From Lisboa to Sines. A short trip on the Alentejo coast


leggi in italiano 🇮🇹


As the plane descended to land in Lisbon, I had the chance to take this picture  – I prefer traveling low-cost but I can’t do it without the window seat!

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I find that the lagoon has an incredible resemblance to the Coração de Viana, which has become one of the symbols of Portugal rapresenting, since classical antiquity, the center of life, solidarity, fraternity and love.

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I spent every summer of my childhood in that lagoon so I’ll start from there this short trip, from Lagoa to Albufeira.
From Lisbon I take the A2 and across the 25 de April bridge: A suspended bridge over the river Tagus (thirty-third longest suspended bridge in the world) built between 1962 and 1966 which, with its 2,277 meters, connects the north to the south of Portugal considering that Tejo river (Tagus) divides the country in half.
The beaches of the Algarve, south of Portugal, are the most popular among tourists while only a few knows the wonders of the west coast, mainly between Lisbon and the Algarve.

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Moving away from the main roads, the landscape gradually becomes more and more rural.
Nearby the lagoon I find a flock of Garvonesi, a typical  bovine breed of this region, the Alentejo.

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These animals were very coveted for their robustness with the consequent labor exploitation. In 1994, when the Garvonesa cow was in danger of extinction, the “Project for the recovery and maintenance of the bovine Garvonês” was launched, with the aim of not only preserving a unique genealogical heritage, but also maintaining and improving the agricultural systems extensive and semi-intensive.
Since 2000, the Garvonesa breed has finally been declared a chosen autochthonous breed, in serious danger.

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Proceeding I soon reach the east end of the lagoon, wich is an ideal place for birdwatchers. Classified since 1987 as a Ramsar place it became a national ecological reserve. In this area has been established the importance of safeguarding the habitat and, in particular, the various species of water birds living there. For furder information click here 

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Continuing, the road moves away from the edge of the lagoon, to cross pine forests as far as the eye can see.

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I turn right, following the preciouse indication of the road sign and now, to avoid getting lost, I keep going straight, ignoring any others signs. I suggest you to do the same.

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I arrive at my destination at lunch time, what a better opportunity to recommend you one of my favorite dishes of the Portuguese cuisine? The pork with clams! (in the menu you find it as carne de porco a alentejana) Do not be discouraged by the meat fish mix, you will be surprised by the goodness. To taste this delicacy I choose the restaurant, facing the lagoon, which you will not find in the guides but I assure you, of excellent quality at a very low price: Restaurante Retiro do Conte.

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The lagoon is fed by sweet water from the Apostiça, Ferraria and Aiana streams, and  salty waters of the Atlantic Ocean when, every year in spring, the canal is open in the dunes.
Lagoa de Albufeira is actually composed of three lagoons: Grande, Pequena and Estacada. It is considered the deepest lagoon in Portugal, reaching 15 meters deep. The calm and warm waters make it perfect for bathing while the wind offshore is ideal for practicing winsdurf, kitesurf and sailing.

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The platforms in the middle of the lagoon are used for mussel farms.

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If you have where to cook them you can buy some directly from the fishermen. Believe me: they are delicious! You will not find any kind of fish stall but you can ask the first fisherman you see near the houses behind me. If you have trouble communicating because of the language just show him this: “Boa tarde, o senhor tem mexilhão para vender? Eu queria comprar mexilhão” … he surely will be happy to satisfy your request.

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I did it and here’s the proof:

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Walking over the big dune, which separates the lagoon from the ocean, we’ll find a completely different landscape: an endless beach of honey-colored sand welcomes the loud waves crashing, which cool the air. This marvelous beach remains practically deserted even in August.

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If you are traveling in a motorhome you can stay for free in the large car park at the side of the road that runs along the lagoon. By doing so you can take advantage of the bathrooms and showers in the adjacent structure and, above all, enjoy this enchanting sunset.

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I say goodbye to this corner of paradise and, retracing my steps, i return to the SN377 road, direct to the Cabo Espichel. I must drive for about 16 km  passing trough small villages without (or almost) the help of road signs, so I rely on the navigator of my cell phone.
The Cabo Espichel is a rocky promontory, 134 meters high. The lighthouse on top is one of the oldest in Portugal having been built in 1790 by order of the
Marquis of Pombal

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The view from up here is extraordinary. I could take a better picture approaching the cliff but the wind is so strong that scares me.

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An hundred meters far from the lighthouse is the Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Pedra Mua.
It seems that in the XIV century in this place, at that time deserte, an image of the Virgin has been found. A small hermitage was built here to keep it. Over time, near the hermitage, the number of houses built to accommodate the pilgrims kept growing so, in 1715, the church was built with lodgings attached.

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I couldn’t photograph the inside of the church but I bought this postcard to show you

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Even the surrounding spaces are worthy of a visit. It’s a shame not to have the camera with me, the blue sky tending to purple perfectly frames the buildings. I tried to capture these images the best I could with my cell phone…

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I continue my journey, now towards Setúbal. However, I imposed Portinho da Arrabida as destination on the navigator and, only after arriving there, I will set Setúbal. In this way I will be able to visit the beaches of the Sado estuary natural reserve, among my favorites in all Portugal.
It is known that the sea of Portugal is rather cold, particularly in the west coast (I recently read that this is due to a particular current that move away the surface waters from the shore leading the deep waters that, although more nutritious, are definitely colder ) but in this bay the water temperature is warmer.
I wonder if is the reason why the dolphins have decided to settle here…

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I arrive in Setúbal, a fishermen’s town since ancient times.
The fleets of fishing boats that leave from this port arrive until groenlandia.
It goes without saying that the fish market in the city is very popular. Unfortunately for me, being Monday, it’s closed…

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Now I imposed Sines as destination on my navigator, although I intend to make an intermediate stop, no longer than a coffee break, in Alcacer do Sal with the hope of being able to admire the rice plantations.
Following the road signs I end up on the wrong side of the river, but is a lucky mistake that gives me a total view of the citty

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In a moment time changes threatening the storm from the north. I have to hurry up but a photo of this set of strictly white houses is mandatory.

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I go up on the modern pedestrian bridge, searching for a better view from above.

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… and there it is, a beautifull field of rice ready to be caught.
Mission accomplished, I can now get back on the road,  Sines is less than an hour from here.

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The city of Sines was populated since prehistoric times and, throughout history, occupied by Celts, Punics, Visigoths, Moors, Romans and perhaps by others whom I do not know.
In the XV and XVI centuries, it was the place chosed for the location of the Italian Naval School, of extreme importance in the formation of naval engineering of the time.

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Vasco da Gama was born here in Sines in 1469, within the walls of this castle.

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I leave you with a curiosity:
Please notice the houses behind me, painted in a particular way. You will find identical decoration in many houses, from north to south of Portugal.
Painting this way the own house is part of an ancient tradition: it is said that framing blue doors and windows prevents evil spirits from entering.

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Here below you find the route of my trip

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If you have questions and suggestions, write me in the comments
Ciao from your Crackita!

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