Neanderthals, Celts, Visigoths, Romans, Moors, and the Spanish army all hold 1 thing in common: after arriving in Portugal, they all had no desire to leave. The Portuguese themselves, being exceptionally skilled seafaring folk, still joined in the race for colonial expansion, hoping to transform the small kingdom into an imperial power. Centuries later they realized that all you could ever wish for was right in their backyard.
The modern day (European) surfer will most likely acknowledge this: with 830 kilometers of coastline, a large variety of beach- and reef breaks a famous big wave spot (Nazare) and host to one of the WSL Championship Tour stops (Supertubos) this is probably the best surfing travel destination in Europe. Personally, having traveled to multiple countries in and outside of Europe, I think nothing compares to it.
During my first visit, I remember driving through a sleepy rural village in the Algarve and seeing 6 elderly men, seated on a sheltered stone bench, holding their canes whilst discussing local current affairs. It is exactly this image that symbolizes Portugal and its people. The pace of life is still calm and focused on enjoying all the good things in life.
Blessed with a dry, warm climate and fertile soil it’s no surprise they produce exquisite wines, served whilst eating deliciously fresh fish. Especially in the North, fishermen still use the traditional, sustainable fishing methods: using only 1 fishing boat, a gill-net is brought 500 m offshore and slowly pulled in with 2 tractors, without trawling over the seabed. Because of the specific mesh size, only standard sized fish are caught, preventing unwanted by-catch and sparing the juveniles and adults to secure future fish stocks. Simple yet productive, the catch feeds a big part of the village and supplies a regular income as well.
As for the waves, the country caters for all tastes: with the warm gentle beach breaks down South to the raw, rugged slabs in the North, the coastline mimics an endless wave park. Certain areas are considered so exceptional they even gained protection status as an actual national surfing reserve.
Is there more to this beautiful place? Oh yes! Cheap costs of living, warm-hearted people (behind a dour exterior), breathtaking sceneries, historical, vibrant cities, good public transport, fairy tale castles, deserted natural parks, to only name a few. It’s no wonder that all who ever arrived, never wanted to leave. And I’m just another one of them…