Surfing in the Algarve, as in almost all of Portugal, is an institution, as in few other places in Europe and a surftrip in the Algarve is therefore a privileged way of getting to know this region, exploring the beaches and especially the waves. Here is the story of our surf (and kitesurf) trip of 15 days through the south of Portugal, between the Algarve and Alentejo to discover wonderful surf spots and the pursuit of the wind to make even some kitesurfing trips.
Our first stop: Carrapateira, Algarve.
To get to Carrapateira we flew to Seville which is about 3 hours drive, more or less the same distance as Lisbon. We landed in Seville around 10 am, we couldn't wait to get to our destination to see the spots, so we immediately set off with our rental car and arrived at the apartment we rented in Carrapateira little after lunch. Just the time to unload the luggage take surfboards and wetsuits and immediately we head towards the nearest beach: Bordeira. We park the car at the edge of the beach and start walking. We walk across a small freshwater stream, then a sand dune, then another ... but how big is this beach? Only from the top of the third sand dune can we finally see the ocean and to realize the enormity of the beach on which we find ourselves, made even wider by a low tide that reaches 4 meters in altitude. Sergio throws himself into the water first, eager to renew his brand new Al Merrick OG Flyer 5.9 '' and I follow him to the wheel. The first impact with water is a shock. Despite the suit 4/3 the water is cold ... exactly as we remembered it fromour surf trip to Peniche two years ago . Who knows why we thought we'd find it warmer in the Algarve!
Surf spot in the Algarve in Carrapateira and surroundings
Carrapateira is a small village made up of a few dozen white and blue houses piled up on a hill around a small square with a surf shop, a couple of bars for a drink after surfing, a grocery and two of the most beautiful beaches in the Algarve: Amado and Bordeira. What makes Carrapateira the ideal destination for a Surf Trip in the Algarve is in fact its strategic position that allows you to reach all the surf spots on the west coast of the Algarve, but also on the south coast in just a few minutes. Our first days are dedicated to exploring the surf spots around Carrapateira as far as Sagres, and then beyond Bordeira, Praia do Amado and praia da Cordoama. These are quite similar to each other, characterized by sandy or mixed sand and rock bottom and right and left waves.
Praia da Bordeira is certainly the most scenic. Not for nothing is it one of the beaches that is the symbol of the Algarve. High cliffs skirt a boundless beach of golden sand that stretches as far as the eye can see, behind it a small freshwater lagoon and facing an azure ocean almost always interrupted by long foamy bars. The walk to get to the spot makes it a little less crowded and less frequented by surf schools than other surf spots in the area, moreover the enormity of the spot makes it possible to choose between different peaks thus avoiding excessive crowding in water.
It is a spot that works with all the tides, without rocks or other obstacles in the water. The waves break on sandbanks and can be both right and left.
Praia do Amado is the most accessible beach from Carrapateira, and this is its main problem. Being able to park very close to the water makes it one of the beaches most frequented by surf schools, as well as by many surfers both from the place and tourists.
Praia da Cordoama is another immense beach on the road to Sagres. It too stretches as far as the eye can see and has many peaks that can be quite crowded both by local and tourists and surf schools, but it is not difficult to find one's own space at sea.
Our favorite surf spot, however, we found a little further north, at Praia de Vale Figueiras , where we found the best waves of all our surf trip. It will be because he gave us an extraordinary sunset session with only two other surfers in the water, it will be because actually here we have found some pretty good rights, it will be because we have met some extremely kind and nice locals ... in any case this is the spot that most of all it will remain in the heart.
Although the swells on arrival were not particularly consistent, in the surroundings of Carrapateira we surfed every day with a wave from the knee to the head and sea almost always glassy.
Kitesurf spot in the Algarve in Carrapateira and surroundings
For the whole week we were in Carrapateira the wind was not seen, or at least not enough to kite surf. Only a couple of days the weather made us think that something might have come in and we moved to the Praia do Tonel, a beach called Piccolo Guinchoand located near Sagres, but in the end the wind remained below 10 knots. The wind in Portugal in the summer blows mainly from the North-East and can also be beyond Force 4. The problem is that usually, unless it is really very strong, in the months of July and August the wind passes offshore with respect to the coast west. Only in some better oriented beaches, such as the Guincho, Costa di Caparica, Fonte da Telha enters well. Isn't kitesurfing in the Algarve in the summer? Well of course it is not so but during the months of July and August the beaches with greater frequency of wind are not those of the west coast of the Algarve, but those of the south coast of the Algarve, between Sagres and Lagos: Martinhal, near Sagres and Meia Praia near Lagos are the busiest, but it is good to know that here the wind from the North East is off shore, therefore these are beaches reserved for experienced riders and in any case for those looking for flat conditions. For those who do not feel like going out with an off-shore wind, there are the lagoons, like that of Alvor, near Lagos, of havens for beginners and freestylers.
