The rustic beach town of Nazare completely took us by surprise during our northern Portugal road trip. This small seaside enclave was made famous in 2017 for the big wave competition featuring the largest wave ever surfed. Yet as we would find out, it has so much more to offer! Whether you’re chasing the next wave or simply hitting the beach, Nazare has something for everyone. We’ll take you through our trip on the Nazare Funicular, visit to Praia do Norte, and where to eat some of the freshest seafood in Portugal!
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Portugal Travel Inspiration
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Nazare Beach Town
When we visited Nazare Portugal in late June the sea was raging and a mist of fog filled the air. Even though we weren’t going to have the typical beach day that draws so many to Nazare, it was actually a nice break from the big city of Lisbon. Set below the large rock wall that overlooks the town is the heart of Nazare Portugal.
Here you’ll find restaurants that line the water, large handball and volleyball courts, and small roads filled with white-washed houses. With so many walking streets to explore it’s best to ditch your car as soon as possible and take on Nazare by foot.
First off, you should know Nazare Beach is massive! A thick stretch of sand runs from the cliffs down the coast and far into the distance. When we walked out onto the beach the waves were booming and crashing to the shore.
Lifeguards patrolled Nazare Beach hard this day, pulling back anyone who got too close to the ocean. This is quite the contrast to the peak summer months when the sea is calmer and the beach becomes packed like sardines.
Either way, don’t let the weather deter you! If it’s not the perfect beach day there’s still so much to see and do in Nazare Portugal. Also, the clouds brought on one of the most beautiful sunsets we’ve ever seen!
Riding the Nazare Funicular
One of the best things to do in town is jump on the Nazare Funicular and head high above! Here you’ll have sweeping views of the ocean, village, and surrounding countryside.
The ride up is quick and only costs €1.50, running every 15 minutes or so. If you’re looking to get some exercise there’s also a giant staircase that snakes its way up the hillside… Be warned though it’s very steep!
Once you’re at the top of the Nazare Funicular you can stroll along the long walkway for spectacular views of the town. Honestly, no photos will do it justice!
If you only have time to do one thing in Nazare Portugal make sure you check this out. After soaking in the views, don’t leave without continuing down to the Nazare lighthouse.
Praia do Norte and the Biggest Waves in the World
Now that you’ve conquered the Nazare Funicular it’s time to see what this town really has become known for! If you walk down the backside of the viewpoint you’ll see a massive lighthouse on the water. Once you pass the statue of a giant standing deer holding a surfboard (yes we are serious!) you’ll know you’re going the right way.
The only thing to note is that the humongous waves only appear at certain times of the year. Most typically they come during the winter months and we were told by locals that the best time to see this is in November.
Know that this is just a guess and it can be random depending on the weather. Don’t show up in Nazare Portugal expecting to see 100 foot waves and leave disappointed!
Obviously, we were way off from this period on our visit in June. Still, we had an amazing time here and it was one of our favorite stops in Portugal!
5 Facts About Praia do Norte
The Nazare big waves are created by an underwater canyon that amplifies them into monsters. The deep gorge off the coast is over 140 miles long and 16,000 feet deep!
The biggest wave surfed IN THE WORLD was at Nazare by Rodrigo Koxa in 2017. It was a whopping 80 feet tall and broke the Guinness World Record previously held by Garrett McNamara (also at Nazare).
The first people to ride the Nazare big waves were actually bodyboarders, not surfers. These days they have been ridden by everyone from kitesurfers, to windsurfers, and everyone under the sun!
Nazare joined the World Surf League in 2016, and now plays host to big wave competitions featuring the best surfers in the world. The surfers are towed into the massive waves by jet skis to get momentum and a better position.
The Nazare Lighthouse was erected in 1903, but the fort it’s inside of is much older! The Fort of Sao Miguel was built in 1577 and now houses a museum dedicated to surfing and the science behind the waves.
Fresh Seafood in Nazare Portugal
Although surfing has increased its popularity over the last few years, it’s important to remember Nazare is still a small fishing community at heart. Consequently, there’s no better way to get in touch with the local community than to taste its delicious seafood.
After you’re done with a long day at the Nazare Beach and Praia do Norte it’s time to dig in! If you walk along the waterfront you’ll find plenty of bars, restaurants, and cafes serving heaps of mouthwatering shrimps and clams. If you need a recommendation for where to eat, we had an amazing meal at Rosa dos Ventos!
→ Best Food in Portugal: 11 Portuguese Dishes and Drinks You Can’t Miss!
So… Is Nazare Worth Seeing Without 100 Foot Waves??
Yes! We had a blast and felt a connection to Portuguese history at the castle and big wave museum. On top of that, the views are stunning and we had fun exploring the village and Nazare beach.
Nazare is the type of place you can see in one afternoon, but also easily spend a week hitting the beaches. With a mix of surfer vibes, great food, and traditional Portuguese architecture, it’s easy to see why more people are visiting every year.
Have any questions about our visit to Praia do Norte or your own Nazare Portugal tips? Please comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Where To Stay In Nazare Portugal
Fun Vacation – Hotel Magic – This newly renovated upscale hotel is the perfect mix of luxury and fun beach charm. Right in the center of all the action, you’ll be steps away from the beaches with a large breakfast to enjoy each morning.
Travel Couple – Casa do Mar – Nazaré – Set up on the hillside in Nazare’s old town, this amazing hotel is one of the best deals you’ll find. Each room has a cute patio and you’ll be welcomed with a warm embrace from the owner.
Hostel Life – Lab Hostel Nazare – Bed & Waves – Located in the heart of lower town, you’ll have everything you need just steps from the Lab Hostel! It’s complete with dorm beds, private rooms, and a common area to meet other travelers. Continental breakfast also served daily.
For more places to stay in Nazare Beach you can explore the latest prices here!
Portugal Travel Planning
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for hundreds of activities around the country. Book a sunset Sailboat tour in Lisbon, go Wine tasting cruise of the Douro Valley from Porto, or explore the Ponta da Piedade on a boat trip in Lagos!
Flights: We always find great flight deals using Skyscanner and Kayak. This way you can plan your trip around the cheapest and most direct routes.
Accommodation: Compare multiple sites to get to the best deal such as Booking.com and Agoda! Also, Hostelworld should be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget.
Rental Car: We use Discover Cars to rent vehicles on our travels. In Portugal, you will want a set of wheels to get to all the beautiful castles, cities, and towns.
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered! We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.
Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials!
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