Standing on the cliff top above Praia de Carreagem is a dizzying experience. Far below big Atlantic waves sweep relentlessly into the beach and surrounding cliffs, the white foam of the waves standing out starkly against the turquoise water. Even from high above the sound of the ocean is immense, and the spray from the waves creates a magical, misty haze over the beach and down the coast.
The waves should make Praia de Carreagem a surfers paradise, but beneath the crashing water lie hidden rocks making this a treacherous stretch of ocean. When you’re standing on the beach watching the waves roll in the rocks sometimes appear beneath the green water, like phantoms they disappear again as the waves wash over.
Perhaps it’s the rocks that deter people, because when we arrived at Praia de Carreagem we had the beach to ourselves. We spotted a lone fisherman a couple of hundred metres down the beach, but other than ourselves and a few gulls we’d discovered the emptiest beach in Portugal.
This coast is home to plenty of wonderful beaches, and you could spend weeks exploring them all, but Praia de Carreagem has a wild, rugged charm that is hard to beat. Plus this is definitely the place to head if you want to be surrounded by nature in splendid isolation – even in this less frequented part of the Algarve, finding yourself alone on a beach is pretty unusual.
We almost didn’t make it to Praia de Carreagem. The beach lies several kilometres from the nearest main road, and the route passes down narrow lanes, past abandoned houses, before becoming a dirt track. In traditional Portuguese style, there aren’t many sign posts and we almost took a wrong turn on a couple of occasions. It’s entirely possible that somewhere unsuspecting tourists are still driving around the dirt tracks of Portugal trying to find a beach.
When we finally reached the beach there was a small track leading to a set of wooden steps that twist down the cliff face to the rocks and sand below. The views to the beach and along the coast are spectacular, especially in the fresh early morning air.
Strolling along Praia de Carreagem it becomes clear that you couldn’t get many people on the beach anyway. The strip of ‘habitable’ sand is narrow and the ocean comes high up the beach, all the way to the cliff in places. All along the beach are rocks and stones rubbed smooth by the constant action of the waves, adding to the beachcombing fun.