Portugal is home to some truly epic beach scenery. The popular Algarve region in the south of the country is renowned for its golden sands studded with incredible cliffs and rock formations, while the wilder Atlantic shores sport rolling waves perfect for surfers.
But which are the best beaches to make a beeline for?
Here are 10 of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal, from the Insta-worthy sea caves of Benagil and the postcard-worthy fishing village of Carvoeiro to the striking waterfront chapel of Miramar, and unusual red cliffs at Falesia.
PRAIA DE MARINHA
There are so many beautiful beaches in the Algarve that it’s difficult to know where to start. So why not start with one of Portugal’s most iconic beaches – Praia de Marinha. Surrounded by golden limestone cliffs and accessed by stairs from the car park and walking trail, the sand is soft, the water is clear, and there are plenty of caves and sea stacks to explore.
PRAIA DA ARRIFANA
For a taste of Big Nature head to the western shores of the Algarve where tourism takes a backseat to the wind and the waves. The pretty clifftop village of Arrifana has managed to retain its local character whilst its huge beach attracts surfers and outdoorsy-types year-round.
PRAIA DONA ANA
Praia Dona Ana has an incredibly photogenic setting and some of the best rock formations in the Algarve. The cliffs provide shelter from the sun and wind. It’s one of the more popular beaches in the area thanks to its proximity to the roads and hotels of Lagos (2.5km), so visit out of season to appreciate its true beauty.
PRAIA DO CAMILO
One of the most recognisable symbols of Algarve tourism are the wooden steps leading down to Praia do Camilo, one of Lagos’ best beaches. Camilo has plenty of unusual rock formations and beautiful translucent water, but being just a 30-minute walk from the centre of town it does get busy, particularly when the tide is high.
PRAIA DE BENAGIL
Portugal’s other blockbuster beach site – Benagil – is famous for its incredible sea-caves. The beach itself is a wedge of white sand stuck between impressive cliffs. From the beach, you can take a boat trip to the beach-in-a-cave which has a unique hole in its roof. The beach is accessed by a steep road from the small fishing village of Benagil which is also a popular spot for cliff-jumping and hiking.
PRAIA DO CARVOEIRO
The fishing village of Carvoeiro is surely the most picturesque in the Algarve with its colourful houses tumbling down the cliffs to a beautiful sandy beach. Now a popular resort firmly on the tourist radar, it can get very crowded in the height of summer but there are plenty of quieter beaches and caves nearby for exploration.
PRAIA DA MIRAMAR
Representing the stretch of Atlantic Coast near to Porto is the photogenic Praia de Miramar. A wide sandy beach, its central attraction is the small 17th-century chapel Senhor da Pedra (‘Lord of the Rock’) which lends it a mystical air, particularly in the winter. The beach is pleasantly crowd-free for most of the year.
PRAIA DE FALESIA
The beach of Falesia is backed by striking red cliffs that extend along the coast for over 6km, which have eroded over the years leaving orangey sands. There’s something for everyone along this beach. The Albufeira end is known for its nightlife and watersports. The sea is shallow and ideal for children, whereas nature-lovers can take long walks along the beach(it will take around 2 hours to walk the length of) or the clifftop trail admiring the unusual flora.
PRAIA DO CARVALHO
Another one of the Algarve’s beauty spots, Carvalho is a good bet if you’re looking for a quieter beach along this stretch of coastline. It’s no surprise it used to be a smugglers’ cove; the sumptuous sands are still tricky to access through hidden tunnels and stairs in the rocks. Pack your own picnic are there here are no facilities or restaurants here.
PRAIA DA URSA
Many visitors to Portugal visit the fairytale palaces of Sintra, but few know that the area is home to some stunning beaches. Close to the most westerly point in Europe, you’ll have to walk for 1hr to reach it but Ursa Beach (named for a rock formation that resembles a bear) rewards you with its pristine wild beauty.