A TRIP TO PRAIA FLUVIAL DE FOZ D’ÉGUA
Foz d’Egua river beach
I was very excited to visit Foz d’Égua river beach as it appears high on many websites in their Top 10 river beaches in Central Portugal. It is located just 4km from Piodão, Arganil in a beautiful valley of the Serra do Açor mountains, where two streams (Ribeiras de Piódão and Chãs D´Égua) meet. It is a 45 min drive from our home but well worth it. The drive is through narrow winding roads with few barriers but the views are spectacular. If your sat nav takes you through Piódão be prepared to get stuck in traffic as it’s such a tourist attraction that it gets really congested. There are also loads of tourists so expect plenty of huge SUV’s to come around the bend in the middle of the road and nearly run you off the mountainside! I was especially excited to view the two schist granite bridges, and the suspension bridge which apparently look like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. I was not disappointed, this river beach is absolutely stunning with breath taking woodland scenery.
The construction of a weir led to the formation of a magnificent natural pool, with calm and crystal clear waters. There are a couple of hiking routes, including one to Piodão and trails for mountain biking too. Access to the river beach is via schist steps which are quite steep so not great if you have mobility issues or have a child in a pushchair. Once you reach the river beach it is pretty flat and well worth the short walk down to get there. We also explored the village of Foz d’Égua and at the top there is a fantastic landmark, a small altar, which represents the crib at the top of the village.
The car park is fairly small but there are three different entrances and places to park. We parked near the entrance that has the cafe. People just park anywhere and block areas, they park both sides of a narrow road making it difficult for 2 lanes of traffic to pass, get used to it folks, welcome to Portugal! There is no cafe at the river beach but there is a cafe is just next to one of the car parks. There are also no lifeguards so take care and keep your eye on any poor swimmers. It’s probably best that you don’t throw your child in to see if they can swim and definitely don’t throw anyones children in even if they are loud and annoying, just pop their alligator lilo or discreetly trip then over so they drop their ice cream on the floor (ha ha). As it’s quite a small river beach and well known we decided to go earlier than our usual 1.30pm afternoon slot as we didn’t want to miss out after a 45 min drive. To be honest, if a river beach is full to capacity then you just drive a few minutes until you reach another one. It also doesn’t mean you can’t enter, it just suggests that it’s full to capacity (very busy) and you may have difficulty social distancing. There are so many river beaches to visit and explore. We arrived around 12 o/c and it was quite busy. I dislike crowds and as it’s so small it did appear busy to me and we were struggling to find a spot to lay our picnic blanket down. The water was quite chilly but we were captain brave and ventured in for a dip.
The crazy houses
There are a couple of houses right next to the river beach and one house in particular made me stop and stare. It is situated right in the heart of the river beach and has a huge swimming pool. It is a B & B and there was a bold man sunbathing in the garden (ha ha). Well I have made him famous now as he is in my photo below. It’s really tricky trying to take photos for my blog as I try my best not to take any photos of children for obvious reasons but it’s avoidable taking photos without anybody in the background. Sometimes I see a bloke in poor fitting white speedos and think should I take a photo but resist (ha ha). I would hate to live here with the noise and lack of privacy and hundreds of people sitting on my front wall daily and peeping in at me. Just look at this house:
The suspension bridge
The ‘Indiana Jones’ suspension bridge is closed due to health and safety and has apparently been shut for past 2 years. To be honest I would probably poop my pants trying to negotiate over it with my poor balance! This didn’t stop a few idiots climbing over the ‘Do not enter/prohibited’ sign and walking on the bridge to take selfies. I was hoping they might fall and break a leg or two (ha ha). It really is very pretty and our secluded picnic area was right underneath it so we had such a great view.
