The biggest waves in the world. The city of Nazare. Portugal

The biggest waves in the world. The city of Nazare. Portugal

Ocean, sand, beach, cocktail, deck chair and waves of 30 meters high. Yes, it’s all in one place, but thankfully at different times. How could that be? Let’s go to the town of Nazare on the west coast of Portugal. It is here, on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, where you can see both a relaxed beach vacation and the biggest waves in the world.

This landmark of Portugal is located between the capital city of Lisbon and the city of Porto.

In summer, the small resort town of Nazare, with a population of about 15,000, is a classic tourist attraction in the country. Its long sandy beaches are occupied by tourists from all over the world. They bask in the gentle sun, swim in the Atlantic Ocean. In general, the usual serene holiday.

In winter everything changes dramatically. Beach tourists are replaced by tourists and extreme lovers of unusual natural phenomena. During this period, you can watch the formation of giant waves that crash on the coast, almost at arm’s length. This incredible in its power and amazing in its beauty phenomenon attracts both travelers and the most desperate surfers.

The Waves in Nazarre

Surfer in Nazarre

Who makes the biggest waves on the planet

Once again we remind you that almost everything amazing, beautiful, sometimes frightening, but mesmerizing on our planet is produced by nature. In this case, the creator of the giant waves was the atypical topography of the ocean floor near the city of Nazare, in particular the underwater North Canyon of Nazare. This depression in the bottom surface reaches almost to the shore, forming a kind of springboard for the ocean waves.

It should be noted that Nazare Canyon is recognized as the deepest in Europe and one of the deepest in the world. It is situated not parallel to the coast, but perpendicular. Its length is 227 kilometers, and its depth reaches 5 kilometers (almost half the depth of the Mariana Trench). As you approach the coast, the depth sharply decreases, creating a barrier in the path of the wave and repeatedly increasing its height. Conditions are created in which colossal masses of water must jump this barrier. Don’t forget, all of this is happening in close proximity to the tourists.

Giant Waves in Nazare

In the pictures below you can see the geological reasons for the huge waves.

Nazare canyon - the cause of the largest waves

Scheme of formation of a giant wave

A typical diagram of the formation of a giant wave

But that’s not all. Bottom topography alone is not enough to produce the highest waves. It requires a combination of many factors.

A helluva cocktail for making the biggest waves

The presence of a canyon creates special conditions for making big waves. It divides the wave into two parts. One part increases its speed as it passes through the canyon, and the other reunites with the first at the exit of the canyon into one big wave.

The opposite ocean current coming from the beach can add a few more meters.

The wave period, which should be on the order of 14 seconds, is important for the birth of a giant wave. The wind, oddly enough, should be weak. The direction of the wave is very important, ideally it should come from the west or northwest. Adding to these factors are storms in the North Atlantic that occur during the fall through winter. The combination of these factors can multiply a normal ocean wave by several times.

The highest waves in Portugal

How often do big waves appear

Looking at the photos on the Internet, as well as on our website, you might think that giant waves in Nazareth form almost every minute. But they don’t. Just above, you learned how many phenomena it takes to add up to make a huge wave. It doesn’t happen that often.

Magdeburg Water Bridge is a water crossing. Germany

The Big Waves season in Nazareth is from October through February. During these months, there are usually 1 to 6 giant waves and dozens or hundreds of much smaller waves. If you want to see a truly huge wave, plan to spend at least 2 weeks here, or watch the forecasts on surf sites. For a big wave, the forecast should indicate a wave size of more than 3 meters, a wave period of more than 13 seconds, and a slight north wind.

If you’re already there, check the sea conditions in real time via the online forecast and webcams. But, even if all the forecasts indicate ideal conditions for big waves, things can change in just an hour and ruin a day with a favorable forecast.

Giant waves in Portugal

Peru, on the other hand, has some of the longest sea waves in the world. They are much safer than the waves in Nazareth, and you can ride them for up to several minutes in a row, going more than one hundred meters on the crest of one wave

The story of conquering the giant waves of Nazare

There are people in the world, which “honey honey”, let only to conquer the biggest waves. Usually they are called surfers. They, probably, with the advent of boards began to collect the best places on the planet for their hobby. They didn’t skimp on the waves near the town of Nazareth. Surfers were first noticed here back in the 1960s. Since then they have been frequent guests here. But there is no data on the conquest of huge waves. Only in November 2011, the world learned about the capture of the largest wave. Then Gareth McNamara – surfer from Hawaii – conquered a wave of 24 meters high. Brave fellow did not rest and in January 2013 broke his own record, taking a 30-meter wave.

