When I was planning which destinations I wanted to visit for the initiative #IStayInPortugal, two villages came to mind: Vila Nova de Milfontes and Zambujeira do Mar.
Not that I had never been there before. When I travel to Sagres, one of my favorite routes is to run the coast towards the South, passing through all its most emblematic places (and beaches).
But, to tell you the truth, the passages I made there were always brief, never giving time to get to know the area in more detail. So, when this initiative came up, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to do so.
I took a long weekend and set track towards Alentejo. I confess that now that the trip is over, I should have added an extra day or two, so I wouldn’t do things in a rush and enjoy those beaches more calmly. But this itinerary is totally achievable. In fact, it was the plan I followed. Proof that it’s possible to see and do many things, even when time is short.
So let’s do it! Ready to visit Vila Nova de Milfontes, Zambujeira do Mar and surroundings?
In and around Odemira
– Pego das Pias
– Santa Clara Dam
– Brejo Largo Beach
– Porto das Barcas
Beaches and Vila Nova de Milfontes
– Aivados and Malhão Beaches
– Vila Nova de Milfontes
Towards Zambujeira do Mar
– SUP Yoga in Milfontes
– Cabo Sardão
– O Sacas
– Zambujeira do Mar and beaches
– Amália Beach
Things to do in and around Odemira
DAY 1 — Morning: Odemira
I arrived in Vila Nova de Milfontes the day before because I wanted to wake up and start this incredible exploration trip early. And the first chosen destination wasn’t Milfontes (we’ll get there), but Odemira, the primary village of this vast Alentejo municipality.
The place bathed by the River Mira, the same that reaches the sea near Vila Nova de Milfontes, has a past that dates back to the Arab occupation. However, little resisted the passage of years.
The castle is the only testimony that still exists, and even the little that remains was transformed into the municipal library.
But Odemira still has its charm!
The village spreads out on a small slope, like an amphitheater composed of white houses that contrast with the green of nature, leading the river downstream. And many take advantage of these waters to stroll the riverbank or go rowing and canoeing.
Then there are little secrets that are worth everything, like the Beatriz Chocolate Factory. “A chocolate factory in the heart of the Alentejo?” you must be thinking. Yes! It’s a small space open to the public full of delights that conquer every bit. Order a glass of cold chocolate and a few squares of red pepper chocolate, and you’ll not regret it. 😉
DAY 1 — Morning: Pego das Pias
After leaving Odemira, I drove to Pego das Pias. Apparently, it’s well known by the locals, but I had never heard of it.
Taken by a friend’s tip and images I found on the internet, I put this place on the list… and it was the best thing I did!
Pego das Pias is lovely!
Located between São Luís and Odemira, it’s a series of rock formations accompanied by a watercourse, which forms incredible pools for bathing.
In my case, I couldn’t resist and put the SUP in the water, following the course upwards as far as the terrain configuration allows us to go.
It was a beautiful ride! And some say that if we look closely, we will see turtles laying in the sun on the rocks. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see any.
DAY 1 – Afternoon: Santa Clara Dam
I had decided that on this first day of the itinerary, I would go a little further and a bit deeper into the region, so the next destination was the Santa Clara Dam. From Odemira, it’s about an hour’s drive. On the way, you can get an idea of a different Alentejo, one that is already beginning to receive some influences from the Monchique Mountain.
The Santa Clara Dam impresses with its size. Close to the town of Santa Clara-a-Velha, the water mirror of this enormous reservoir is very popular for water sports or fishing. But it’s the river beach that delights those who visit the place. Mainly because it has a platform that forms swimming pools and is a resting spot for those who want to bathe in these waters.
Satisfied with my dives in Pego das Pias, I stayed this time on the sidelines, while Nuno, who accompanied me on this trip, found the perfect playground to try the wing foil. 😉
DAY 1 — Afternoon: Brejo Largo Beach
Returning from the Santa Clara Dam, I had an engagement with the sunset at Brejo Largo Beach.
There’s no direct access to it. Had it not been for the GPS, I would have hardly found it. Incidentally, the first route that the application took led to a dead-end road. On the second attempt, I arrived at an improvised sand parking lot and took a trail leading to the seaside. This passage is, in fact, part of the Fishermen’s Trail, one of the most well-known and beautiful paths of the fabulous Rota Vicentina.
Walking along the sand and coastal vegetation trail, with the sea peeking and the sun going down, was magical. And the view of Brejo Largo was the icing on the cake.
The difficult access to this place is also part of its charm and allows this vast beach to be among the most peaceful in the region.
DAY 1 — Night: Porto das Barcas
I closed the first day of visiting the region of Vila Nova de Milfontes in my favorite restaurant in this village… and one of my favorites in the country! Porto das Barcas.
The restaurant led by Sofia Cabecinha is a Milfontes classic and for a good reason! Its location, close to the fishing port, is perfect for enjoying a good wine watching the sunset. The fish and seafood here are the freshest there is, and the meat and side dishes fill our eyes and stomach.
