The best independent guide to Vila Nova de Milfontes
The best independent guide to Vila Nova de Milfontes
Vila Nova de Milfontes is an outstanding holiday destination, and offers visitors a range of interesting activities and day trips. The town is adored by the Portuguese, who flock here during the summer months, but outside of the summer season the town has peaceful and calm ambience.
Considering that Vila Nova de Milfontes is primarily a beach resort, there is a surprising amount to see and do, and a week’s holiday could be easily filled with the varied activities and excursions. This guide will detail the best things to do and see while staying in Vila Nova de Milfontes.
If you visit Milfontes during the summer, when the town is basking under 35C heat, spending time on the beach will often be the main activity of the holiday. Luckily the beaches of Milfontes are beautiful, have clean bathing waters and are within walking distance of the town.
There are three sandy beaches in Vila Nova de Milfontes (Praia da Franquia, Praia do Farol and Carreiro das Fazendas) and during the summer the ferry crosses the river to the larger Praia das Furnas. Farol and Franquia beaches face the Mira River and have calm bathing waters but expect them to be very busy in the summer. Furnas and Carreiro beaches have huge Atlantic waves rolling onto the golden sands; ideal for surfing or body boarding.
The Praia da Franquia and the ligth house headland
The weather is warm enough to spend time on the beach from May until the end of September. There are many more beaches along the Alentejo coastline, and for a complete guide to the beaches of the region please click here.
The people of the Alentejo region are renowned for their slow pace of life (which is in-part due to the heat). So why not embrace this cultural heritage and while away the days in the numerous cafes and open-air restaurants, and completely forget about the stresses and worries of back home.
The main aspect of this slow and peaceful lifestyle are the long meals - meals are not to be rushed in Vila Nova, but are to be enjoyed and are a time to socialise. Vila Nova has a wide selection of restaurants serving regional specialities or the dishes based around the freshly caught fish. Also, don’t forget the local wines, strong coffee and sweet Port.
The central plaza of Milfontes with the castle and aviator's monument
During the summer season Milfontes comes alive at night, and parties through till the early hours. There is a real buzz about the town with different ages and nationalities socialising in the late opening cafes and bars. As these bars close for the evening there is a choice of four nightclubs, each with their own different style and vibe. In the summer Milfontes is lively and knows how to party!
By mid-September the entire town quietens down, and the summertime madness is a distant memory, replaced by a chilled and unhurried ambience.
You came on holiday to Vila Nova for active things to do? The region doesn’t disappoint......
The region is filled with quiet roads and decent gravel paths, which are great for cycling. Bikes can be hired for €20 per day (ask for discounts in the low season or for longer rentals). Three suggested routes are:
Milfontes to Malhao beach – Short route of around 16km (round trip) along gravel trails to the north of Milfontes and is suitable for all abilities. The cycle ends at the beautiful Malhao beach, so bring your towel.
A rental bike parked overlooking Almograve beach
Milfontes to Almograve beach – A medium route of 26km (round trip), which heads south following the main road of Milfontes (which is still quiet). Almograve is regarded as the finest beach of the region, and the cycle can be extended by following the cliff path to the pretty fishing port of Porto das Lapas das Pombas further down the coastline.
Milfontes to Porto Covo – A Longer route of around 40km (round trip), heading north and following the main road. Porto Covo is a scenic village with many cafes and restaurants and a glorious coastline. To extend this cycle include the beaches of Praia dos Aivados or Praia da Ilha do Pessegueiro beaches, which are passed on the way.
The Sao Vicente hiking trails (see next section) are unsuitable for cycling, as they are mainly made up of sandy paths. The best months for cycling is April/May or Sep/Oct, either side of the hot summer months.
The Rota Vicentina is an on-going initiative to boost walking tourism within the western Alentejo, by created excellent hiking trails that cross the beautiful scenery of the region. Vila Nova de Milfontes is connected to the Fisherman’s Trail, and this means that there are two well designed and clearly signed routes north and south from the town.
A really enjoyable hike follows the Rota Vicentina Fisherman’s Trail north to Malhao beach (14km round trip) and passes Milfontes fishing harbour. An alternative suggestion is to catch bus or taxi to Porto Covo and hike back to Vila Nova (about a 20km hike). Spring and autumn are the best season for hiking and there will be many other walkers along the routes. For more information about the Fishermen's Trail of the Rota Vicentina, please see the official website at:
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Its a long walk to Porto Covo following the Rota Vicentina.......
Portugal has more famous locations for surfing, but the waves, beaches and facilities of Milfontes are as equally good as any of these established surfing towns.
The Praia das Furnas and Praia de Malhao are decent surfing beaches close to Vila Nova de Milfontes, but for a truly special surfing location head to the remote and isolated Praia dos Aivados, 8km north of the Milfontes. The currents and tides of the Alentejo coastline can be unpredictable and very strong, always follow local advice and be wary of hidden rocks.
