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Portugal Coast

Portugal enjoys both a Mediterranean and Atlantic coast – its island groups the Azores and Madeira also lie in the Atlantic. The Algarve with its mild climate and stunning varied coastline has long been a popular holiday destination in southern Europe. The main resorts lie on the warm Mediterranean coast between Faro and Lagos. Albufeira is probably the busiest of these. The pretty whitewashed fishing town looks down over the beach dotted with colourful fishing boats. Further along the coast the smaller fishing village of Carvoeiro is surrounded by small sandy coves which are excellent for swimming and snorkelling. The popular Praia da Rocha near Portimão is a sandy beach backed by red cliffs and the calm waters are suitable for all water sports. Dona Ana near Lagosis one of the prettiest beaches on the Algarve and from here you can take a boat trip to see nearby caves. Further west towards Sagres is the wide sandy beach of Martinhal. The beach is well sheltered and boasts an aquatic schooloffering parasailing, water-skiing and windsurfing. For the children there are water-parks at Almancil and near Portimão.  If you have time drive out to the wild and windswept headland of Cabo de São Vicente (Cape St Vincent) where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic – it is the most south-westerly point of Europe. If you are looking to escape the crowds then head round the Cape to the deserted Atlantic Castelejo beach near Vila de Bospo only accessible by rough track. Alternatively head inland from Portimão to one of the pretty hillside villages such as Monchique in the wooded area known as Serra de Monchique which is also ideal walking country. Alternatively head for Tavira east of Faro. Here you will find 18th century classical façades along the waterfront of the river Gilão and pretty, shady gardens to rest in.The town boasts no less than 20 churches and a ruined castle with great views and just a short boat journey offshore takes you to the Ilha de Tavira with its superb sandspit beach and total peace and quiet.
 
Heading north up the Atlantic coast towards Lisbon is the unspoilt Alentejo coast. Zambujeira Do Mar and Vila Nova Milfontes are low-key resorts with lovely beaches and the latter is popular with surfers. The Lisbon coast boasts the cosmopolitan resorts of Estoril and Cascais. There are some pretty beach resorts west of Colares such as Azenhas do Mar and Praia Grande – both have natural saltwater swimming pools. Further north the old fishing villages of Guincho and Ericeira are popularwith surfers. Estremadurahas lovely unspoilt sandy beaches around Nazaré and along the Pinhal de Leira forest such as São Martinho do Porto. Figueria de Foz on the Beiras coast is a busy seaside resort and also attracts surfers. Finally, close to the Spanish border in the Minho region are the lovely beaches of Praia do Cabedelo and Vila Praia de Âncora, either side of the fishing center of Viana do Castelo.
 
The island of Madeira off the African coast with its endless sunshine and sub-tropical flora tends to attract keen walkers (See Outdoors), plant lovers, divers and surfers. However Madeira does lack good sandy beaches whereas the island of Porto Santo nearby offers 9km of golden sandy beach along its south coast with excellent snorkelling.
 
Further west in the Atlantic lie the more temperate Azores. It is possible to go whale and dolphin watching between May and October, either by boat or from land based towers known as vigias. Surfing is popular on the north coast of the island of São Miguel. The Azores attract mostly walkers and those really looking to get away from it all. You won’t be disappointed!