Discover Portugal is fully reader-supported. For that reason, this article contains some affiliate links. I may earn a small commission when you purchase through links on this page at no additional cost to you. All revenue is used to keep this website free and updated. I only recommend products or services that I would use myself. You’ll be able to read the full disclaimer here. Thanks for your support!
In this post you'll discover
Guinness World Record Nazaré big waves
The sleepy town of Nazaré has become THE place for ginormous waves. After all, it holds the Guinness World Record for the highest wave ever surfed. In 2020, Sebastian Steudtner surfed a 26,21 meters (86 feet) tall giant! And this was not the first record Nazaré set. Rodrigo Koxa (24.38 meters in 2017), Maya Gabeira (22.4 meters in 2020), and Garret Macnamara (23.77 meters in 2011) have surfed waves the size any person would run a mile from. Currently, five out of the six biggest waves ever surfed happened at Nazaré. And not only are the surfers magical to see but the jetskis and riders that tow the surfers are a show in itself!
Watch Sebastian Steudtner surf the Nazaré big waves !
When is the big wave season in Nazaré?
The big wave season in Nazaré is roughly between October and March, the Portuguese winter season. The size of the waves then depends on multiple factors, such as winds, tides, and storms. Every season usually has 1 to 6 big swells. If you visit Portugal specifically for the waves, it’s a recommendation to stay in the area for at least two to three weeks.
Although the waves are uncertain, you can check the waves before your visit. Click here for a current update! The forecasts are usually for the upcoming week only.
It’s become a famous sight for those who’ve seen the Nazaré big waves. Nearly 30-meter tall waves surround a tiny red lighthouse (Farol da Nazaré) on a cliff! It’s a spectacle many of us would love to witness. When people visit Nazaré in summer, they might wonder, however, if they’re in the correct location. It’s fair to say that the main beach is calmer all year round, but North Beach is where the big waves happen. But even in summer, there might not be much happening here.
Why are in the waves in Nazaré so big?
What makes Nazaré so unique? The answer lies underwater! Before the coast of the fishing town lies Nazaré Canyon, the largest underwater canyon in Europe! The canyon reaches a staggering depth of 5,000 meters, and the North Canyon is the main reason for the generation of the big waves. This, in conjunction with other natural elements such as tides, big Atlantic Ocean swells, wind, sea currents and the sea floor, creates the Nazaré big waves. And North Beach is where the magic happens!
Nazaré Canyon is a whopping 227 kilometres long, and the deepest parts are 5 kilometres deep. It is the largest submarine canyon in Europe, with several steep slopes. Many fishermen have dreaded the sea at Nazaré, as many ships ended up right at the bottom of the ocean! Nowadays, the small fishing town transformed into heaven for experienced surfers. Check this super inspiring video to learn more about the Nazaré big waves and the canyon.
Where to watch the Nazaré big waves?
When you’ve decided to visit Nazaré and witness this magic, it’s good to know where to watch this natural performance. Especially when the high wave forecast is good, Nazaré gets very busy. Only surfers, emergency services, staff, and press can drive up to the lighthouse and the beach. Thankfully, Nazaré has ample parking spots; from there, it’s a bit of a walk towards the lighthouse, Farol da Nazaré. From town, you can also take a tuk-tuk, so you don’t have to walk so far.
The Nazaré big waves take place on Praia do Norte. Once you walk towards the lighthouse, you’ll notice some cliffs and rocks to the side. This natural platform is a fantastic place to sit and watch. Closer to the lighthouse, there is a viewpoint towards North Beach, but it’s harder to see the spot where most waves break. Some viewing spots are at the lighthouse, but the house’s best seats are for photographers and film crews. The best way is to walk around a little and find a spot that works well for the day you visit.
Be aware: you can reach the beach Praia do Norte by dirt road, but this is a dangerous place to visit. Several tourists have drowned by waves coming to the beach with enormous strength. If you have no business here, the advice would be to avoid the area.
Fort of São Miguel Arcanjo
The lighthouse of Nazaré stands on top of the Fort of São Miguel Arcanjo. The fort is open all year round from 10 AM to 5:30 PM. For a small entrance fee of € 2,00, you can visit inside to view the Big wave tour Nazaré. It’s a small exhibition with surfboards of those who’ve mastered the giant waves of Nazaré. You’ll learn more about the surfers, the equipment, and the WSL Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge. You’ll also learn more about the underwater canyon and its effect on the waves.
What else is there to do in Nazaré?
It’s not just surfing that attracts visitors to Nazaré. Traditional tourism has been important for the town for many years, and the main beach of Nazaré is perfect for a beach holiday. The town has terrific traditions, and the food is delicious! And although Nazaré might not have any significant landmarks or famous tourist sights, you’ll easily spend a few days here. Close to Praia da Nazaré, you’ll discover the fisherman’s district, where you’ll blend in with the locals. Colourful fishing boats decorate the beach, and you can try dried fish everywhere.
