The Splendid Nude Beaches of eastern Algarve, Portugal

Portugal hardly ever makes the charts when it comes to naturist vacations. This has a lot to do with its history. When naturism started booming around Western Europe in the sixties and seventies, Portugal was locked in a dictatorship that completely banned nudity. After democracy returned in the mid-seventies, it would take more than another decade before the first Naturist Law was approved by the government and naturism was legalised.

 

By that time, France, Croatia, Spain, and Greece had already been established as the go-to places if you preferred to wear the least possible during your vacations. Meanwhile, Portugal has been trying to catch up. Today, the country has about 15 naturist campgrounds and hotels and almost 50 nude beaches. Yet, the word hasn’t yet spread very widely.

 

When we did a poll on our Youtube channel asking for your favourite nude beach destinations, Spain was the big winner with 47% of the votes, while next door Portugal dangled behind with barely 3%. Our business-oriented brains told us that it was better not to focus on Portugal, but as so many times before, it was the curiosity in our souls that won the battle and steered us over the Spanish border to find out more about the Portuguese nude beaches.

 

 

It’s always sunny in Algarve

About a 3-hour drive took us from Seville to the city of Faro, the administrative capital of the Algarve region. Just like Spain and France, Portugal is home to several different climates. The north has long rainy winters and rather short sunny summers, while in the Algarve in the very south, autumn seems to automatically move on to spring and rain is considered rather a scarcity. Summers in this part of Portugal can be brutally hot though.

 

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This makes the Algarve an excellent destination for the shoulder seasons. As we were traveling in late April, we figured that this would be the ideal time. And we were right. The chillier months were just behind us and although the sun wasn’t strong enough yet to cook us alive, it was already able to give our skin a reddish tint on a morning when we believed that sunscreen wasn’t necessary yet. The culprit is the Atlantic wind, which tricks you into thinking that your white butts can still handle this.

Praia da Barreta – Faro

Our first destination was Praia da Barreta, located on Ilha Deserta just outside of Faro. Here’s another thing few people know about the Algarve coastline: It is dotted with islands. Several of these are national parks, which makes them excellent for nature seekers and great destinations for nude beaches.

 

As the name suggests, Ilha Deserta is a completely deserted island, other than one single restaurant that serves your basic needs (seafood, wine, toilets). Other than that, it’s just one huge sandbar. This island is also home to Cabo de Santa Maria, the most southern tip of continental Portugal and as if this landmark itself isn’t memorable enough, they put a sign next to it indicating the start of the official nude beach.

 

The only way to get to this island is by taking a 45-minute ferry from Faro, which costs about 10€ per person for a return ticket. Once you’re dropped off at the restaurant, it’s another half-hour walk to the nude beach sign. On busy days, that walk may be a necessity, but most people keep hanging around in front of the restaurant anyway so you can often get naked before.

 

This beach is excellent if you like remoteness and solitude. If you easily get bored on a nude beach though, it might be better to pick one of the next options.

Praia da Armona – Olhão

Just a short drive to the east brings you to the town Olhão, which is the gateway to Armona Island. This ferry trip only takes 20 minutes and costs 4.20€ per person for a round trip. Armona Island is very different from Ilha Deserta as it has an actual village on it. What used to be a fishing community has now largely turned into a holiday centre with bars, restaurants, shops, and Airbnbs. Yet, it still has that cosy, southern Portugal, island vibe.

 

A 20 to 30-minute walk through town brings you to the Atlantic coast and the beach. As this is not an official nude beach, the rule is that the nude section starts as soon as you’re away from the crowds. The beach bars and the rental umbrellas keep most people at the beach entrance, so here too you probably don’t have to walk far. This is a very wide beach too, so unless you position yourself right in the middle of the beach, it’s unlikely that passersby will even notice that there are naked people in the distance.

 

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We enjoyed Praia da Armona a lot because it has everything to keep us busy for a while. We spent some time sunbathing in the nude, had a skinny dip or two, then put our clothes back on to have a sangria in the beach bar before strolling into town to look at the shops.

Praia do Homem Nu – Pedras de El-Rei

Next on our list was Praia do Homem Nu. Another official nude beach and one of the best-known in this part of Portugal. The name literally translates to “Beach of naked men”. To clarify: the word “men” in this context should be understood as “humans” rather than “males”. Although you can actually find “Praia do Homem Nu” on Google Maps, the official name of the beach is Praia do Barril and you can get there by either taking the tourist train (2€ per person one way) or just by doing the easy 15-minute walk starting from the bridge.

 

We understand why this is the most popular nude beach. Just like Praia do Barreta it’s an official one. This is comforting to us, tourists, who are not always aware of the local customs and what’s considered acceptable. But it also has the amenities of Praia da Armona. Although there isn’t an actual village, there are several restaurants and shops and even a small museum to keep us busy when we sense that our skin had enough from the Portuguese sun.

 

From the restaurant area where the tourist train drops you off, you just start walking west. If you look very, very well, you will notice a really small sign saying “nude beach 1000 meters”. We searched, but never found a second sign, so we’re not certain if the next 1000 meters were considered nude beach or if one day there had been another sign 1000 meters further marking the actual start of the nude beach but is now hanging in someone’s living room.

 

We walked quite far before we finally realised that there would not be a second sign and just got naked there. As we returned in the afternoon, we realised that our walk had been unnecessary because naked people were lying almost right in front of the restaurants. This is the best-known nude beach in the area and people seem to treat it as such.

 

Praia de Cacela Velha – Cacela Velha

Our last stop before reaching the Spanish border was Praia de Cacela Velha. Probably the least-known nude beach on this list. This beach is located right across the historical town of Cacela Velha and can be accessed by walking through the dry river bed. Well, at least during low tide. During high tide, if you’re not up for a swim, it’s better to access the beach from Manta Rota a bit further down the road.

 

From Manta Rota, you’re looking at an hour’s walk to the west, with the city walls of Cacela Velha as your point of reference. We actually walked that far, but just like at every other endless beach, as soon as you’re away from the crowds is normally far enough. As this isn’t an official nude beach, there’s no signage anyway.

 

Just like at the first beach we visited, there’s nothing but ocean, sand, and dunes. An excellent place to get away from everyone and everything and feel as if you’re on a deserted island although it’s just a peninsula. You’re very likely to be all alone here.

 

Given that this is just a small grip of the nude beaches in Portugal, less than 10% and just in one specific region, you probably understand why we think that the naturist potential of this country is highly underestimated. If Portugal ever becomes a top naturist destination, we will be here saying “Told you so!”.

 
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