Secrets Tips: Arrábida, A Portuguese Emerald ♦ Nature, beaches and Atlantic views make you want to go to Arrábida for a walk and maybe sleep at the foot of the mountain, facing the Sado River. Situated by the sea, between Setúbal and the fishing village of Sesimbra, Arrábida Natural Park has an incomparable beauty, in which the blue of the sea alternates with the whitish tones of the limestone cliffs and the green of the dense vegetal mantle that covers the Saw. Let yourself dive into this breathtaking Arrábida beaches and be guided by Secrets from Portugal!
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«Deserted high mountain, where I see / The waters of the ocean of a band / And already salty ones of the Tagus», wrote Frei Agostinho da Cruz already in his cloistered period at the Arrábida Convent, sometime after 1605. Frei Agostinho isolated himself in a hermitage to approach god and give wings to poetry, but he also feigned the rules when he went to the mysterious cave of Lapa de Santa Margarida (visitable) to fish and catch seafood. From him and other authors, such as Sebastião da Gama and Alexandre Herculano, came to us poems that are still an inspiration to better understand Arrábida, both in its natural beauty and in its spiritual aura.
The lush green of the mountain that stretches for 35 kilometres continues to delight those who visit. It marks one of the noblest examples of Mediterranean vegetation in Portugal – full of holm oaks, cork oaks and oaks – the habitat of hares, foxes and bats, and contrasts with the crystalline blue of the sea that many thought only exists in other destinations. Almost chilly waters – but refreshing for any swimmer on suffocating days – which are actually home to more than 1,000 species of marine fauna and flora, and are protected by Professor Luiz Saldanha Marine Park, part of the Natura 2000 Network.
The golden sandy beaches that stretch from Setúbal to Sesimbra are sought by thousands of Portuguese and tourists, especially in summer, and three of them have Blue Flag (Figueirinha, California and Gold). Visitors to Setúbal will again have a free bus service this year between Figueirinha and Creiro (since private car traffic is cut in this section), tidy car parks and walkways on the sands. From Sesimbra to Setúbal and from Setúbal to Palmela, by beaches or trails, Arrábida is one of the most beautiful mountains on the Portuguese coast, just a 40-minute drive from Greater Lisbon.
Praia de Galapos e Galapinhos
Much has been written about these beaches in a praiseworthy tone, but it is never too much to emphasize why Galapinhos was voted the most beautiful beach in Europe by users of the European Best Destinations travel website. From the top of the road, we see her “nestled” in a green hug of the mountains, and down there have transparent waters and no ripple. Semi-wild, this beach easily transposes on foot to Galapos (but only at low tide because of the rocks), and in this, the scenario is completely different. More urban, Galapos has a bar and restaurant, huts and pedalos for rent and a new wooden walkway throughout.
Gruta da Lapa de Santa Margarida
To reach this naturally formed cave on the limestone cliff you need to take a dirt path from the road leading down to Portinho da Arrábida and follow a trail with over 200 narrow and overgrown steps. Down all the saint’s help, up is worse, but the journey is worth the effort. After all, it is a unique place above the sea, known to have a human presence for over 30,000 years. In the eighteenth century was built a chapel (where was an image of Santa Margarida), which is still a place of worship, wrapped in some mystery.
Miradouro do Convento da Arrábida
Parking the car in this viewpoint that appears at a certain point of the EN397-1 (towards Setúbal), you will soon see the white houses of the Arrábida Convent, on the left, the Pedra da Anicha islet, on the right, and the beaches of the Creiro, Galapos and Figueirinha in the distance. Closer, on the southern slope of the mountain, there are four chapels and a set of watchtowers that were used by the Franciscan friars between the 16th and 19th centuries to venerate the mysteries of the Passion. Friar Augustine of the Cross was one of them. The convent belongs to the Oriente Foundation and is visitable by appointment.