Advantages A nice place to relax and enjoy the west coast of Portugal
Disadvantages It is a bit out of the way and not as many facilities as most tourists would like
|Is it worth visiting?|
The West Coast of Portugal is one of my favourite places ever. There is something magical about the rock formations, the wild Atlantic Coast, miles and miles of sandy beaches, high, undulating sand dunes and scruffy, wispy scrub land. This coastline also has some of the strangest plants I have encountered. In Spring time the colour of the blooms are stunning but they are not the easiest of plants to touch as they seem to want to bite back. Every time I kneel down amongst the rocks to touch petals, stems and leaves I always come away with a nasty scratch or sting - it's as if they don't want to be handled only admired in their wild, rugged state.Situated in the 'Parque Natural da Costa Vicentina'; a protected area of great beauty and tranquility, Arifana beach stands out as one of the finest beaches on the West Coast. It isn't my favourite beach along this jagged stretch but it is definitely up there in my top 5.
Firstly, the drive to the beach from the main Aljezur road is crazy with high, winding roads and spectacular views of the fertile valleys around. You can drive straight down to the beach but the road is very narrow and a better idea is to leave your car at the top of the cliff and walk down. I think what is striking about Arifana is the colour of the cliffs - they are different from other parts of this coastline; a very dark grey turning to jet black on a stormy day. The quality of light during winter and early spring is so clear - it is unreal. Fantastic for artists and photographers.The stretch of beach is long and crescent shaped, In winter sometimes I have been the only person walking along this soft, fine, yellow stretch. My only other companions, a couple of surfers way off in the distance, rolling and gliding over the angry waves of the Atlantic. In summer it's a different story as sun worshippers escape from the main Algarve beaches to find a little corner of beach just for themselves. Even in August this beach doesn't really get crowded even when surfing championships are being held.
Fishing is very important in Arifana and the small community is still thriving. Fishermens houses are perched on top of the cliff alongside the old Roman fort which was originally built to protect them. Early morning is a good time to see the men go out in their brightly painted boats. As they trail out to sea the colours of their boats blend in with the orange, amber glow from the sun as it slowly makes a move into the azure sky. An amazing sight and one I never will erase from my memory.As you might guess fish is the main dish of the day served in the village restaurants and it is indeed very fresh. There are lots of delicious ways to eat fish in this part of the world but my favourite way is just simply grilled, drizzled with olive oil, a touch of rock salt and some fresh coriander. A good hearty fish stew is also worth a go - in this dish everything is thrown in and usually served in a pan with the lid on. The aromas once you have taken the pan lid off will knock you for six as they are so evocative with the fresh salty smell of the sea, white wine, juicy tomatoes, olive oil, soft, delicate red peppers and that favourite herb of mine - coriander which the Portuguese actually call Salsa.
The valleys along the west coast are very green and fertile and famous for growing sweet potatoes so you will see this reddish, sweetish delicacy in most of the dishes and desserts. The word for sweet potato in Portuguese is batata doce so worth remembering.So there you have my insight into Arifana, a very pleasant place to visit with a family or just somewhere to go on your own especially in the winter months. This coastline does seem to have it's own little climate which is so different from the Algarve. It can be chilly even in May and very often sea mists will sweep over the cliff tops making it impossible to see what is in front of you. Always best to take a sweater!
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