Sofia is always innovating dishes! Proof of this is the Portuguese Tuna I ate… and cried for more!
The beaches and Vila Nova de Milfontes
DAY 2 – Morning: Aivados and Malhão beaches
Waking up in Vila Nova de Milfontes, at the Hotel Rural Moita Mar, in particular, is an incredible experience. The air of the Alentejo coast, the noise of birds, and the staff’s friendliness make any day start on the right foot.
I had set aside the morning to visit the beaches north of Milfontes. Aivados and Malhão, in particular. These have been a stopping point for years when I want to surf in the area. Unfortunately, this weekend, the swell didn’t help, and the surfboards didn’t get out of the car.
Despite this, the beauty of these sands is immense. Inserted in the Natural Park of the Southwest Alentejo and Costa Vicentina, we are divided between the immensity of pebbles of Aivados and the vast sandbank of Malhão. Always with beautiful vegetation to frame these stretches of the Alentejo coast.
DAY 2 – Afternoon: Vila Nova de Milfontes
After lunch at the best sandwich and salad place in the village, Paparoca, the afternoon was spent visiting Vila Nova de Milfontes.
Known as the “Alentejo Princess”, Milfontes is a beautiful place, super relaxed, and with a center that is well worth the visit.
One of my favorite places is the Fort of São Clemente square. Despite being closed, this fortification, also known as Milfontes Castle, had the function of protecting the local port and maritime access, upstream, to Odemira, often tempted by pirates who came from North Africa.
Those times are long gone, but the Fort of São Clemente remains firm on the hillside and is a local landmark.
In front of it, it’s possible to see another emblematic element of the village: the monument to the “Pátria” airplane that celebrates what was the first air crossing between Lisbon and Macau, in 1924, carried out by aviators Brito Paes and Sarmento de Beires.
In this small square, it’s also common to see painters trying to capture the landscape in canvas, such is the beauty of the view.
Of course, no trip to Milfontes is complete without a stroll through its streets and alleys and a stop at Mabi for the best croissants and ice cream in the region!
Towards Zambujeira do Mar
DAY 3 – Morning: SUP Yoga in Milfontes
After meeting Nina, a local yoga instructor at Moita Mar, I woke up early to go to the Mira River’s right bank for my debut… SUP Yoga!
Mira offers the ideal conditions for a series of aquatic activities, and SUP Yoga is one of them since it makes the best of the calm of those waters.
Needless to say, I became a fan! The exercises are adapted to the board and the stability it offers, and I really want to do it again.
DAY 3 – Morning: Cabo Sardão
After the SUP Yoga class was over, it was time to say goodbye to Vila Nova de Milfontes and continue on our way towards Zambujeira do Mar.
But not before stopping at Cabo Sardão. The lighthouse that exists here came into operation in April 1915, and even today, it signals the proximity to the Portuguese coast.
This sentinel shares the westernmost point of the Alentejo coast with white storks and other birds that have their land there. If you are a bird lover, this is a good observation point.
DAY 3 – Afternoon: O Sacas
Technical stop for lunch at another great restaurant in the region, this time closer to Zambujeira do Mar: O Sacas!
This house is a classic, and here we can find the freshest fish and seafood since it’s near Entrada da Barca, the local fishing port.
Here and for the first time, I tried the Polvo à Bulhão Pato (octopus), and I assure you that it is divine!
DAY 3 – Afternoon: Zambujeira do Mar
Zambujeira do Mar is a small town, and many consider that it has little to see. In fact, apart from the Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Mar, next to which is a viewpoint, the main attractions of this Alentejo village are the relaxed atmosphere it provides and the beaches.
In addition to the large Zambujeira do Mar Beach, I couldn’t resist visiting the beaches of Alteirinhos and, a little further down, Carvalhal.
The fact that they are inserted in the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Park makes them stand out for their natural beauty, with magnificent escarpments, slopes, and extensive vegetation covered by walking trails.
DAY 3 – Afternoon: Amália’s Beach
I close these three days of the itinerary through Vila Nova de Milfontes and Zambujeira do Mar with the perfect spot!
I had already heard of Amália’s Beach and how beautiful it is, so I decided to go on the road and try to discover it with the help of GPS.
Amália’s Beach got its name because it was visited by the great Portuguese fado singer, Amália Rodrigues, who had a holiday home next to this small sand nestled in the rock.
Today, Amália’s old house has been transformed into local accommodation. Still, the access to the beach is public and made by a trail through the vegetation, accompanied by the water’s sound. It’s perfect!
Map of the places visited
As I said at the beginning of this post, I only had three days to discover this incredible region, but there’s so much more to see or even to enjoy more calmly. Of course, it’s still the perfect excuse to return again and again.
I hope these tips are useful for your next visit to Vila Nova de Milfontes and Zambujeira do Mar and, if you have other suggestions, be sure to share them in the comments box below.
Itinerary from Vila Nova de Milfontes to Zambujeira do Mar, Portugal
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