Gareth was the first to describe the feeling of such adventures. It proved to be incredibly challenging because of the unpredictable behavior of the wave.

McNamara involved three assistants and one wife (his own) in the event. At the moment a wave is breaking, the first helper on the jet ski tries to get the surfer as high up on the crest as possible, and stays close to him for backup. Look at the pictures of the waves and you’ll realize that it’s impossible to swim on your own.

Surfing in Nazare

A second mate sails a little further away and watches over both of them. The third keeps an eye on everyone else. And from the shore, the gray-haired wife watches everything and tells her husband how best to catch the wave.

The first time everything went well and no help was needed, but the second time proved the effectiveness of the triple insurance. Then the first assistant was swept away from the jet ski by the wave, and the surfer was pulled out by the second assistant, and the third one pulled out the first one.

The danger of such adventures is extremely high, that’s why surfers try not to get on waves 30 meters high without any special need. They do it only for the sake of records.

In October 2013, Brazilian surfer Carlos Berl rode a wave that was even bigger. But there is absolutely no accurate data on the height of the conquered waves, as it is quite problematic to take measurements.

Conquering the highest waves in the world

Annual surfer convention in Nazaré

Despite the dangers of such big waves, the Nazare Surf Challenge – WSL Big Wave Tour, run by the World Surf League, has been held in Nazare since 2016. This contest brings together the best surfers from all over the world and lasts only one day. In addition, it has no fixed date. It all depends on the forecast of the sea state. The waiting period is from October 15 to February 28. The contest day is approved three days in advance. This is the best that can be achieved with modern sea conditions and wind forecasting technology.

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It’s a landmark event for surfers. Here’s how one participant describes it – “What followed after the starting signal was a dizzying, wild and unprecedented display of courage, stupidity and skill.”

Giant waves in Nazarre

Where’s the best place to watch the biggest waves

The best way to watch a giant wave is to stand on its crest on a surfboard. So will tell any surfer. For ordinary tourists it is better to do it from the Cape Nazare where the lighthouse is located. Since the place is very interesting, you are unlikely to get lost. This is also where Fort San Miguel Arcangio is located. You can also go down to the sand on the beach on a dirt road, but be very careful. It is very dangerous during the Big Wave season.

Now, besides the big waves, the attraction of Nazare is the surfers who “ride” them. This, by the way, gives a good idea of the size of the waves. When you see a little man running away from a multi-ton huge wave, you can imagine how big and mighty not only Russian, but also the Atlantic Ocean.

Nazare, Portugal – waves, surfing and sights

For lovers of big waves and surfers, Nazareth, Portugal, is a well-known resort located an hour away from the capital of the country. The town was founded in the early 16th century.

It is here, because of the peculiarities of the seascape waves can be up to 30 meters high. Only the most courageous athletes are able to tame the roaring and raging elements. Every year the best surfers from all over the world come to Nazare. Otherwise, Nazaré is a small fishing town, with many cafes and restaurants and souvenir shops.

Waves in Nazare, Portugal

Photo: Waves in Nazaré, Portugal.

General Information

Tourists call Lisbon the heart of the country, and Nazare – its soul. And this soul is passionate, beautiful and noble. You can fall in love with it forever and admire the big waves of Nazare in Portugal.

Nazare, Portugal

Its population is just over 10 thousand people. It is located in the region of Leiria, which is known for centuries-old tradition of fishing and the legend of the miraculous rescue of the monarch by Our Lady. For decades, Nazareth has hosted pilgrims from all over the world, but the town provides an incredible sense of unity with nature and allows you to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Drying fish

The locals honor ancient traditions, prefer to wear ancient clothing, and you can often hear folk songs in the streets. Even today, women in Nazar wear seven skirts and are engaged in mending nets and drying fish in the old way, sitting on the shore. Many tourists feel that time stood still here, but this did not prevent the city to become one of the most visited resorts in the country. There are all conditions for a comfortable stay.

The town is divided into two parts. The upper is the old, here are the main attractions of Nazare in Portugal. The lower town has a beach, souvenir shops, cafes, restaurants, stores and all the tourist infrastructure.

As a side note. Souvenirs are better to buy in the lower part of Nazareth, because here they are cheaper.

Features of a vacation

If you love the ocean, then Nazare will be beautiful for you regardless of the season of the year. The high season starts in the second half of May and lasts until early fall, the rest of the year here come seniors and surfers.

