Europe’s “last wild coast” – under threat of oil exploration – wins international praise

Will it carry any weight in the fight to save it from the ravages of gas and oil exploration? The question hangs in the air as international magazine Condé Nast Traveller praises the magic of Costa Vicentina, running from the western Algarve up into the Alentejo.

The magazine’s April edition tells readers looking “for a hit of relaxed beach life” to forget the Algarve and its condominiums, its billboards about summer parties, its shopping malls and water parks, and instead head west where they will find “some of the loveliest” beaches in the world especially north of Odeceixe – probably the least developed stretch of coastline in southern Europe.

As those lucky enough to live in the Costa Vicentina already know: it’s still possible to find little bits of paradise ‘almost all to yourself’.

Conde Nast’s travel writer Paul Richardson says Vicentina “casually demolishes even your firmest expectations. It could be assumed, for example, based on experiences of summertime madness elsewhere in Spain and Portugal that July and August would be unbearably overpopulated. Not so. Yes, there are plenty of surfers drawn by those Atlantic breaks, as well as young Portuguese families, camper vans with an alphabet soup of Euro number plates, and Spaniards over for the weekend, perhaps to remind themselves what their own costas must have once looked like. But here the bracing breezes serve to keep this coast quiet and permanently cool, even in high summer when most of Iberia is sweltering”.

Touching on various low-key unpretentious places to stay, Richardson dubs the coast that travel writers are suddenly ‘discovering’ as “just about perfect for those of us still nostalgic for the innocent pleasures of European seaside holidays as they used to be before the crowds descended”.

The only fear now is that crowds may well and truly start descending.

Last summer, for instance, the habitually sleepy town of Aljezur woke up with a bang, with estate agents in the high street seeing properties “walking in one day, and finding buyers the next”.

Parking that had rarely been an issue has had to be dramatically extended this year as the spot increasingly becomes a magnet to travelling campers, and tourists keen to ‘get away from it all”.

Currently battling the threat of a drilling concession in the hands of oil companies Galp and ENI – just 46 kms from its pristine coast – the town simply hopes that the unspoilt beauty suddenly given such high regard can dodge the spectre of a final corporate fling with fossil fuels.

For the complete Condé Nast article (click here).

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PHOTO: view of Costa Vicentina’s idyllic Amoreira beach