Things to do in the Óbidos region in Portugal
Central Portugal’s alluring west coast features a stunning stretch of sand and sea, a range of nature’s magnificent flora and fauna, and a speckle of winsome towns and landmarks. Óbidos, arguably the most memorable, is a medieval fortified town dramatically perched upon a sloped hilltop, bursting with rural charm and perfectly preserved cobblestone streets. Closer to the sea, the mild, temperate climate nurtures a beach culture suitable for all sensibilities; from couples seeking quiet corners for quality time to surf-heads hunting waves, this small slice of paradise seduces the senses.
The eco-chic rustic rooms and magnificently arched common areas are perfect for a good read and cocktails named after – what else? – famous literary titles and authors
In terms of accommodations, the quaint provincial towns and seaside hubs provide choices ranging from shabby chic to quirky all the way through to refined elegance. In 2013, tiny Óbidos launched a re-branding campaign to turn itself into a haven for the literary set. Featuring an impressive collection of toe-to-ceiling books in several languages, the aptly named The Literary Man is the splendid pay-off for these efforts. The eco-chic rustic rooms and magnificently arched common areas are perfect for a good read and cocktails named after – what else? – famous literary titles and authors. In close proximity to the breath-taking Óbidos Lagoon, the eco-luxe Rio do Prado is a stylish example of responsible tourism; energy efficient straw insulation, locally produced edibles, organic spa products, the list goes on.
Along the same vein, the bohemian-chic Surfers Lodge in beachside Peniche earnestly adopts the free spirit of the surf culture; counters made from recycled boats, locally produced food and wine and impromptu sunset soirees in a trendy spot for adventurous souls. For a decidedly modern flavour, the spacious design rooms and snazzy common areas of the Sana Silver Coast Hotel, located in lovely Caldas da Rainhas, are in sharp contrast to its neoclassical exteriors.
Xakra, arguably the best beach bar in Peniche, is a cheery spot that also offers meals and snacks like octopus salad and choco frito (fried cuttlefish)
On an enchanted stretch of the Atlantic Ocean, Portugal’s west coast has an abundant choice of tasty aquatic victuals served fresh, fried or everything in between. But if you’re willing to experiment with different flavours, head to Casa Antero (in Caldas da Rainha) for a hearty selection petiscos (Portuguese tapas) to be washed down with an ice cold beer or ginja, a syrupy liquor made from cherries. For a casual break, Bar do Bruno, a popular surf spot in nearby Baleal, quenches your thirst in a cosy seaside setting.
Profesco is a fish shop with an unusual concept; visitors order from a selection of fresh seafood that is charged at the counter by weight, then sit at communal picnic tables and wait for their meal to be prepared and served. Xakra, arguably the best beach bar in Peniche, is a cheery spot that also offers meals and snacks like octopus salad and choco frito (fried cuttlefish). Meanwhile in Nazaré, Taberna d’Adelia, once a modest, unassuming eatery for locals, is now one of the best seafood restaurants in town. Dishes of merit include massada de peixe (pasta with fish), caldeirada de peixe (fish stew) and petingas fritas (fried sardines).
Sea, surf & sand
The Óbidos Lagoon, one of the most striking spots on the western coast, is a short scenic drive from the town of Óbidos to Foz do Arelho’s beach, which is precisely where the lagoon meets the ocean. Its diverse ecosystem is home to a plethora of species of migratory birds, and its extensive, calm surface is perfectly suited to the practice of a wide array of water sports including windsurfing, sailing and canoeing. The Escola de Vela da Lagoa offers lessons and equipment for hire and, after a long leisurely day, their adjoining bar and restaurant is a welcome sight. Baleal, home to the majority of surf camps, is conveniently close to Peniche, a well-known fishing port, where surf enthusiasts can enjoy one-stop lessons and surfboard rentals.
Another popular surf spot and fishing centre is the peaceful port of Nazaré, where local ladies of a certain age sell dry fish while sporting traditional “seven skirts”. Legend has it that fishermen’s wives would wear seven petticoats to keep warm as they waited for their husbands to come home from their sea voyages. Whatever the truth is, it is a curious sight to behold. Nearby Praia do Norte is notable for having some of the highest waves in the world; seducing pro surfers to make annual treks to the area. Explore the coast at your leisure and when you’re ready to take it all in, take the funicular to Sitio, the highest point of Nazaré and enjoy a bird’s eye view over the town, the beach and the impressive, crashing waves.
M de Marisco | Photo: Emanuele Siracusa
Casa Antero | Photo: Emanuele Siracusa
Taberna d'Adelia | Photo: Emanuele Siracusa
Taberna d'Adelia | Photo: Emanuele Siracusa
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