Nazare is a fishermen town, still active in that area, with boats of all colours scattered on the ocean on the lookout for prey. People come for a vacation here, or to pray at Nossa Senhora de Nazare that houses the wooden statue of Virgin Mary from Nazareth. But other people come when the place is a lot less peaceful. Actually, here are rising one of the biggest waves on the planet and they call for surfers from all around the world rushing in on private jets and helicopters all eager to set new world records.
This is Nazare, of Portugal.
Nazare – a cultural, religious and surfers heaven hotspot.
012.1 Nazare beach, town and funicular
The name Nazare means Nazareth in Portuguese. And why the same name? Well in this settlement was brought a dark wooden statue of Virgin Mary, feeding the baby Jesus, with the help of two monks. One in the 4th century got it to Spain from Nazareth and another monk got it into today’s emplacement around the 8th century – with the help of the last Visigoth king of Portugal.
012.2 Avenida da Republica (next to the beach)
Colourful houses mostly white but with yellow, blue, red accents are spread facing the ocean. Most hotels can be found here, as well as restaurants. Not all looked like they were lived, so maybe someone could buy them and bring them to life.
012.3 Santo Antonio Church
A great example of Portuguese architecture, dominated by azulejos – blue painted white ceramic tiles.
012.4 A look up on the street
Like said previously, the main colours are white with yellow and blue accents (like most coastal towns of Europe) but the main difference that indicates the country, are the ceramic tiles in blue.
012.5 Colourful mural at Funicular station
To get from the beach, to the lighthouse all you need is either drive up there or more fun that that take the Funicular. It was inaugurated on the 28th of July 1889 and at first, it was running on steam on a few days of the week/year. Now it is electrified and it runs all year long at less than 4euros double trip (think of it as the price for a Starbucks tall). And yep the line goes big even so as they are only 2 cars going up and down the rails, one for each direction.
012.6 View over Nazare as a whole
Upon the cliff, you are at some 110m above sea level and if you are in luck not to have mist, the view is quite spectacular. Of course, best luck is to have a storm, high winds from the shore and giant breaking waves 🙂 And no, you cannot see the Canyon of Nazare from up here.
012.7 View of living on the edge of the cliff
Seeing all of this, kinda makes you feel pretty small. Also brings questions like if it would be possible to live here instead of the crowded cities that bring jobs taught by schools. Well, it is definitely more hard to sustain a decent life only by what the sea gives plus the tourists that already spent a lot just to come here so they are pretty empty as they arrive.
012.8 A yellow stone pavilion
Returning from daydreaming of living next to the ocean on a high cliff, we find ourselves in the main square where people gather to talk, dance, sing and generally have a good time. Since I was early in the morning, only a pair of speakers were “singing” and nobody was dancing, but drinking coffee and eating Portuguese sweets.
012.9 Nossa Senhora da Nazare
When a small chapel is no longer suited for the great number of tourists and pilgrims that want to visit the sacred relic -> a big religious complex is built.
012.10 Azulejos at the entrance of the Sanctuary
Nazare is not just a great beach (and some quite cold water) is also a religious destination. And to make happy pilgrims, there is a lot of details, care and history to keep their hunger well at bay.
012.11 The beautiful organ in dark brown wood
Marble, wood, gold and blue all speak of the importance that people of Nazare give to Christianity, to God and to Virgin Mary that helped them through battles, and so they sing about it.
012.12 Golden leaves and blue history
And if singing is not enough, unique azulejos ornate the walls of the Sanctuary, depicting history, occupations, tales, and other stuff related to locals.
012.13 The legend
Nazare has a legend in which Dom Fuas Roupinho went hunting and at one point he saw a deer. He followed it on the horse and went into the thick mist chasing the prey. At that moment he recognised where he was (somewhere on the cliff) so he got afraid the horse will not stop in time.
Through the mist, the statue of Virgin Mary appeared, so instinctively he prayed out loud for help from Virgin Mary and miraculously the horse stopped.
Honouring that he is alive due to the miracle of the apparition he ordered to build a chapel on that site that became a big pilgrim destination. So after 5 centuries, a bigger church was built -> Nossa Senhora de Nazare.
In this new Sanctuary, built in 1664, lies behind the altar, the wooden statue of Virgin Mary, that came from Nazareth in the year 771.
012.4 The rails that go up and down all day, all year
And so it happens that from a place that lied alone in the middle of today’s Portugal, on the shores of Atlantic, came to be a town as famous as Fatima, both related to Virgin Mary and her help towards the Portuguese people. From those days, people were climbing the cliff to the sacred place much like at Braga, praying while climbing. Now is as easy as paying a coffee and enjoy getting pulled up on rails by a cable (or by another car, coming downhill) -> which is poetic in its own way.
Nazare is beautiful because in it’s street you can see evolution or time passing. From old boats put on shore to fish drying on the sun on nets to bakeries that have a high chimney to be higher than the mist (so avoid pollution on street level)
To harnessing the wind to provide energy that makes life easier and helps people think about how to bring more tourists.
012.17 The Lighthouse
I’ve been talking about people, religion, cliffs, fish but not about the stuff that makes it year by year in the history books.
To see giant waves some ingredients are needed: money to fly to Lisbon ASAP + money to take a rental (yep it ain’t easy to get here, both bus and train are not real options both taking too much time that could be easily divided by 3 with a rental). Then you need to do all that in December/January/February as in these 3 months there are many storms. Also, you need high winds coming from the shore so that the waves grow and break, otherwise they don’t get much separation.
I used this website to find out when to go:
It would have been easy to pick a picture from the internet and throw and copyright on it and have it on my website. But is only fair that you look on either Wiki, Guinness Book Records or just Google in general and they all point out one thing in common
-> Nazare has some huge waves.
One of the biggest underwater Canyons in Europe is in Nazare, measuring no less than 5km deep and some 230km long => add on that storms and the high tide that brings power to the ocean.
If that is easy and happens quite a lot in one year (winter) then you need also strong wind currents that come from the shore towards the ocean =>
Mega breaking waves =>
Planes/Helicopters coming with surfers from all around the world all in need to put their name on Records Books.
I did not have an opportunity even to see baby waves when I went in Nazare (or passed by) but I will watch out every winter on that surf website, booking app and plane tickets.
It must be really life-changing to see monster waves breaking, with surfers ridding them somewhat safely.
In 2018, half a year after my first trip, around February I knew big waves were about to happen in the middle of the week. I and my girlfriend were stuck at work with a deadline too close to demand management for a 2 days vacation (and for two people). And so I saw all on live cameras and yeah… it was the highest tide, the highest winds and so highest waves since they are being recorded. All the other times I was passing also no big waves, so I did not make the detour.
So I will be sure to keep my rain jacket ready, my zoom lenses also in top shape for 2019/2020, -> already been saving a few bucks to get 2 nights, still need the money for a plane ticket though..
Until then we see each other on another destination, here on colorpixel.org.