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Sesimbra – That sweetest little fishing village in Portugal charms its visitors time and time again, and I don’t wonder why. Located in the Setúbal district, just over half an hour by train from the center of Lisbon, this old and idyllic gem hides inside it the atmosphere of the old town, the cozy hustle and bustle of the seafront promenade, history, nature and stunning beaches. Be enchanted by the spectacular views from Sesimbra Castle, treat yourself to local food and set out on an adventure to one of the most beautiful beaches in Arrábida Natural Park – Or take on the challenge and hike to the clear sea views of Praia do Ribeiro do Cavalo’s secret beach cove!
WHAT TO DO IN SESIMBRA?
The center of Sesimbra is full of the atmosphere of the old town and the fishing village, with winding little streets, boutiques and colorful buildings, cozy little restaurants and cafes, as well as interesting details for photography enthusiasts. The center descends to the sunny wide Praia do California beach and its relaxed promenade, with a great variety of restaurants, cafes and bars to suit all tastes and needs.
Next to the town center rises a high mountainside up to the gray Moorish castle of Sesimbra, Castelo dos Mouros. The castle was classified as the National Monument of Portugal in 1910 and the panoramic views of this strategically well placed castle are well worth a visit. There is no entrance fee to the castle and inside its walls you will also find the old cemetery and the church of Santa Maria do Castelo, whose interior walls are decorated with beautiful blue and white azulejos.
In addition to the Moorish castle, it is also worth visiting the beachfront fortress of Sesimbra, the Fort of Santiago, which now also serves as a maritime museum and to which local fishermen have also donated old artifacts.
PADDLE BOARDING AT LAGOA DA ALBUFEIRA
Are you interested in paddle boarding, but the waves of the Atlantic scare you?
For the first time, we went to experiment paddle boarding with Johanna M., one of the writers of the blog Muu maa Mandariini, in the lagoon of Albufeira, where you can paddle board in peace without too much waves. The lagoon is a good spot for testing your own skills in various water activities, such as windsurfing and sup, as the lagoon has good equipment rentals and guides. This bluishly beautiful lagoon is wonderful to land on the sandbanks in the middle of it to watch crabs, but you should watch your toes, as the crabs may appear surprisingly close!
At the end of the activities, you can relax on the beach either on the shore of the lagoon, or head to the seaside to jump in the waves and enjoy the views of the Atlantic Ocean.
HISTORIC CABO ESPICHEL
The famous Cabo Espichel is located on the westernmost tip of the Setúbal district, about a 15km drive from the center of Sesimbra. Here, the steep rock walls meet the swarming waves and the magnificent coastal landscape still stays in the mind long after the visit.
The Santuario de Nossa Senhora do Cabo Espichel, in English the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Cape Espichel, has been a popular destination among both pilgrims and scientists. The story goes that this 17th-century site has attracted pilgrims because the Virgin Mary has been seen riding a giant mule along the cliffs in the area. A short distance from the church also rises the lighthouse of Cabo Espichel, which is still in operation and also receives visitors.
Behind the church is the white chapel of Ermida da Memória, created to mark the place where, according to the story of the Virgin Mary, she appeared. According to the story, the Virgin Mary has ridden this giant mule along a steep rock wall and disappeared just after reaching up, leaving only the large footprints of the mule. Scientists and paleontologists, on the other hand, say the traces are traces of dinosaurs.
PEDRA DA MUA AND THE DINOSAUR TRACKS
Pedra da Mua is right next to the church area of Cabo Espichel and if you are interested in prehistoric dinosaurs, this is a must see place. Pedra da Mua is famous for its cliffs where dinosaur footprints have been found. Some of these depressions are very easy to detect, some require slightly more accurate zooming. The traces are believed to be from the late Jurassic period and about 145-200 million years old. The rocks have been covered with water until later emerged and traces revealed from them have been found. I myself am fascinated by these traces of dinosaurs and it was really fun to get to see these, and totally for free.
READ MORE ABOUT CABO ESPICHEL AND THE DINOSAUR TRACKS OF PEDRA DA MUA:
PRAIA DO RIBEIRO DO CAVALO
Praia do Ribeiro do Cavalo is definitely one of my own favorite beaches near Lisbon. The beach has remained as fairly secret until the very few years and for a long time only the locals knew about this magnificent natural beach and the hiking trail leading there. However, with the help of social media and bush radio, the word about this beautiful beach cove slowly began to spread more widely and today the place is also known to many tourists, backpackers and locals alike. This beach is truly a bucket list destination for tourists in the Lisbon region, as long as you remember to respect its naturalness and also take with you everything you bring.
The route to the beach is quite challenging and already requires some good condition, as the trail is really steep to climb in places and at this point the four limbs are not too much at all. Good footwear is an absolute must, flip flops are not even worth bothering. There are no services on the beach, as it is a natural beach bathed in its own beauty, so your own lunch and water are recommended. In hindsight, I wouldn’t have wanted to go the route alone, especially because of my fear of hights, but luckily I managed to do the hike down untouched and the beach below really rewards you at the end. Luckily I had Johanna with me as a guide and a laughing buddy!
OTHER SIGHTS AND ACTIVITIES IN SESIMBRA AREA:
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CHECK OUT THE AMAZING BEACHES AROUND THE ARRÁBIDA NATURAL PARK:
HAVE YOU BEEN TO SESIMBRA AND PRAIA DO RIBEIRO DO CAVALO? SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES BELOW IN THE COMMENTS! 🙂
<3: Tiina Johanna