My week in Portugal was primarily about best surfing locations. It’s been years since I was on a board, and I wasn’t quite ready to surf the waves in Nazaré, which can get over 100-feet high in the winter! Everything else I found the town was simply wonderful.
Nazaré was the first stop on my tour of central Portugal. Taking a nap in the van from Lisbon (since I was up at 5 to catch my flight) I was woken up as we drove into the picturesque town and immediately whipped out my camera. We were obviously brought to the most picturesque town in Portugal to start our tour, an idea which wasn’t necessarily disproved over the rest of the week.
Entering the village, I took in the quaint cobblestone streets lined with stucco buildings containing cafes and shops. To our right was a beautiful church. Nearby was a shrine built in 1182. But the town’s history goes all the way back to the 4th century, and even the Knights Templar played their role in it’s construction.
We stopped in the village center for a view off the cliff. The the town is separated into two halves – Praia down along the beach and Sitio on the cliff overlooking it, with a funicular connecting the two. The village square was filled with vendors selling dried fruit and nuts, but it was hard to pay them any attention when the stunning vista was on hand.
After getting plenty of photos, we went for lunch at Sitiado. This little village cafe has all of about twenty seats, surrounded by some pretty incredible decorations and memorabilia. Their forte is tapas, and we had plenty of them.The meal started off with olives and bread, and progressed through clams, cockles, sardines, a baked chorizo sausage, grilled mushrooms, buttery shrimp, potato skins, ham and eggs, and a tuna steak. If my culinary experience in Portugal had finished there, I would have been more than satisfied. Click here for more photos.
At the end of the promontory is the Nazaré lighthouse. The lighthouse tower itself is a little anticlimactic, but it’s part of a larger fortress on top of the cliff. The building includes a museum (€1 entry) displaying the topography of the local ocean and a surfing hall of fame for those who have conquered the local waves, both of which contribute to the primary feature of the town. In November 2011, Garrett McNamara made Nazaré internationally famous by surfing a wave officially measuring 78 feet. In January 2013, he returned to surf another wave unofficially recorded at 100 feet! Both waves occurred directly off the coast from the lighthouse. I had the opportunity to talk with one surfer who was on the fortress to see Garrett’s 2013 performance. He said the wave crashing against the cliff shook the whole castle as the water splashed over the lighthouse.
Taberna D’ Adélia
As if we didn’t get enough good food at Sitiado, dinner was at a much larger establishment in the narrow streets of Praia. Taberna D’ Adélia is known for their fresh fish stew. On display as you walk in are several huge fish on ice, ready to be prepared for the evening meals. Ours began with more tapas – olives, sardines, cheese, octopus, bread and a fish pâté. This was followed by a fish deliciously cooked, but not completely de-boned, which I learned the hard way. Halfway through the fish, eeone of the bones got lodged in my throat. I commented on it at the time, but my ecstasy with the food must have still been registering on my face, since they took it as a joke and laughed it off.
The next course was the famed fish stew, containing large chunks of flesh so delicate it practically melted apart before I could get it to my mouth. The portions were far too much for us to finish, my own serving made more difficult by the fish bone in my throat.
Finally dessert arrived. Or rather desserts (plural). We were served nine different custards and puddings, each of which we all sampled. This time, the bone didn’t hinder me from enjoying as much as I could, which was considerable as everyone else was past satiated. The wine continued to flow, and it was nearly midnight when we finally stumbled back toward our hotel.
We spent the night at Hotel Mare, just up the road from the beach. As far as a hotel went, there weren’t many frills. The room was comfortable, but I really didn’t spend a lot of time in it with our late dinner and then early breakfast. That breakfast was really good – buffet style served in the panoramic dining room on the top floor.
And that was it. Breakfast finished, we all jumped into the van and were on our way to Peniche for our surfing lessons. Stay tuned for that story soon.
For more photos of Nazare, check out the gallery.
Additional articles for central Portugal:
- Follow in my Footsteps: Spending a Week in Central Portugal
- Travel Advice: Finding the Best Accommodations in Santa Cruz, Portugal
- Follow in my Footsteps: Visit the European Surfing Capital of Peniche
- Follow in My Footsteps: The Santa Cruz That Isn’t on Google Maps
Click on the map below to add all the above attractions to your Google Maps.
Planning to visit Portugal?
Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.