The secluded spot
We were lucky as we found a fantastic quiet little spot under the suspension bridge and there was only one other couple there. I spent a while people watching as a man had a special underwater camera with various attachments and seemed to be taking photos of the wildlife and setting his camera up in little caves and recording stuff. His lady friend looked less impressed with his camera antics but I was intrigued. After all I could think of way more hideous hobbies like plane spotting. I know as a wife I’d rather be sat at a river beach watching hubby fiddle with camera technology than at a busy airport or hanging around for hours on hot tarmac. It was a bit of a challenge to climb down to this area but well worth it. You can also locate this area by wading through the water. We spent a lovely few hours here and ate our picnic. There are little pools of water like natural hot tubs and someone had made some art work and little bridges out of the pebbles. It took me all of 5 mins to destroy one of the lovely pebble bridges. I am hoping they were not monuments and have special voodoo meaning because if so I am well cursed. What can I say, poor balance and a bull in a china shop (ha ha). Then our peace and tranquillity was ruined by a large loud Portuguese family who decided to climb over my head and sit really close to us. They were so close it was as if they got a tape measure out and measured exactly 1.5 metres! At least they didn’t smoke. We decided to take one of the hiking trails to Piódão to escape them. I got my own back as they completely blocked the pathway out and as I stood over them I lost my balance and stepped on their blanket and stuff which they were none too pleased about. Oh well I have one word KARMA.
The hiking trails
We didn’t plan to go on a hike due to the heat. We wore clothing suitable for a hike, took swimwear and just kept an open mindset. There are a couple of hiking trails and we took the 2.8KM trail to Piódão which said it would take 55 mins but we got there in 45 mins. It was really hot but not a difficult hike with not actually that much to see but the path was well defined, a bit rocky under foot at times but an easy hike. We passed a few people coming the other way. We put our blanket and towels in the boot of the car and just took backpack with water, wallet and keys as our towels are so big and heavy. We decided to take the alternative 3.5KM hike back and we did not regret the longer trip as it is absolutely stunning, the scenery is so beautiful and there are little bridges and old ruins along the way. This route is more challenging as the pathways are steep rocky inclines and declines with a few muddy areas. We only have trainers and we both felt that our footwear was not really sufficient and trail shoes or hiking boots would have been an advantage. I did trip a couple of times and there was one near death defying moment where I lost my footing really close to the edge whilst I had a bottle of water in one hand and my phone in the other. I was so close to going over the edge but managed to stop myself just in time, pretty scary!
We were the only ones on the trail this time which was so much fun. It was cooler at around 6pm so a lovely hike. The sign posting has a lot to answer for and is sometimes posts but other times just a couple of lines of paint on a rock and the colours have run into each other due to the severe heat or moss has grown over the signage. We didn’t get lost but we did go around in circles 3 times trying to find the start of the trail (ha ha). I wouldn’t mind but climbing all these steep schist steps is a killer on my thighs. The journey back was supposed to take 1 hr 5 mins and it took us about 1 hr, not bad timing as I was wearing a wet bikini, leggings and vest top and improper footwear. I also stopped a lot to take photos as it was just so epic. There were a lot of animal poo droppings on the ground which was obviously dinosaur poo (ha ha). Now I’m no expert on poo but my money would bet on it being sheep poo which is a shame as I was secretly wishing it was rabbit poo and that when the sun set hundreds of wild Portuguese bunnies would be roaming the nature trails of Portugal. These trails are not suitable for people with mobility difficulties or pushchairs. Don’t bother if you are not at an average fitness level as you will struggle. We did see a small child on the first trail who was about 2 yrs old but the parent also had a child back carrier as there is no way a small young child could complete this route. They looked miserable as sin (ha ha). I cannot imagine carrying a 2 yr old on my back in the heat we are experiencing currently.
We viewed butterflies, lizard/geckos, small birds and crickets but luckily no snakey Joe’s. We also found lots of berries growing wild but don’t panic, we didn’t eat any. I didn’t want to risk getting poisoned, falling asleep and waking to find out that Portugal was just a dream and we were still living in Bristol in a mouldy little flat (ha ha). There were so many beautiful trees and the clouds were fascinating. I think that is why I tripped so many times as I was in awe of the natural beauty and it was so uneven under foot. I had to keep stopping to admire a tree trunk or some wild flowers. There was also an area with hundreds of pine cones.
