The Blue coast of Portugal
The Costa Azul south of Lisbon is becoming one of the most talked-about tourist regions in Portugal.
For those perhaps unfamiliar with it, the Costa Azul – or Blue Coast – is the corner of the Alentejo that takes in the Setubal peninsula, the Troia peninsula, and the stretch of almost undeveloped Atlantic coastline down to Sines. Close to the capital and dissected by both the A2 motorway and the IC1 highway, the region is very accessible and it takes you in less than 45 minutes to the airport.
The Costa Azul region as a whole is starting to be discovered by more adventurous tourists, several of whom go on to become property buyers in search of the excellent value for money, slower pace of life, and genuine feel of the ‘real’ Portugal that this part of the country undoubtedly offers.
You can compare the Costa Azul with the other more famous blue coast, the Cote d’Azur, or at least the way the French Riviera must have looked a hundred years ago, before it became the playground of the rich and famous. That’s certainly true of the spectacular winding coast road out of Setubal that runs towards Arrabida and its 16th century Franciscan monastery, the Convento da Arrabida, which clings precariously to the hillside among the pine and cypress trees. Part of a national park and home to a wide variety of birds and wildlife, this particular stretch of blue coast looks unlikely to suffer the same fate as its over-developed and over-hyped namesake, leaving visitors to enjoy its quiet coves, sheltered vineyards and tiny fishing villages for years to come.
It is just one of many very different natural and man-made environments to be found in this diverse yet compact region, from the sheltered sand dunes and long white beaches of the Troia peninsula to the sheer cliffs and rugged promontory of Cabo Espichel, and from the hilltop castles towering above Sesimbra, Palmela and Setubal to the gently rolling Alentejo plains and the low-lying lagoons of the Sado and Mira estuaries.
As such, the region has a wide appeal, regardless of whether you are seeking the blue skies of summer or escaping the winter blues, with a mild climate most of the year round. Romans, Moors, the kings of Portugal and the industrialists of the 19th century have all left their mark here, along with farmers, fishermen, artisans and winemakers. And whilst a large part of the charm of the region is the peace, beauty and tranquillity that appeals as equally to naturists as naturalists, there is plenty to see and do, from wine routes and gastronomic tours to festivals, sports and a wide range of cultural and leisure activities.
The options are almost infinite. Play golf at one of five courses in the region. Go dolphin watching in Setubal Bay, or sailing, windsurfing, fishing, diving and water-skiing from any number of fabulous beaches. Try horse riding at Rio Frio or karting in Palmela, or take to the air in a balloon, hang glider or microlight. Visit Roman ruins, medieval castles, renaissance churches and baroque palaces, water mills, museums, craft shops and artisan studios. Book tickets to one of the region’s arts festivals, dedicated to film, theatre, street art, world music and jazz. Or simply relax on an almost-deserted beach, go walking through one of the nature reserves and protected areas, or indulge yourself in sampling the region’s fine wines and delicious cuisine.