Infinity pool, Loriga river beach, Serra da Estrela

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Loriga mountain river beach, Serra da Estrela, Central Portugal
Loriga mountain river beach, Serra da Estrela, Central Portugal

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17 Comments

  1. Hello, Julia. The bridge over the Loriga stream is Roman and is the original. The one that was rebuilt in the 19th century is on the São Bento river. Someone confused the two bridges with each other and put this stupidity in the description of this pedestrian route. It would be good if you corrected this wrong information. Thank you and continue to visit Loriga..

    1. Thanks, José. It hasn’t got all the ones around my area but it’s a useful map.

  2. Is there a way to put a map out of all the river beaches in a radius from Coimbra? Distances etc. Thanks!

  3. What has Shelagh been smokin’? I might try some if it’s legal, LOL!

  4. I missed this location during my my visit to Portugal. Beautiful place – thanks for introducing the area! I may just try to track it down during my next visit. Happy Travels.

    1. Author

      Hi Jen, You’re welcome! I hope you make it back here and get to see it next time around.

  5. Dear Julie,i´m glade that i found your page in this site.I would like if you can help me find a partner with solid finance,to develop an country hotel or (rural hotel) i own a smal farm in the vacinity of Seia, more preciseley Santiago with a view for the mountain i intended to develop as an country hotel with 20 bedrooms. At the same time also develop an tour operator given the guests, tours in the area,like wine routes cheese routes jewish routes ande others.kindle let me know, if you know someone interested.I will apreciate. my best regards.

    Rui V Santos

    1. Author

      Hi Rui, Thanks for getting in touch. It sounds as though you have some interesting ideas for developing tourism in your area and I wish you the best of luck with your project. As far as finance goes, I’m afraid all I can suggest is that you contact your Câmara and Turismo de Centro or Turismo de Portugal to find out what’s on offer. I know that there were a series of sessions being held earlier this year throughout central Portugal about getting funding for tourist-related business but I don’t have any additional information.

  6. Hi Julie,

    The idyllic Loriga Valley has been a hidden diamond so far… !
    I hope that visitors to keep it always beautiful…

    2 Videos –
    – On top/begin of the Valley (near Garganta de Loriga)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqUR5fn3x6E

    – Loriga and around old villages

    1. Author

      Hi Amaro, Thanks for sharing the videos, I especially liked the first one – it made me want to go straight back to the Serra de Estrela and explore some more!

      I agree with you about the visitors, though. I hope Loriga doesn’t get spoilt by inconsiderate tourists. I hate it when I go for a walk by my local river and find plastic bottles and cigarette packets just thrown on the ground. I even had to tell a (Portuguese) couple off during a canoeing trip because they threw plastic and tin foil in the river! If you want to continue to enjoy natural beauty, you have to make the small amount of effort required to take your own rubbish home or find an appropriate bin. I am always astounded that some people don’t seem to realise that if they leave their litter in the pretty place they just visited, other people will do the same and very soon, it will just become an unattractive rubbish dump. The beaches of Venezuela are sad examples of this.

      Rant over. Sorry! It’s one of my pet hates.

  7. Oh I will! I got my Pink Princess a bunch of plastic ponies, a “jewel encrusted” make up tray,. 2 dolls, black and white with a vid that I hope teaches racial equality, and a hideous purple dog that lights up and yaps!| I think surrogate “auntie”! done good !| Lol Being Spain, the guy took one look at my booty and said “This is a present , right? You want it wrapped?” So my purple dog and weird ponies are wrapped in teddy bears and ready to go! You have to live in Iberia to get it!

    1. Author

      I love that whole wrapping thing. Except of course when I’m in a hurry and stuck behind someone who’s having their gifts wrapped but you can’t have it both ways 🙂

  8. Nope, but I know of a lovely little swimming hole created every year by the villagers in a tiny valley village in the Serra Mamede! Its like an impressionist painting brought to life up there some days, beautiful mature Spanish ladies in Kaftans or modest bikinis walking the shallow little river or frolicking under the “waterfall “created by the makeshift dam, earnest men with beards discussing things earnestly, lithe young women lying near naked under the trees, kids and dogs romping and a communal table laden with booze and homemade food to which you contribute then help yourself. And no, I am not telling you where, its Our secret! Lol Will be there again on the 31st when my friend hosts her daughter´s 5th birthday party. Should be fun! She is an amazing cook, They live a life where they grow everything, breed and kill everything and bake their own bread. The birthday cake will be really interesting. The boys was a cartoon car, alarmingly red but his latest obsession. I suspect the girl´s will involve Princesses or Ponies! They are English, but they are raising the kids as Portuguese, they have Portuguese names and were born there, They do speak English, but only under duress! Lol

    1. Author

      It sounds idyllic, Shelagh. I don’t blame you for wanting to keep the location to yourself. I suspect that Loriga was a much quieter affair before it received fame and publicity. Have a great time on the 31st!

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