Another place not to miss is the Ascensor da Nazaré. The funicular runs between the beach and the viewpoint at Sítio da Nazaré. Along the way, you’ll enjoy stunning views of the fishing town and Praia da Nazaré. There are several mesmerising viewpoints along the ridges, and it’s a gorgeous spot to be, especially during sunset. A little further, you’ll discover the church Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Nazaré, Ermida da Memória, and Palácio Real on Largo Nossa Senhora de Nazaré.
Where to eat in Nazaré?
Nazaré has plenty of excellent restaurants, and fish is a highlight on most menus. Rice, potatoes, chips, or salad often accompany the day’s catch. Besides fish, there will be plenty of meat options available. Favourite restaurants include Mili, Zé d’Avo, Joaquim, and Maria do Mar. Vegetarian and vegan options are available at Little India, Tabernassa, and Blue Jardim. Sabor’art Café is perfect for breakfast, and there are vegan options available.
How to get to Nazaré from Lisbon or Porto
The easiest way to get to Nazaré is by car. From Lisbon, the drive takes about an hour and a half. You can follow the A8 towards Leira and take exit 22 (Nazaré / Alcobaça / Valado dos Frades). From Porto, the ride takes around 2 to 2,5 hours. You follow the A1 towards Lisbon and take exit 16 (Aveiro / Viseu) to join the A25. Then follow the A17 (the A17 becomes the A8) to exit 22 (Nazare / Alcobaça / Valado dos Frades). Need a rental car? Check Rental Cars for the best deals during your holiday!
There are daily buses from Lisbon to Nazaré, and the journey takes just 1,5 hours. You can take a Flixbus from Oriente Station in Lisbon. It takes around 2 hours and 40 minutes from Porto to Nazaré.
There is a train connection also to Nazaré, and you can check the details on the Comboios De Portugal website. This option takes the longest as you’ll need to change trains in (usually) Lisbon, Agualva-Cacem, and Caldas da Rainha. The train journey from Lisbon to Nazaré takes around 3 hours. There are trains from Porto, but they are rare and take a long time!
With a tour
The easiest way to reach Nazaré is by organised tour. You won’t have to organise anything and can sit back and relax. Many tours also visit other towns along the way, such as Óbidos, Alcobaça, and Batalha.
Where to stay in Nazaré
Nazaré makes a great beach holiday destination in the summer and a surfing spot in the winter. Besides, Nazaré is centrally located on the Silver Coast, with many sights and towns to visit in the area! You can easily make day trips to Óbidos, Alcobaça, Buddha Eden Garden, Fátima, Batalha, Ourém, Tomar, and Leiria. If you want to make some day trips in nature, visiting the Cascata da Fórnea and Mira de Aire Cave are recommendations.
Conclusion about the Nazaré big waves
If you want to see the big waves, you’ll need to visit Nazaré between October and March. The forecast only shows the swells a week ahead, and there is no guarantee that you can witness the big waves in Nazaré. If you want to be sure, book a place nearby for at least 2 to 3 weeks. The annual WSL Nazare Big Wave Challenge is between November 1st and March 31st. The event will be confirmed only 48 hours in advance. The rest of the year, Nazaré makes the perfect beach holiday destination on the Portuguese Atlantic Coast.
Such a unique and interesting post! I loved the video on the history of the city and how it has changed since the video came out. I remember watching the video and being awe-struck but I didn’t know where it happened. Very insightful.
The people who surf those waves have courage beyond my comprehension!
I never thought there was such a thing as “wave season,” but of course it makes sense! Love, love, LOVE Portugal! I can’t wait to petsit my way back there! Thanks for bringing up happy memories!
Great guide on going to Nazare, and I will save this one when we decide to travel there. The view is lovely and has some good places to visit as well.
Thank you so much for sharing a great overview of Nazaré. I haven’t been or even to Portgual, but the photos you added made it look like a beautiful place to go. Thanks for sharing!
Always wanted to go see the biggest waves in the world! I like that you added the reason why the waves get so big in Nazare 🙂
I hadn’t heard of this location in Portugal before but it looks amazing to visit. Those waves are seriously huge!
I would love to check out these big waves in Nazaré, Portugal. And looks like there are so many awesome things to do in the area.
I’ve visited Portugal in March and the waves are SO massive, it’s insane! Great guide
Wow i love this guide, thank you!
Stunning photos- definitely worth checking out…from dry land 😉
Wooo. Nazare has one hell of an attraction. Seeing the video you have shared in this article, I am in awe. I could watch those giant waves come in and crash all day long.