Hiking photos to Piódão 2.8 KM
Hiking photos to Foz d’Egua 3.5 KM
Piódão river beach
We have visited Piódão before but we didn’t go to the river beach or swim. After a sweaty hike we were so ready for a cool off. This river beach is again quite small and designed to look more like a swimming pool. There are lifeguards but no cafe directly at the river beach. It’s a pretty river beach but I’m not keen as it’s square shaped it means that people sit around the water so if you are brave enough to venture in then it feels like you are in a goldfish bowl with all eyes on you. I’m quite self conscious, especially in my bikini so this does not appeal to me. I can’t wait for my one piece swimming suit and cover up to arrive. I have purchased some swimwear including a lovely one piece swimsuit from the Debenhams sale and my daughter is bringing them over when she visits soon as well as some Options hot chocolate (orange) drink and some Avon skin so soft (ha ha). I’m not quite ready for the swimsuit with the built in skirt just yet but I’m sure the time will come soon when I’m wearing elasticated skirts and comfy ugly shoes (ha ha). I now know why on a previous trip here we could hear teenagers screaming as they jumped in. It’s so cold that it took all my sanity to not scream out loud in front of everyone.
The water is absolutely freezing cold! I mean it’s so cold it makes your body parts numb. Everyone is sat around just waiting for the next fool to dive in so they can laugh. We sat on the edge and dangled our legs in. My legs become numb after 2 minutes. It was so hot so I just decided to go for it and jumped in. You only live once and in for a penny in for pound (or should I say euro). We lasted all of 5 minutes then I managed to clamber out like a beached whale and dry off. We didn’t bring towels due to the heaviness and the hike so we walked around a bit to dry off. It must have looked like I wet myself with dark patches on my leggings but who cares! We stopped for our usual ice cream and coke at a lovely cafe. Next time I visit I’m definitely having the beer and tapas as it looked amazing. What I love about cafes here is they don’t mind you taking up a prime seating location and only ordering a drink. You can also sit and chill for as long as you want so there is no time limits or rushing. Then you have the awkwardness of trying to flag the waiter down to pay the bill. They only charged us for the drinks but we are very honest so told them about the ice creams and left a little tip too. There is a lovely man selling baskets who is always singing. He sells 3 different sized bottled chilled water (60 cents for a medium) so we bought a couple for the journey back.
This day trip was my most favourite so far since we arrived in Portugal. The combination of the river beach, secluded spot, nature, hikes and not having fixed plans and just going with the flow and being spontaneous made it so enjoyable. I am going to bring Teanna here for sure when she visits. I know I keep saying that all the river beaches are different but they really are. As usual Foz d’Egua has crystal clear waters but what sets this river beach aside from the others is the fact that it has one of the best backdrops of the Serra do Açor mountains. It’s quaint little schist stone bridges, water mills and the schist/slate tiny rustic houses give it that magical feeling like you are in the middle of a Lord of the rings movie which is funny as when I researched this place it is known as the hobbit village. I haven’t felt so calm at any of the other river beaches I have visited, it really is a little natural charming oasis. A perfect spot in paradise to enjoy those special moments with family and loved ones. I think this is now my new favourite river beach so far. I closed my eyes and felt totally calm, that hasn’t happened in a long time! It really is an idyllic destination. Swimming in the water at a top of a mountain is very rejuvenating! I am expecting to add 10 years to my life and my wrinkles and cellulite to instantly disappear (ha ha). Bring on the next river beach!
GPS coordinates: 40 ° 13’46.4 ″ N 7 ° 49’34.2 ″ W
Update August 2020:
I love this place so much I returned with my daughter during her 2 week holiday here.