It is one of the best preserved coastlines in Europe. It is also one of the wildest, least explored and most spectacular protected territories within Iberia. Look no further if you desire ‘off the beaten track’ holidays: the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park has deserted beaches aplenty, stunning landscapes rich in wildlife and pretty neat backwaters. In fact, from the port town of Sines, in Alentejo, to Cape Saint Vincent down in the south, there are thousands of acres with no major city in sight – there are only quiet small towns, quaint villages and tiny hamlets.

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Scattered throughout the region visitors will find a wide choice of little hotels, traditional pousadas, and country houses from where to explore the park, be it with a romantic pair or with the entire family. The park itself stretches for over 130 kilometers between charming Porto Covo, in the Alentejo, and the village of Burgau in the Algarve. The park is blessed with a truly beautiful seascape. For miles and miles, jagged cliffs – often crowned with pristine wind-blown dunes – are mixed together with sheltered inlets and extensive beaches where small water streams have engraved a way down to the sea (see also Castelejo Trail, Carrapateira Trail and Telheiro Beach Trail). All these remarkable geological features have created a variety of distinctive plant and bird habitats.

The focus of the natural park is famed Sagres Peninsula, where Sagres Point and Cape Saint Vincent are located. Here, the imposing limestone cliffs have been carved into a series of rugged headlands and offshore sea stacks that signal the extreme southwestern finale of mainland Europe. In fact, for millennia this exact site was considered the end of the known European world (see also Cape Saint Vincent | Quick Travel Advice). All that changed in the early 15th century, when Prince Henry the Navigator established a school of navigation in Sagres from which the European Age of Discovery was launched into the big blue unknown.

 

 

Persistently beaten by stormy Atlantic waves, this peninsula is topped by a vast limestone plateau where unique plants abound, most notably singular species like Biscutella vicentina, Plantago almogravensis and Cistus palhinhae. Coming spring, a masterpiece of colour and texture starts to arise on the park, courtesy of about 700 species of plants and their flowers, of which 100 are rare or endemic to these distant shores. Nowadays, the park is one of the few places in Europe where otters still feed in seawater. It is also the only place in the world where the graceful White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) nests on sea cliffs. The cliffs are also the nesting grounds of Red-billed Choughs and Peregrine Falcons, among other species. Indeed, the birdlife is very diverse, and includes both rare migrants and a few notable residents – more than 200 bird species have been recorded in Costa Vicentina. Please see the Algarve Birding Hotspots category on the menu above for details.

Apart from walking, hiking, birdwatching and sunbathing, there are countless things to do, savor, and to just explore and have great fun along the Vicentine Coast. Here, the local gastronomy is based on fish and shellfish caught day in and day out using small, artisanal boats – and this seafood comes from crystalline pure waters. There are also relaxing spas, horse riding, golf, and a plethora of sports and water sports, from surfing to diving, and from snorkeling to leisure fishing. Alas, Costa Vicentina is a great wild retreat for those wishing to revive their body and soul in a fittingly reinvigorating natural setting.