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July 2006

North of Lisbon.

The web lists four beaches as naturist: Abano, Ursa, Adraga, and Ajuda.

To get to the beaches, take the A2 west (from the airport you take the Second Circular out of the circle at the exit from the airport), exit to Cascais, and once you get into town follow the signs to Guincho. Continue past Guincho. The road winds high on the cliffs, and the beaches are at the bottom, with roads of varying quality leading to parking at the cliff at the top of the beach, from which you walk down to the beach (except for Adraga, where the parking is at beach level). These beaches are mediocre news for naturists. Abano is first. When I was there Abano was exclusively textile. Adraga is second. It had one unhappy-looking nude man at the far end of the beach. Aguda was fourth. You had to walk down a staircase of 230 steps, and when you got there there was nothing but textile bathers. All three beaches were topfree - with about a quarter of the women taking advantage of the practice. Adraga and Abano had excellent restaurants at the parking lot, and lifeguards. Aguda was unserviced. Amusingly, dogs were allowed on all of the beaches.

Ursa is the only reasonable naturist beach, and it is the wildest.

To get to it you make a left turn off the main road towards Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point in Europe. As you drive toward the lighthouse, you will see an unmarked small parking lot on the right. The parking lot has a sign saying Ursa which you can see on the way back from the lighthouse but not on the way towards the lighthouse. Leading out of the parking lot is an extremely rocky road (my companion called the road You-Don't-Want-To-Be-Driving-This-In-A-2-Wheel-Drive-Car Street;' we had a 2 wheel drive car). At the end of the road is a parking lot, with two trails leading out of it, a faint trail on the left and a well groomed trail on the right.

Paradoxically, take the left trail, which turns out to be relatively easy. The right one, easier and well-marked at the top, becomes very difficult at the bottom. Wear good shoes. I did it in Teva sandals, and it was exciting. I took the right trail going down, which in its bottom quarter required holding on with both hands and being very, very careful. When I got into view of the beach on the hard part, people on the beach started looking at me and pointing (as in what is that crazy guy doing up there?). They cheered when I arrived intact at the beach. The beach itself is gorgeous; a small sandy beach nestled between high cliffs, protected from the wind by rocks in the water, and with not too horrid waves. Textiles and naturists mixed together, as if anyone who can actually make it down deserves to do whatever he wants. Going up I used the other trail, which was a lot easier. A definite plus for the adventurous, but it makes the goat path down to Blackís Beach feel like a freeway.

South of Lisbon is better news.

There are three good beaches, Bela Vista, Fonte da Telha, and Meco.

You take the A2 south of Lisbon, cross the 26th April Bridge (Portugal has a lot of 26th of April streets, bridges and parks. They used be to named after Salazar, the dictator; he was deposed on the 26th of April). The first exit is to Caparica, a beach town at the top of a long beach. You take a freeway to the town, and then go left (south) on the beach road. Go for about 4 km, and you will see a dirt road leading to a number of beaches. The last is Bella Vista, a legal nude beach, which stretches south of the parking lot. The beach is flat, sandy, with not too daunting surf. There were dunes behind the beach which had the odd nude man standing on the top, as if it were gay cruising area, but the beach itself was inhabited by couples, families, textiles and naturists intermixed.

Further down the main road is Fonte da Telha, not an official nude beach, but clearly an established one. You take a right turn down to the beach restaurants in town. Going south from the main paved parking lot is a dirt road (compared to the one at Ursa it felt like I95) which wends its way past more beach restaurants. Park at the end of the road, and continue walking south on the beach. Gradually people stop wearing clothes. If you don't have a car, you can take a bus to Caparica, and then take the toy train that runs down the beach, 4 Euros round trip. Bela Vista is stop 17, Fonte da Telha (the town) is at the end of the line (stop 20).. The best beach is Meco, somewhat further south.

You take the A2 to the exit for Setubal/Sesimbra, and immediately follow the signs for Sesimbra. About 10 km south you will see a right turn for Alfarim. This road lasts about 10 km, and ends in a rotary in the town. Follow the signs out of the rotary for Praias (beaches) and Country House, a hotel. You will soon see another sign for Country House, on the right. Ignore it, and keep going straight, following this road to the end. Then turn right. This now leads down to a bunch of parking lots with sun shelters, costing 1.5 Euros each. The nude beach starts almost immediately south of the parking lot, and goes for several miles. There is a textile area to the north of the parking lot, with umbrellas and beach mattresses for rent. It was empty when I was there.

The nude beach is sheltered by a cliff, which has springs of fresh water flowing down it. The locals smear the mud at the springs over their bodies, and then wash it off in the surf. The beach is a family beach, with singles, couples, groups almost all of whom are nude (except of course for the adolescents, who canít understand why their yukky parents take their clothes off in public). There is a reasonable restaurant at the parking lot, and restrooms. I walked nude down the beach. There were steps from cliffs leading down to the beach at various parts of the beach, a gay, but not cruising area in the center of the beach, and another family nude beach at the south end. The most southern area, around a promontory, adjoined a textile beach, Bicas.

I think Meco is the most beautiful beach I have ever been on, both for the landscape and the vibes. It is wonderfully accessible, with the nude area at the center and textile areas at the fringes. Should fate ever bring you to Lisbon, go to Meco!

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