Loriga river beach claimed a place on my wish list when it was voted as one of the finalists in the beaches edition of the 7 Wonders of Portugal. Once you’ve seen photos of the turquoise rock pool nestled in the mountains, you’ll understand the appeal and may even wish to find somewhere to stay in the area.
I managed to incorporate a visit during my recent trip to the Serra da Estrela and although it was busier and less green than I expected, it’s definitely a special place. Better still, there’s a pleasant walk you can do to get to it.
Loriga river beach
My friend and I had been hoping to find a tree to lie under to sleep off our lunch and relax after our morning walk but our plans were thwarted. Although we arrived at Loriga river beach before 2 pm, all the natural shade had been claimed and we ended up spreading our towels on the dusty ground next to the pool.
Even this high up in the mountains, temperatures soar in summer and after sitting in the full heat of the afternoon sun I was soon hot enough to brave the water. Bearing in mind this river beach is in a glacial valley, I was expecting it to be chilly and it was, but not as cold as I feared. Once I’d taken the plunge, I swam to the edge of the natural infinity pool and peered down over the tiered paddling pools and out across the valley. Bliss.
Tips: During the official summer bathing period of July and August, you’ll find a café and a lifeguard at this blue flag river beach. Be warned, the toilets are rather primitive and best avoided except in emergencies. If you’re brave enough to take a dip at other times of the year, be careful as there won’t be a lifeguard. Bring a beach brolly or arrive before lunch to grab a spot under one of the few trees if shade is important to you. There are a few picnic benches dotted around but not many and I didn’t spot any barbecue stands.
Walking around Loriga
Loriga is tucked into a glacial valley and surrounded by terraced slopes. Even without the draw of the river beach, it’s an attractive area to explore and observe rural life.
The tourist information office in Loriga has leaflets in Portuguese about four local walks. On the advice of the representative, we chose the easiest of the four, the Panoramic Route of the Loriga Valley. Of all the walking leaflets we had used throughout our explorations of the Serra da Estrela, this one proved to be the most useful. Even though there was no map to speak of, it contained interesting and practical descriptions to help us work out where we were and what we were looking at. Unfortunately, it’s currently only available in Portuguese (here’s a copy) so I’ll describe the route for those that are interested.
Panoramic Walking Route of the Loriga Valley
First find the Crédito Agrícola bank in the centre of the village and turn off the main road, walking towards the back of the bank. Ignore the signposts as the numbers and names don’t correspond with the leaflets! At the T junction, turn right to follow the old Roman road through terraced farmland for a slice of rural life. We heard one villager singing away but couldn’t see her amid the tall stalks of maize she was working in.
After a few hundred metres, you’ll reach a bridge, rebuilt in the 19th century using the stones from the original Roman bridge. As instructed by the leaflet, you will no doubt want to pause here to admire the view upstream to the mountains and to marvel at the gigantic boulder which has been sitting by the stream for more than 12,000 years, apparently, since the last glacial phase.
Keep following the Roman road uphill, through the pine trees, for views across the valley. You’ll have to bear left at one point but continue climbing until you reach the old guard house and the main road. Turn left here, stopping at the spring water fountain to refresh yourself before following the tarmac road downhill. After a while, you’ll pass the river beach on your left.
Once you’re done swimming, continue along the same road until you reach a T junction, at which point you should turn left again to take you back to the centre of the village. If you’re hungry, there’s a restaurant (and accommodation) called O Vicente just before this turning plus a couple of others in the centre of Loriga. Without stopping for lunch or a swim, the circular walk should take around 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Places to stay in or near Loriga river beach
O Vicente, also known as Casa da Fonte Sagrada, has the benefit of an onsite restaurant as well as great views.
Casa do Meio da Vila means house in the middle of the village and is therefore handy for other shops and cafés.
Casas da Nascente are a little more remote and offer a range of self-catering houses with bike rental, garden and sun terrace.
Casas do Soito offer more upmarket self catering apartments that have access to a pool with a view.
Casas da Lapa is a modern hotel with plenty of amenities including onsite restaurant, hammam and free bikes.
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