineers we enjoyed passing over this bridge especially with it’s mini version of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer.

Parque Natural da Arrábida

Given it’s proximity to Lisbon and a large population, it’s hard to believe that an area so pristine became a protected area only in 1971.
Tucked into these hills is a monastery dating back to the 1500s. The area was also featured in a James Bond film and is Jackie Kennedy’s supposed remote hideaway during her period of mourning following her husband’s assassination.
Portinho da Arrábida beach

Zambujeira do Mar

One week each year a music festival draws large crowds and the rest of the time this place is apparently a ghost town.
“Where is everybody?!” we kept saying. After dinner we walked around town and saw not one single person…just this cat.
But we were lucky that the one open restaurant in town served food like this!

Praia de Odeceixe

Superbloom! …Portugal style.
Below these cliffs is a nudist beach. No, we didn’t go down there.

Praia da Arrifana

If you look closely at the surf, you can spot dozens of surfers.
The view from Fortaleza da Arrifana built in 1635 to protect the nearby tuna fishing grounds.

Praia da Bordeira

This spot seemed to be a campers haven.

Parque Eólico da Lagoa Funda

The only wind farm south of Lisbon, this electricity-producing site consists of 24 turbines, some towering over 400′! (That’s over 100′ higher than the Statue of Liberty.)

Forte do Beliche

Built sometime in the 1500s, here is another fort to protect the coastal fishing waters. The original structure was severely damaged in a 1755 earthquake; this restoration completed in 1960 is now under siege by an unrelenting adversary–erosion.

Farol do Cabo de São Vicente

Being the most southwestern extremity of continental Europe, this cape was considered the end of the known world until the 1300s.
A lighthouse has existed at this site since 1520. This modern-day version opened for use in 1908.

As we made our way down the coast, we appreciated the changes in geography and scenery. Green trees morphed into tiny succulents, exposed rock the color of slate transitioned to typical shades of sand, and rolling hills flattened out to more level terrain. Though cliffs are the dominant feature at every stop, each was unique. Some are completely vertical, soaring hundreds of feet above the water, waves beating into the rock. Whereas others are short and gently sloped with water gently lapping its sides. The sun shined so brightly we were forced into constant squinting and the wind was so consistent and cooling that we were tricked into thinking our skin wasn’t getting burned. These pictures aren’t able to do these places justice–the unspoiled beaches, the white building towns, the magically blue waters are all sights to be seen. Given the chance to do it all over again, we would be sure to slow down even more.

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