When most people imagine a beach holiday to Portugal, they think of the cliffs and yellow sands of the Algarve. But unfortunately for me, when I think about the Algarve I can only picture hoards of Brit tourists with football shirts and English menus for English food, and I am very put off.
My parents lived in Porto for a few years, and we were only a 45 minute drive away from the beaches of the northern coast. Viana do Castelo, Afife, Praia de Ancora - I spent every summer holiday and half term in these small, picturesque and quiet towns. Not only are these beaches quiet and spacious, there is great surfing here, with small comfortable waves and few strong tides or rips to worry a half-decent (at best) surfer like me.
However my favourite memories in this area come from the fact that you can camp on the beaches at night. The picture on the right was my free campsite for a few nights this year in mid August, and with just a tent, a few camp chairs and a fire, I had the most beautiful view to wake up to and I didn't have to share it with anyone. My favourite way to cook is over an open fire, and my girlfriend and I cooked pork and beef whilst the sun went down, and then stared up at a sky full of stars. I took the picture below from my chair in the sand, before we started dinner... a view that's pretty tough to beat!
Only a 15 minute drive from this beach is the mountaintop monastery of Viana do Castelo, from which you can get a stunning view over the surrounding small towns, beaches and get a real feel for this rural region. The large church, named Basilica de Santa Luzia, looks over the whole eastern coastline, and includes neo-romantic, neo-Gothic and Byzantine architecture, and the town itself has great shopping, cute old streets and a fantastic pizza restaurant!
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