Lashed by winds, cursed with salt, pummelled by wave and current, the Alentejo & Vincentine Coast is the archetype of an Atlantic environment. Marking continental Europe’s western-most extreme, this natural park in Portugal’s Algarve offers the traveller one hundred and twenty kilometres of immense beaches backed by towering dune systems, of lonely headlands receiving the brunt of the ocean’s energy, of rural tracks leading through the scrublands of the coast the hills of her mountainous interior, from whose heights the entire Algarve can be contemplated, from its urban southern shore to her well protected western face.
Urban development and mass tourism have meant that much of the natural beauty of the Algarve’s southern shoreline has been lost to burgeoning port cities and sprawling residential communities that blossom around Portimão, Faro, and Lagos. But on the western-facing coast there remains a balance between agricultural utility and natural intrinsic value, between the need for tourism and the imperative of conservation.
Though the national park is a Mecca for caravanning Central Europeans, this extra traffic has not resulted in the colonisation and conquest of the landscape by the constructions of mass tourism. Here you can find yourself alone on the sand surrounded by towering cliffs, alone on the shore against the violent waves, alone on a headland pushed and pulled by mighty winds.
The Algarve is the Atlantic. The natural elements here are ferocious, the force of wind and wave carve out what must be one of the most spectacular coastlines of Europe, a coastline where the ochre orange earth clashes with the deepest hue of the sea’s blue and the strongest sunset shades of the burning sky.
Lives and Times…
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See the previous instalment, The Ons Oasis, on an Atlantic island community off Galicia’s southern shores.
Writing on the World Around Us…