There are so many photo spots in the Algarve that will blow you away. And while some of them are very obvious and over-shot by photographers visiting Portugal, there are still some under-visited gems. Praia Castelejo is one of those places.
This beautiful stretch of beach feels endless. It’s backed by some beautiful cliff walls, and features a castle-like rock formation that pops out of the sea. From a photography perspective, there are countless photos to be made here. At low tide when the rocks in the shallow seas start to reveal themselves, it can be an absolute playground for landscape photographers in particular. Oh, and there’s also an epic photo spot for the classic Instagram lover up above the beach.
Here’s a bit of a guide to Castelejo Beach.
Time of Day?
Generally speaking, sunset is going to be better here than sunrise. Since you’re looking west you’ll have the light coming through from the sea in the afternoon. In the morning, the cliffs will block a lot of the light.
I think too, that you’ll want to aim for low tide.
This is one of those locations that you’ll probably want to bring your entire bag of tricks.
You’ll want a wide angle lens for the beach itself. But, you’ll likely also want a telephoto lens for photos of the cliffs.
Also, filters are a must.
Praia Castelejo is in the middle of a national park. However, most parks in Portugal aren’t controlled like the rest of the world. They operate more on the “honour system”. There’s no entry fee.
Just be respectful and stay on the trails the best you can. And please be careful of the cliffs.
Drones are allowed with the usual permissions in Portugal.
Photos of Praia Castelejo
The first time I photographed Praia Castelejo I thought I was going to photograph the big rock feature in the sea. But, I really struggled with it. It’s not as easy to capture as it seems when you first see it.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that there are so many different compositions here you could easily come back time and time again and not run out of options.
These are 4 photos from Praia Castelejo and how I photographed them.
The Sea Stacks
As I mentioned, the sea stacks here seem like the perfect photo. But as I explored them I really struggled to find a photo. Part of it was that the angle of the sun was wrong for the composition that I found. If you head here at sunrise, though, you might have an easier time with this particular photo.
I found some beautiful algae-covered rocks and used them as a leading line towards the sea stacks. It was taken at f/16, 0.5 seconds, iso 100, at 15mm.
The reason I came to Castelejo was because a friend recommended driving up to this viewpoint to get a photo of my new car. There’s a parking lot up here that basically leans out at the view above the beaches. It’s pretty epic. You can find the spot by searching for “Castelejo Viewpoint” on google maps. It’s a bit of a bumpy gravel road for a couple minutes, but any vehicle can get there.
Once there, the views look both north and south, and are pretty epic.
I took this photo late afternoon, rather than at sunset. To make it, I used a 70-200mm lens and a 10-stop ND filter. I took the image at f/2.8, 1.6 seconds, iso100, at 80mm. It’s a bit of a technical photo. I wanted both a shallow depth of field and a long exposure in the middle of the day. Hence the 10-stop filter and wild photo data.
You’ll find photos like this all over the beach. The trick to this photo isn’t the location or anything technical. It’s to visit places when the tide is retreating. If you can time your visits to places like this to a retreating tide you’ll get a safer photography situation, and you’ll have wetter beaches which can lead to reflection shots like this.
There’s nothing technically crazy about this photo. It was taken at f/11, 1 second, iso 100, at 15mm. The trick is in the timing. I waiting for a wave to come up past me, then as the wave was retreating I held down the shutter for multiple images hoping to time the perfect moment.
I love minimalist photography.
There are a bunch of opportunities for minimalism at Praia Castelejo. I found this really cool rock formation that looked a little bit like a dinosaur’s back. Then, playing with some long exposures I found the right moment.
To make this photo, I used my 15-35mm lens and a 3-stop hard grad ND filter. The data on the photo is f/8, 0.5 seconds, iso 100, at 28mm. I had to get into the sea past my knees to get this shot too.
Totally worth it.
Getting to Praia Castelejo
When you’re out at Praia Castelejo you’ll feel like you’re out in the middle of nowhere. So, it’s pretty impressive that it’s only a 30 minute drive from Lagos – or a 15 minute drive from Sagres.
There are two different places in this guide. To get to the beach though, check out the map to the right. The viewpoint can be found really easily. Just put “Castelejo Viewpoint” into google maps, and you’ll be led right there.
There is ample parking at the beach itself.
Where to Stay Near Praia Castelejo?
You have plenty of nearby options near Praia Castelejo. And, you have a number of different types of accommodation. Everything from campgrounds to 4-star hotels. Also, it’s totally legal to spend the night in your camper van at Castelejo Viewpoint. It would be an epic place to set up for a night.
Generally speaking, the 3 places you’d likely end up staying are:
The biggest town in the western Algarve, Lagos is a great base. I mean, there’s a reason it’s where “Epic Portugal” is set up.
There are plenty of hotels, campsites, and hostels in town.
- Hotel: Carvi Beach Hotel has an awesome location.
- Guesthouse: AirBnb is awesome in Lagos.
- Hostel: My favourite is Cloud 9.
- Campsite: Camping Trinidade is right in town and in a great location.
Quickly growing at the spot for surfer to base, Sagres has a totally different vibe to anywhere else in the Algarve.
The weather is a bit cooler, the winds a bit icier, and the mood a bit more atmospheric. We love it.
- Hotel: Mareta Beach is right on the water.
- Guesthouse: Again, check out AirBnb.
- Hostel: Sagres Sun Stay is the current most popular hostel in town.
- Camping: There’s an Orbitur just north of town. Tents are welcome.
Vila do Bispo
Definitely the quietest among the tourist scene, Vila do Bispo definitely has it’s charms.
It’s kind of a quintessentially Algarve village. It’s extremely quiet, but full of charm.
- Hotel: Hotel Mira is the only hotel I know of in town.
- Guesthouse: Lots of options on AirBnb.
- Camping: Not available.
- Hostel: There is a hostel called “Hotel on the Hill” in Vila do Bispo.
If you’re interested in joining us out in the wilds of Portugal, be sure to check out the photo tours that we have available. Or, if you just want to come hang out, grab a coffee, and check out our gallery, come and visit us in Lagos.