Surf equipment can be hired from the town; Sud Aventura hires surfboards (€20 per day), wetsuits (€10) and body boards (€15), their website is : http://www.sudaventura.com
The massive waves of Vila Nova de Milfontes may appear intimidating for the casual surfer but there are decent surf schools either to hone your skills or learn the basics, the surf schools include:
The waters of the Mira river are widely touted as some of the cleanest in Europe, and the calm waters are ideal for Kayaking or Stand Up Paddleboard along. These can be hired independently or the river can be explored as part of an organised tours. Be warned the river waters are calm but there is a very strong tidal flow and you don’t want to be sucked out to the sea!
SUP boards can be hired for half day (€30) or for lessons please see:
SUPAlentejo (Facebook page)
Half day SUP tours, which cover around 15km and cost around €50, can be booked from SW SUP:
A stand up paddle board and the Mira River estuary
Porto Covo is a pretty town which is situated on a beautiful craggy coastline of coves and sandy bays. Porto Covo has a small fishing port which is sheltered between two cliffs and has a rock-strewn gauntlet to reach the sea. The town its self-has a pleasant, unhurried ambience, with a centre filled with open-air cafes and restaurants. The coastline to the north of Porto Covo is very different to Milfontes, comprising of sand beaches surrounded by jagged cliffs.
The Praia da Samoqueira beach and the beautiful coastline of Porto Covo
The Praia de Almograve is the finest beach of the Alentejo coastline and is considered as one of the best beaches of Portugal. The beach is a vast expanse of golden sands, which is interspaced by black rock outcrops and is pounded by huge Atlantic waves.
Almograve beach is in an idyllic setting with virtually no tourist development, being surrounded by sand dunes and beach shrubs. The tiny village of Almograve set back from the beach has a host of cafes and restaurants, while the there is an enjoyable cliff top walk to the fishing harbour
The small fishing harbour of Porto das Lapas das Pombas is at the end of the cliff walk
Zambujeira do Mar is a charming Alentejo village, which is perched on a cliff high above a wonderful sandy bay. The village is sleepy and quaint, with whitewashed houses and a spectacular view over the ocean. Close by is the Cabo Sardão, an exposed headland and a powerful lighthouse.
Praia do Malhao is another scenic beach, but is much closer to Vila Nova de Milfontes. Malhao has a wild and rugged appearance as it is protected by the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano. The beach is a popular destination for surfing as there can be tremendous surfing waves. The beach makes for an enjoyable bike ride or longer hike.
Malhao beach is simply stunning
This is the most random activity of Milfontes but as a group or couple this is a certainly a fun activity. The beach just to the north of the “A Choupana” restaurant is scattered with large rocks and eroded pebbles.
The rocks are just perfect for building a rock tower, and there are literally hundreds of these rock stacks covering the small beach. Some rock stacks are constructed as deep emotional meanings and symbols of love, while others are built just for the challenge. Why not build one close to water’s edge and see how long it can withstand the power of the sea.
Hundreds of rock stacks, built for love or to last the next tide?
Another fun holiday activity – and great for your Instagram or Facebook pages!
The lighthouse headland is the perfect place to watch the sunset, out over the horizon of the ocean. It’s also a great place for some sunset photography - how about a silhouette of you against the sun and sea reflection, or how about you holding the sun….?
Many tourists visit the resort town of Vila Nova De Milfontes for the beautiful beaches and the stunning natural scenery but the town also contains a few historic and noteworthy buildings and monuments.
The Forte Sao Clemente Castle is a small fort that was positioned to guard the Rio Mira estuary from North African raiders or pirates. The fort was constructed under the orders of King Filipe (1598-1621) after a terrible raid caused the villagers to desert Vila Nova.
The fort was constructed between 1598 and 1602 and its presence was enough to deter the Algerian pirates so much that the fort never was involved in a single battle. During the 18th century the importance of Vila Nova waned as the Rio Mira became shallower and by 1820 the fort was all but abandoned. Since 1903 the fort has been in private ownership and been transformed into an exclusive hotel.
The location of the light house is the draw here not the actual building. The light house perches high up on the cliffs above the mouth of the Rio Mira Estuary and the Atlantic Ocean. To one direction the massive Atlantic rolling waves crash against the rocky outcrops and the other side the calm water of the estuary. From the light house there is a pleasant walk north to the harbour.
The Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Graça (Church of Our Lady of Grace) dates from the beginning of the 16th century, though very little of the original church still exists. The church today dates from 1959 and is painted the traditional blue and white of the Alentejo region. During its history the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Graça has been twice partially destroyed. The first event was a devastating earthquake that brought the church crashing down.
The second was a raid by Algerian pirates who plundered the town and this attack was the driver for the construction of the Forte Sao Clemente. The bell tower of the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Graça dates from the 19th century and the church is managed by the Order of Santiago da Espada, whose insignia cross is engraved on the front door.
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