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Portugal has almost 850 km of coast, a lot of which consists of beaches. The country boasts around 3,000 hours of sun a year and this, combined with a generally mild climate, makes it very attractive to foreign visitors. Portuguese beaches vie with the beaches of Greece, Spain and Italy and regularly win awards and distinctions in different categories, such as those from European Best Destinations, Condé Nast Traveler and World Travel Awards.
Some award-winning beaches are Marinha and Carvoeiro in the Algarve, Odeceixe in the Sudoeste region, Miramar in the Norte region and Galapinhos in Setúbal. Portugal boasts the third largest beach in Europe, 65 km long – from Tróia to Sines – on the west coast. The country has beaches to suit all tastes and moods. The colours of the sea range from turquoise to emerald green in contrast with the fine, pale sand. The natural environment makes many of them scenic and dramatic, with cliffs that protect them, majestic rock formations and caves that share the sands with beachgoers. Many of them are in the Algarve. To get to others, you have to pass vast protected areas of dunes such as S. Jacinto (nature reserve in Aveiro, in the Centro region), Vila do Conde (bird sanctuary and protected landscape in Litoral Norte); Sintra-Cascais (a nature park north of Lisbon), those in the western Algarve, Sudoeste nature park and Vicentina Coast. Others consist of white sands lying between the blue of the sea and hills or luxuriant slopes, like the long beaches of Costa da Caparica (south of Lisbon) protected by its fossil cliff and the cosy, almost virgin beaches in the Serra da Arrábida Nature Park.
Some are islands or peninsulas, such as Berlengas, Baleal (Peniche, Centro) or Tavira and Odeceixe (Algarve). There are beaches sculpted by river estuaries offering unique scenery and environments, such as Vila Nova de Mil Fontes, Amoreira or Faro (south-east coast and Algarve). Most beaches have access via walkways over the dunes or down wooden stairways. Many of these beaches have amenities like good restaurants, open-air cafés and bars so that beachgoers from Portugal and abroad lack nothing. But there are also beaches in urban settings and the whole coast is dotted with towns and villages and their beaches, where you can go whenever you want a break from everyday life. There are even towns and villages that have grown on rocky outcrops and mountainsides overlooking the sea. In 2020 Portugal has 360 blue-flag beaches. The blue flag is the symbol of excellence in environmental quality awarded by the Foundation for Environmental Education in Europe.
With so many Atlantic beaches, Portugal has become an international surfing destination. With waves to suit all tastes and levels of experience, amateurs and professionals, there are spots all along the coast for surfing and body-boarding, where Portuguese and foreign regulars surf all year round. Portugal hosts national and global competitions. Some beaches have a regular place on world circuits, such as those in Ericeira (the only World Surfing Reserve in Europe designated by the Save The Waves Coalition), Guincho and Carcavelos (Lisbon), Cabedelo (Norte), Peniche and Nazaré (Centro). The Litoral Sul and Algarve beaches receive many surfing holidaymakers and have also won the hearts of many foreign surfers living in Portugal
Thanks to the excellent natural conditions, golf is a sport that has been developing considerably in Portugal. According to KPMG, in 2017 there were 79 golf courses and almost 16,000 registered golfers, most of whom were foreigners. This number has been increasing every year and has placed Portugal in 19th place in Europe in this category. Most of the golf links are in the Algarve and the Lisbon region, though there are also excellent courses in the Centro region. There are courses to suit all preferences in terms of climate, surroundings and experience. Many of the courses boast not only luxury hotels, but also villa and apartment resorts that are second homes for many foreign golfers. Many Portuguese golf courses were designed by world-renowned architects. Portugal was voted the best golf destination in Europe every year between 2014 and 2019 and the best golf destination in the world in 2018 (World Golf Awards). In 2019 Golf World magazine included two Portuguese golf courses among the 10 best in Europe and 14 in the best 100. Many of them have remained in the rankings for a number of years. The International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO) voted the Algarve the 2020 worldwide best golf destination of the year. One golf course in Portugal’s Centro region ranks third on the list of the 100 best courses in Europe. Portugal’s attraction as a golf destination is down to factors like the climate, meaning that golfers can play all year round, beautiful scenery, stunning surroundings and the quality of amenities. But let’s not forget the quality of life, cuisine and Portuguese hospitality.
Sources: APA. www.ipambiente.pt; Associação Bandeira Azul. www.bandeiraazul.abae.pt; International Association of Golf Tour Operators. www.IAGTO.com; Mafra Municipal Council. www.cm-mafra.pt; Condé Nast Traveler. www.cntraveler.com; European Best Destinations. www.europeanbestdestinations.com; Golf World Top 100. www.golfworldtop100.com; Golfe Portugal www.golfe.pt; Portuguese Government. www.portugal.gov.pt; ICNF. www.icnf.pt/; KPMG. www.kpmg.com; NaturConde. www.naturconde.pt; Portugal de Norte a Sul. www.portugaldenorteasul.pt; Turismo de Portugal. www.visitportugal.com; Viagens Sapo. www.viagens.sapo.pt; Weather online. www.weatheronline.pt. World Travel Awards www.worldtravelawards.com