St. Peter's Cathedral in Cologne. Cologne. Germany

Temperature in Nazare, Portugal

If your main goal is a beach holiday, summer is the best time to do it. However, keep in mind that the Atlantic coast is quite cool, the water here does not get warmer than +18 degrees. In addition, the ocean often storms. On weekends, the beach is filled not only with tourists, but also with the local population.

At the height of the high season, the temperature ranges from +17 to +30 degrees, but in the sun it feels like +40 degrees. It almost never rains, the vegetation becomes sparse, faded, and fires are not uncommon.

As the temperature drops, the waves gain power, the weather is quite windy, it rains, but in sunny weather the locals walk around in T-shirts.

An umbrella won't save you in Nazarre

Useful information! An umbrella in Nazar will not save you from the rain, as strong gusts of wind just turn it out. The best thing to do is to pack a waterproof jacket with a hood.

The most comfortable months for rest are September and the first half of October. During this time the temperature stays at +20 … +25 degrees and there is not a lot of precipitation.

The early spring is quite cool, the temperature does not rise above +10 degrees and it rains regularly. The weather becomes comfortable for recreation only in May.

The average temperature ranges from +8 to +15, which is an ideal time for extreme surfing and just to watch the brave athletes. It is during the cold season that Nazaré in Portugal has the biggest waves in the world.

Winter Waves in Nazare

On a side note. Coimbra, the student capital of Portugal, is an hour away from Nazaré. Find out what’s interesting there in this article.


Garrett McNamara

This amazing paradise for surfers was found by Garrett McNamara, an athlete from Hawaii. He owns a world record – Garrett was able to conquer the wave of 24 meters (although some lovers of exaggeration say the height was 34 meters). Since then, surfers from many countries come to Nazaré to test their courage and bravery.

An interesting fact! The secret of the constant big waves in Nazar – opposite the town at the bottom of the ocean there is a canyon, the stream of water hitting it, pushes to the surface a huge amount of water in the form of high waves.

Surfing in Nazare

If you just want to watch the athletes, go up to the cape, where you have a beautiful view and can breathe the air filled with iodine.

When traveling on the Portuguese Golden Ring, Nazaré is often a stop for food, as it offers delicious Portuguese fish and seafood dishes.

What else to do in Nazareth:

  • Take the ancient tramway up the Sitio;
  • Eat in one of the restaurants;
  • See the surfers;
  • Watch the sunset on the Atlantic Ocean and drink Port wine, Portugal’s drink of choice.

What to see and where to go

The beach is a strip of sand about 150m wide and about 1.7km long, which lies between the harbour and the cliff. On the cliff there is the fort São Miguel Arcanjo, built in the 17th century, the lighthouse and the observation deck where tourists come to have a bird’s-eye view of the city.

Nazare beach

The beach has a well-developed infrastructure, soft, clean sand and many cafes and taverns. There is no natural shade on the beach, but in summer there are awnings to protect against the heat. In the cold season there are almost no visitors and you can admire the beauty of nature almost by yourself.

But on the other hand, you can be almost alone. There is a fishermen’s market near the beach, where locals bring their catch.

It is the historical area of the town where you can find all the attractions and a panoramic view of Nazareth.

Fountain of Triton, Fountain of Bees and the Palace in Piazza Barberini

Nossa Senhora da Nazare (Church of Our Lady of Nazare)

Shrine of Our Lady

What to visit in Sitiu:

  • Shrine of Our Lady;
  • Fort of the Archangel Michael;
  • lighthouse;
  • the chapel where the Black Madonna used to be kept.

The area is situated on a hill and sells delicious nuts and dried fruits. The souvenir shops are full of beautiful handicrafts and shells from the depths of the ocean. The place is atmospheric, in the evenings people come here to relax and sit in a cozy cafe. There is a restroom on the square, clean and neat.

If you want to tickle your nerves a bit, take a walk along the path that goes right over the cliff. Walk to the lighthouse and listen to the sound of the ocean waves as the bells chime. You can always take the funicular, which runs until 11 pm.

The observation deck is located at a height of 110 meters, and from here you can see the town of Nazare, the beach and the ocean with its big waves.

View from the Mirador do Suberto Lookout

There is a beautiful legend associated with this place, according to which it was here that the Virgin Mary appeared to the inhabitants of Nazare. The saint saved from death the knight Fuas Rupinho, who lost his way in the fog and without the help of the Virgin Mary would have fallen from the cliff.