Exploring the surroundings of Carrapateira
Between one surf session and another we dedicated ourselves to exploring the surroundings of Carrapateira. The famous Cabo de Sao Vicente has remained in my heart. Looking out over the cliffs of the most extreme point of the European continent makes you think of the first explorers who sailed that perpetually agitated ocean with their ships, heading westwards, completely ignoring their destination. A view that makes us reflect on how much the man, even if infinitely small in front of an ocean so big, can be brave.
Then of course there is the village of Sagres with its restaurants, surf shops and cafes to walk around in the evening.
From the Algarve to the Alentejo and then up to Fonte de Telha
The second week we moved a little further north, near Vila Nova de Milfontes, to expose new surf spots and do some kitesurfing.
Along the way we saw the famous Praia da Arrifana with the small village perched on the cliff leading down to the sea. Beautiful but definitely too crowded to be able to surf even in the morning, when generally all the beaches are not crowded given that almost all the locals do not show up on the beach before 4 pm, regardless of tide and conditions ... well I guess every so much a tear do it, if it really deserves!
Vila Nova de Milfontes beach Praia da Furnas is a huge beach to the left of the mouth of an incredibly clear river, from which you can see the town of Vila Nova with its Fortress. The water is very low up to the islet in front that creates an enormous lagoon in the part closest to the mouth of the river, while in the opposite part waves are formed. In addition to a surf spot, Vilanova beach is also the main Alentejo Kitesurf spot.
Other surfing beaches nearby are to the north, going towards Sines. Praia do Malhao is a very popular beach for both swimmers and surfers, especially beginners, given the absence of rocks or other hazards.
Aivados Beach is a more suitable spot for surfers from intermediate to expert, due to the rocks that especially at low tide can create some problems.
A little further south is the Odeceixe beach , on the border between the Algarve and Alentejo. It is a huge beach, with the mouth of the river creating a lagoon behind it, to the beaches of a delightful village. Here soft waves break on a sandy bottom, creating right and left suitable for everyone and in particular for beginners.
The Alentejo is the region of Portugal north of the Algarve. Expanses of cultivated fields as far as the eye can see, very few houses and a landscape that takes you back in time. Surely a suggestive and relaxing scenario, even if we preferred the cliffs and above all the waves of the Algarve.
Kitesurfing the Tile Fountain
During the second week the swell was really small to have fun surfing, so we decided to move in search of the wind up to Fonte de Telha, where we had been a couple of years ago. Fonte de Telhais one of the kitesurf spots of Portugal with the best chance of wind in summer. A huge beach that extends from Costa di Caparica for kilometers to almost the tip of Capo Espichel. The spot didn't disappoint us, so much so that we stopped a few days to do some kitesurfing with friends who spent their holidays here. Fonte de Telha also deserves for the best bacalhau a bras (grilled cod) of our surf trip cooked by the restaurant Camoes, right in front of the kitesurf spot ... if you pass by here you must definitely try it! (and if you don't pass it it is worth the detour)
The return and the Ryanair strike
The return flight was scheduled for July 25 at 1pm from Seville, about 3 and a half hours drive from our apartment, but when we arrive at the airport, we find out from the board that our flight was canceled due to the Ryanair strike .. at least they had warned us the day before, but nothing! Like us all the other passengers on our flight, and many others, were looking for more flights to return home, but nothing. Almost no flight left and the few who left now were obviously already full. In the end the only decent option was the flight to Verona the following morning, so we booked it and then we went to a hotel near the airport and from there to explore Seville. We had already visited Seville years ago, returning from Tarifa, but I did not remember the beauty of this city. The Plaza de España is really one of the most scenographic architectural spaces in Spain and not only. And what about the excellent sangria and paella we ate for dinner in one of the downtown clubs? Had it not been for a further inconvenience Seville would have easily made us forget the discomforts of the strike. What inconvenience? Now I get there ...
