(Ericeira, Portugal) In 2011, Ericeira became the second place on the planet named world surfing reserve. A recognition – the only one in Europe – which turned the destiny of this peaceful fishing village upside down, making it a popular destination for those who travel the world in search of the most beautiful waves. Here they are served!

To get to Ericeira from Lisbon, just catch the bus at the station in the Lisbon capital (or rent a car). After an hour and a half of admiring the scenery of a hilly road that crisscrosses the continent, we arrive in this Atlantic coast village that has experienced incredible growth since its rise to the ultimate in the world of surfing: its nomination to the title of World Surfing Reserve by World Surfing Reserves (WSR).

Since 2009, this program set up by the Save the Waves coalition has given itself the mission of protecting the planet’s surf ecosystems. To date, only 12 places offering surfers “exceptional waves” can claim to be among them, including Bahia de Todos Santos (Mexico), Gold Coast (Australia), Huanchaco (Peru), Malibu (California)… and Ericeira, the only reserve on the European continent.

With its eight kilometers of coastline, dotted with many surf areas for all levels, Ericeira has been attracting surfers for a long time. From the 1970s, the small fishing village became the destination for Portuguese surfers. But with this nomination, the peaceful place dominated by rocky cliffs offering magnificent views of small bays dotted with secluded beaches has achieved worldwide notoriety.

Discovering for the first time the Praia da Baleia, the beach closest to the village, my heart capsizes: the view is breathtaking. And you don’t have to be a wave addict to fall in love with Ericeira. But of course, I wasn’t going to get there without getting a little wet…

“Ericeira was very different 10 years ago. 20 years ago ? You can’t even imagine! Joaquim Pipio knows what he’s talking about: he was born here. He founded in 2016 with his two friends João Pontinha and Pedro Kikas, also from the area, 3 Surfers, one of the many surf schools in Ericeira – there are currently more than 40. It goes without saying, the popularity of the place attracts in its wake many companies that smell good business.

“No doubt, all this development has been very good for Ericeira, which was just a tiny fishing village. But when it’s too much, it’s too much! We shouldn’t lose our authenticity,” adds the one everyone calls Pipio.

“The city has had a big boom since 2011. But before it was a tourist hotspot, there were locals coming here. And the local legends are those guys! Everyone knows them,” says Carla Almeida, who is in charge of marketing for 3 Surfers.

In short, I fell well to learn to surf in Ericeira. Since I haven’t been on a board for a good decade, I stick to a beginner class, with a few other passing travelers: a German and three Swiss, who have already done a few classes with 3 Surfers since they arrived in Ericeira a few days ago.

João, who will be our teacher today, takes us to Praio do Matadouro, a place suited to our talent… yet to be proven. September is drawing to a close, and the waters of the Atlantic are bitterly cold. Fortunately, wetsuit and slippers protect us. After some instructions and stretches, it’s time to face the waves, even more intimidating up close. Even at the start of the low season, there is a horde of surfers and instructors in the water. At least every school has its “territory”. “Sometimes in the summer it’s hard to see the color of the ocean, it’s so crowded!” remarks João, according to whom the best times to visit Ericeira are spring and autumn.

One by one, we rush forward, trying to get up on the board and slide for a few seconds in a standing position. João provides valuable advice each time. The tide is rising and the waves are getting fiercer. The power of the ocean is incredible, and despite the cold, I’m warm from fighting the current and the waves, which push me backward every time I try to catch another wave. A little last, and it’s time to get out of the water. I contemplate the ocean and its wild force. And I understand even better why Ericeira has become one of the most popular surfing destinations on the planet… and steals hearts along the way.

Opened in 2019 by the FLH group (Feels Like Home), which also has addresses in Lisbon and Porto, Reserva is a tailor-made establishment for travelers – especially surfers – who pass through Ericeira. Local artist Ana de Jesus imagined the design of the hotel, available in shades of blue and sand. The hotel has 26 attractive rooms on five floors, some offering superb views of the small town and the ocean from their private terrace. Among the amenities offered, a large bright common area on the ground floor, a delicious breakfast buffet and a large “surf zone” space in the basement for rinsing and drying wetsuits and boards.

Addresses for sustenance are not lacking in Ericeira. Favorite for Balagan, ideally located near Praia da Baleia. The charming place serves Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, with several vegetarian options: hummus, various mezes, garnished flatbreads, to accompany a latte or a glass of rosé. In the evening, Tik Tapas is a popular place. Better book! Authentic and warm, the restaurant serves a wide variety of traditional Portuguese-inspired tapas.

No need to look for lunch to 2 p.m. to find what to do in Ericeira (besides surfing, of course): just walk along the coast to admire the richness of the landscape. There is everything you need to fill your eyes with beauty, for miles. Near Praia da Empa, you can’t miss Boardriders Quicksilver and its “Hollyskate”, where young and old alike spin their skateboards. In addition to being a shop, the place is a café with a sunny terrace where you can sip a drink – there is even a counter where you can order poke bowls. After a busy day, take a detour to the Largo das Ribas promenade, which offers the view of the fishing port, then go down to sunbathe at the “fisherman’s beach” and drink a refreshing drink at the Kayak Bar, a small bar ephemeral open from May to October.