It’s an easy trek by bus from Coimbra to Leiria, where we are staying for the next two nights. Our Airbnb is downtown, only two blocks from the bus station. The cathedral, built in 1559, is directly across the street, and it’s a beehive of activity. With really loud bells that ring every hour on the hour. Not once, but twice, about 3 minutes apart (we don’t know why).
With a population of around 125,000, Leiria is a good-sized town, but here’s the thing. Neither of us can remember why we wanted to include it on our itinerary, so we head to Trip Advisor to refresh ourselves on the visitor highlights, which include a castle, a winery, a couple of museums, and multiple parks. Plenty to keep us busy for a day, but it’s the nearby beach town of Nazaré that grabs our attention.
We secure bus tickets for the one-hour trip from Leiria to Nazaré, which leaves the following morning around 10. We’re greeted in Nazaré by chilly temperatures, overcast skies, and a stiff breeze, but the beach is lovely . . . and deserted.
Nazaré is a fishing village that has preserved old traditions even though it’s emerged as a prime holiday destination for tourists seeking sand and surf. Colorful, wooden fishing boats are on display at the beach but also still used by local fishermen.
Cod, octopus, and other sea creatures are sun-dried on the beach, just as they have been for hundreds of years.
As local women go about their daily routine, some wear traditional garb that typically consists of a skirt bulked up with several petticoats, a hand-embroidered apron, a woolen cape, a headscarf, and clogs or house slippers.
Nazaré is also known as a world class surfing destination. In January 2018, Portuguese surfer Hugo Vau rode a record-breaking 35 meter (100ft+) wave at Praia do Norte, a beach located on the other side of the cliff shown in the photo below. As you can see, the weather has improved considerably since our arrival earlier in the day!
We walk toward the big hill and ride the funicular to the top, where we are greeted by interesting tile art in the terminal and a superb view of the beach from whence we came.
On the trek to the lighthouse on the point, we pass through a colorful gateway and get a good view of the beach below. Surfers are being towed out to catch the waves, but no monster rides today.
As we explore the area, we stop to take a look at Veado, created by Portuguese sculptor Adália Alberto in 2016. The deer head pays homage to an historical legend about Nazaré, and the surfboard honors the area’s legendary status as a big wave mecca.
We wrap up our daytrip to Nazaré with a leisurely lunch at Restaurante Arimar overlooking the ocean and beach before heading back down the hill and walking to the bus station to retrace our steps back to Leiria. So glad we decided to visit this lovely place!
Tomorrow we will be back at the bus station heading for Sintra, our last tourist destination before flying back to the U.S. In the meantime, here are a few additional photos from Nazaré.