The next morning wake up at dawn to return to the airport and board the flight to Verona, and then from there continue by train to Florence. The flight this time starts but upon arrival, at the usual equipment check before leaving the airport, here is the surprise: two broken boards, including mine really heavily and the third, the new All Merrick patty by Sergio, also it is dented. He didn't want us.
Fortunately we checked everything before leaving the airport ( as I also wrote in this article ), otherwise we would not have been able to make the complaint. So usually iteration: complaint at the airport at the Lost & Found desk and then online form on the Ryanair website once you get home.
Weather: During our two weeks (from 10 to 25 July) we always had good weather with clear skies and without even a cloud, except for the first two days during which the sky was overcast and cold, so much so that we stayed with sweatshirts and jackets on the beach. Every other day the air temperature remained around 22 - 25 degrees. Even parked in the sun the car hardly marked more than 25 °. On the beach, in the sun, it was wonderful. No heat, never too hot, but you could feel the sun warming the skin and sometimes the sand until it burned under your feet. But it was enough to move to the shade to find fresh immediately.
The water was more than cool, it was very cold ... around 17 °. To make some comparison to the Canaries in winter the sea does not go below 19 °, while the Mediterranean, here in Tuscany, hardly falls below 15-16 °. We found the water a little warmer only at Fonte de Telha and at Odeceixe, perhaps because the seabed degraded more gently or perhaps because there was little wave when we entered the water ... so much so that in the afternoon in both spot warmed a lot, up to us with mute shorty. During the rest of the holiday we have always used a 4/3 wetsuit. On hot days a good 3/2 can be enough, especially for kitesurfing, where you are not immersed in water, but to surf and especially if you do not want to run the risk of suffering from cold, I highly recommend a 4/3.
Swell: as I said the portugal is a destination in Europe where even in midsummer a little wave is always found and some swells arrive. It can be more or less large, with a more or less long period, in any case it is difficult not to find some waves to surf, even with the tablet.
Wind: as far as the wind is concerned, as I have already said, in July and August the predominant direction is the North-East (La Nortada). This wind enters well around Lisbon (Guincho first and further south in the Fonte de Telha area). In spring and autumn the wind is more likely to enter even the beaches of the west Algarve (Bordeira and Cordoama). The same wind in July and August blows strongly on the entire south coast of the Algarve, but the direction is offshore, so the lagoons are very busy.
Car: To rent a car in Spain and then go to Portugal it is necessary to check the rental company's conditions before arrival, as many do not allow it, while some allow it but paying a surcharge.
How to get there: the airports of Lisbon and Seville are more or less equidistant from Carrapateira. Choose the one with the best offers or the most comfortable for you.
Camper : Portugal is undoubtedly an ideal destination to visit with a Camper, especially for a surf trip in search of waves. We had rented apartments but we saw that the camper van (or mini van) is one of the most popular options ... maybe next time!
Traveling Children: If, like us, you are traveling with a child (or with children), you should know that in Portugal you will find an ideal climate even for the little ones, but expect some warm jacket for the evening. Surely they will not miss the space to play on the beach, also in many beaches depending on the tides are formed small lagoons ideal for children because the water warms up in the sun and are sheltered from the waves. Some beaches like Bordeira even have large freshwater lagoons behind them, very clean, very hot and full of children who can bathe safely by touching almost anywhere.
Many beaches are equipped, not in the sense that they are walled with bathing establishments like ours (thankfully), but in the sense that there is a small chiringuito for drinking or eating something and the possibility of renting an umbrella. A good alternative is also to bring a parasolese with you, you are able to board it with the boards, or much more conveniently to buy one at your arrival with less than € 10 at the first Lidl you come across. A parasol is still needed, despite the temperatures are not high, because the sun still makes itself felt!
There will be opportunities to meet lots of animals from horses to cows, from sheep to pigs and lots of birds.
If you are traveling with older children (let's say from 6 years upwards) you can take advantage of excellent surf schools specialized in teaching children and young people. There was no beach where there was no advanced surf camp for boys or a class of novice children .... I think it's more fun than the pool ballet with the animator and the baby dance. Or not?