Europe’s Paddleboarding Paradise
Jason Pereira of SupXscape, a local company which provides guided SUP tours and paddleboard hire, offers an insider’s guide to some of the country’s best paddleboarding locations.
Most travellers arriving at Lisbon’s Portela airport will be completely unaware that they’ve arrived in what is probably one of the best paddleboarding destinations on the continent. For the sheer variety of waters in which to paddle, all within easy striking distance of the country’s capital, I don’t think there is anywhere else like it!
On arrival the choices are to either head south to Arrabida and its serene and calm Atlantic waters; north to the Silver Coast beach, reef and point breaks of Peniche and the beautiful Lagoa de Óbidos; or inland to the majestic Rio Tejo that winds its way from the Spanish border across Portugal until it empties into the Atlantic at Lisbon. There is also the option of experiencing them all as they are each within an hour and a half from Lisbon, so easily achievable in a holiday.
The Rio Tejo
The upper reaches of the Tejo are a mix of head and tail waters, so depending on the time of year and water levels there are many opportunities for both cruising and tackling the white-water sections below the dams. Once you reach the middle and lower reaches the river widens considerably and you’re now in perfect touring water where you can cruise downstream past medieval villages while eagles soar overhead.
There are not many places on this planet where you can paddle around an 800 year old Knights Templar castle. In fact I only know of one and that’s the Castelo de Almourol situated on the Rio Tejo near to the town of Barquinha. Stopping and exploring this castle is an absolute must as the views from the main keep are spectacular and there is no entrance fee and no officialdom. Just go explore!
Peniche, Capital da Onda (Wave City)
The area around Peniche, although renowned throughout the world as a surf spot which hosts the annual ASP Rip Curl Pro Peniche event, really does have it all for the visiting paddleboarder. There are the world class surf beaches of Supertubos, Lagide and Belgas; and for the less experienced or for when the waves are just too big there’s the calm and tranquil waters of the Obidos Lagoon where you can enjoy some relaxed cruising in beautiful surroundings!
After a day out on the waves or lagoon visit the traditional fishing town of Peniche where the harbour is lined with excellent fish restaurants all offering a vast selection of Silver Coast cuisine including freshly caught fish like the local favourite Sardinhas grelhadas. While you are in the area a visit to the medieval walled town of Óbidos is another ‘must do’. During July you can experience the town’s annual Medieval Fiesta and really take a step back in time.
The Luis Saldanha Marine Park sits directly under the Arruba hills about 50 kilometres south of Lisbon and is therefore sheltered from the prevailing North Easterly winds. Paddling here is like being in an aquarium with a permanent resident pod of Bottlenose Dolphins and water visibility up to seventy feet on calm mornings. It all adds to the unique natural experience you will find within the waters of the park. With vast limestone cliffs on one side, crystal clear turquoise ocean on the other and secluded sandy coves to stop at this is our favourite place to head for when we’re looking to relax and unwind!
Currently there are only a handful of dedicated SUP operations on mainland Portugal so booking a tour or rental in advance is highly recommended especially if your visit falls within the main vacation period of July and August. Personally I would suggest visiting Portugal in April, May, June, or September and October when the weather conditions are more favourable and there are fewer tourists both on and off the beaches.
Pictures: Óbidos Lagoon (top); Castelo de Almourel (middle); beaches to the north of Peniche (bottom) © SupXscape