On the wild western edge of Europe, this untamed coast has been protected from overdevelopment by its national park status. Instead of high-rise hotels and golf courses you will find exhilarating sweeps of sand backed by cliffs, whitewashed fishing villages and some of the best surf in Europe.
What to do
The toughest decision you’ll have to make each day is which of the many divine beaches to head for: Porto Covo, Malhão, Vila Nova de Milfontes, Bordeira or Praia do Amado. The waves can be fearsome, but there are gentler spots for swimming (plus a great beach café) at lovely Odeceixe, where the River Ceixe spills into the sea. The surf school here is perfect for beginners (odeceixesurfschool.com). Cabo de São Vicente, once the end of the known world and home to a famous school for explorers in the 15th century, is worth a day trip: just make sure you’re at the lighthouse for sunset. Take a hike along the Rota Vicentina, a new long-distance trail which hugs the coast. Inntravel has seven-night self-guided walking holidays from £710pp (inntravel.co.uk).
Where to eat
Restaurant Azenha do Mar, on a clifftop near Odeceixe, is slightly off the beaten track but worth a detour for its cheap, super-fresh seafood (Praia da Azenha do Mar, +351 282 947 297). Get here early for lunch: they don’t take bookings and the Portuguese start queuing at noon for the house specials: dressed crab served with buttered toast, seafood feijoada and octopus salad.
Where to stay
Casa Fajara offers the best of both worlds: a lovely rural setting close to the coastal village of Carrapateira (from €73, casafajara.com). Rooms are rustic but stylish, and there are pretty gardens with a pool and tennis court. Bike hire, yoga classes and spa treatments can be arranged.
“Explore the headland at Cabo Sardão, between Herdade do Touril and Longueira. It’s one of the best spots in Europe to see the famous cliff-nesting storks,” says Inntravel’s James Keane.