I discovered the Atlantic road (Estrada Atlantica) by chance, many years ago, before Google maps and GPS. What a beautiful place to get lost! One wrong turn near Figueira da Foz and I found myself surrounded by pine trees and the dunes, a few steps from the Ocean, with almost no cars around. This is the kind of road that should be taken even if it's not the shortest way to your destination. The landscape looks like a painting, shades of green and blue are changing before your eyes and there are too many interesting spots to stop for a picture or a picnic. No doubts this is the most legendary road of western Portugal, and, some say, one of the most beautiful roads in Europe.
"Estrada Atlantica" connects the Osso da Baleia beach, near Figueira, and Nazaré. It's 70 km long, and most of it has also a perfectly arranged 62 km long bicycle path along the road.
It goes mainly by the Ocean, connecting numerous beaches, fishing villages with artisanal fishing boats, and breathtaking viewpoints on the way. While passing through the forest, you will find small lagoons and as you approach the beaches, there will be perfectly conserved dunes. Along the way, there are many restaurants and small taverns that serve fresh fish and seafood. The most famous option is rice with seafood (Arroz de marisco) in Praia da Vieira (Marinha Grande council). This dish was selected one of seven wonders of the national gastronomy.
One of the "must stops" is certainly São Pedro de Moel, a picturesque seaside resort and one of the most beautiful villages in the Portuguese coastline. The place is ideal for camping, especially if you are looking for a calmer location, for a family vacation, and it's surrounded by on the of oldest forests in the country, the pine forest of Leiria, planted in the time of the King Dinis, in the 14th century.
When you head further to the south, more wonders are waiting for you. The town of giant waves, Nazaré, and the half-moon shaped bay of São Martinho do Porto. Not far away it's a medieval town of Óbidos and its Lagoa, for a completely different experience.
The Atlantic Road ends in the picturesque Nazaré, which is a great place to end a long summer day. Alternatives to driving is to do the Atlantic road by motorbike or a bicycle. Its cycling path is the longest, but also the safest in Portugal.
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