Funicular in Nazare

The observation deck is a popular tourist spot, so it is quite crowded. From here the beach looks like a big anthill with people scurrying around and colorful awnings. Just behind the beach you can see the port with the boats of the local fishermen.

The two parts of town – the upper and lower town – are connected by a path that is better to walk with a flashlight at night, as it is not lit. If you don’t want to walk, take the funicular, which runs from 6:00 to 23:00. The lower part of Nazare is a maze of streets that intertwine in a bizarre way.

Most of them are only for walking. In a southeasterly direction rises Mount San Bras. A new neighborhood under construction can also be seen.

The fort is a surf museum and is used as a lighthouse, which was installed here in 1903. It is a traditional fortification that protected the settlement from enemy attack.

Fort of Archangel Michael

The museum exhibit is dedicated to Garrett McNamara and the huge wave he conquered. The surfer managed to ride the entire length of the wave and stay on his feet. It was after this event that Nazare became famous and became a surfing center and a favorite destination for nature lovers. The museum features surf photos, colorful posters with views of Nazare, and detailed descriptions of the area as exhibits.

View from the lighthouse of Archangel Michael Fort

The lighthouse is equipped with several viewing platforms, they are set at different heights. To one of them leads rickety, not fixed stairs, so it is quite difficult to reach, you will need a certain courage. At the sites gather not only tourists but also local fishermen.

From the lighthouse there is a picturesque view – the new district of Nazare and the city beach. From the lighthouse to the ocean there is a staircase, you can go straight down to the water and feel the salt spray on your face.

City Square

It is located in Sitiu Square. It is a very beautiful, exquisite building. The legend of the Madonna is associated with it, namely the small sculpture of the Black Madonna. It is believed that the sculpture traveled around the world and came to the village from Nazareth, the city is named after this legend. The Black Madonna was brought to Portugal by a monk and the sculpture of the saint has been kept in the town ever since. Each year hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and believers from all over the world come to touch it.

Heidelberg Castle and the largest wine barrel in the world

The building was reconstructed three times, the last restructuring took place in the 17th century. A fancifully shaped staircase leads to the entrance. Under the exquisite domes of beautifully shaped bells are installed. Inside the temple looks very luxurious and solemn. The premises are decorated with arches, columns and gilding. There is an organ in the church, and opposite to the musical instrument there is an altar with a sanctuary. Compared to Catholic buildings in European countries, the local church of Our Lady looks smart and festive.

Virgin Mary Church

To the right of the main entrance is the Museum of Religious Arts, which can be visited completely free of charge. The exhibits include antique church vestments, sculptures and paintings on biblical themes and everyday objects of the priests.

There is a souvenir shop at the exit. How can one leave the attraction without buying a souvenir from Portugal as a memento.

How to get there

Nazareth is in the region of Leiria, about one hour by car from the Portuguese capital. If you are traveling from Porto, the trip takes two hours. Take the A8. This is a toll road.

Sete Rios bus station

For tourists who travel without personal transportation, the best way to get to Nazareth is by bus. The bus station in Lisbon is the Sete Rios bus station and the Linhea Azul metro, where you will find Jardim Zoologico. In the resort of Nazare, public transport arrives at the bus station near the center.

All buses are new and comfortable, equipped with air conditioning and have Wi-Fi. Frequency of departure is approximately once an hour. Note that on weekends and holidays the number of trips decreases.

You’ll be interested! On the way from Lisbon to Nazaré you can stop at the small village of Obidos. Why it is called the “City of weddings” and what it is remarkable for you can read on this page.

Train from Lisbon to the village of Valado de Frades

It is also possible to travel from Lisbon by train, but the journey will take longer, as there is no train station in Nazaré. Trains arrive at the village of Valado de Frades (Valado), 6 km from the resort. Travel time ranges from 2 h 40 min to 3 h 53 min depending on the type of train. The ticket costs 11.4-13.25 euros. Learn the current schedule and buy a travel document on the official website of the Portuguese Railways – You can get to the end of the journey by cab or bus (Rodoviária do Tejo).

Nazare (Porugalia) is a unique town, attractive and amazing at any time of the year. You can come here in winter, when there are big waves in Nazare, or in summer to bask on the beach. The resort offers recreation for all tastes – you can enjoy the soft sand on the beach, go shopping or tasting the local specialties, keep fit at the gym, do extreme sports or visit the sights.

Video: views of Nazareth, including from the air, a walk around the city and what waves are here in the summer.

Author: Julia Matyukhina

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