If you’re keen to escape bustling resort towns, the quiet fishing village of Salema in the western Algarve may be worth considering for your Portugal itinerary. Major international publications, including The Guardian and Rick Steves‘ travel guides, have lauded its charms so I went to see what all the fuss is about.
Thanks to this publicity, a fresh crop of accommodation options and beachfront restaurants cater for largely seasonal visitors and I suspect that some of Salema’s original appeal may eventually become tainted by these additions.
Salema, a traditional Algarve fishing village
Despite this, the beach remains sandy and golden and the fishing community is still active.
You can still stroll along quiet cobbled streets and see traditional cottages and quaint local touches.
Hiking from Salema
Aside from relaxing on the beach and tucking into the catch of the day, the fact that Salema beach and village is ensconced within the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentina Coast Natural Park offers opportunities to stretch your legs and enjoy the natural beauty of the western Algarve. Although not part of the Rota Vicentina hiking trail, it’s not far away so with transport, you could do a full day’s hike.
A much shorter walking trail crosses the surrounding cliffs to connect Salema with the beach at Boca do Rio.
Although I did half of it, I haven’t completed this short walk – I drove to Boca do Rio and walked along the cliff tops but didn’t have time to hike all the way to Salema and back to my car that day. If you’re staying for longer, it would make for a pleasant excursion, especially in spring when the wildflowers are at their best.
Boca do Rio Nature Reserve
I discovered this hidden gem by accident after stopping to take a look at Burgau beach. As I continued to head west towards Salema, brown signs piqued my curiosity and led me to the car park at Boca do Rio. This was in April and apart from the occupants of a few camper vans, the beach was quiet.
Since I hadn’t planned on this detour, I knew I couldn’t spend long on this unspoiled Algarve beach but I was intrigued by the walking trail leading off to the right. I’m so glad I chose to follow it; the wildflowers were gorgeous.
The coastal and inland views from the top of the cliff are worth the short climb and the slight tingle of fear. Do heed the warnings to stay away from the cliff edge – it is alarmingly thin in places and full of holes.
If you visit Boca do Rio beach, note that there were no facilities (i.e. café or toilets).
Where to stay in and around Salema
One thing to bear in mind when choosing the most suitable accommodation in Salema is the hills. While there are some properties that are not far from the beach, others are nestled in the cliffs above the village. The slight effort of walking uphill is likely to be rewarded by a better view.
You’re likely to need a car if you plan to explore the area beyond what’s within walking distance so free parking is a bonus.
See my car rental tips.
You’ll find a range of options, from guesthouses to apartments and villas. Use this search box to see what suits you best.