It’s one of the most photographed places in Portugal. Praia da Marinha (Or Navy Beach, in English) is an absolutely epic photo locations.
There’s a reason that people come from all over the world just to plop themselves down on this slice of sand here in the Algarve. It’s completely perfect.
Big pillars of sandstone stand guard just off the beach, and gnarly cliffs cup guests within the beautiful confines of the cove. It’s spectacular.
If you’re a photographer, you can come to Praia da Marinha dozens of times and never bore of the various angles and options you have here. You can hop over the rocks to Mosque Beach at low tide and photograph “the Cathedral”. Or, you can stay up above it all and capture the iconic heart in the arches. The photo ops here are endless.
Photographing Praia da Marinha
A lot of photographing this location goes into the time of day and year. In the summer months you can almost definitely expect the beach to be completely packed from about 9am onward. However, the early sunrises (usually around 6am) are a bit of a challenge too. That said, if you get up early, you’ll likely have the beach to yourself. In the winter months you’ll find others down at the beach at sunset, but it’s definitely quiet enough to not worry about getting other people in your photos.
Time of Day?
As mentioned above, I’d say to photograph this location in the summer at sunrise. In the winter you can photograph sunset.
I’d aim for low tide, too. There are lots of angles you can’t get to here at high, or even mid tide.
- Wide angle lens: Ideally at least 21mm wide.
- A Tele-Photo?: There are a lot of minimalist photos to be made here with something like a 70-200mm.
- Tripod: A good tripod is always key. It tends to be less windy here through, so you can likely bring your heavy duty tripod at home.
- Filters: I think you’ll want a grad filter, if you’re not blending exposures. You’ll almost definitely want a solid ND filter as well.
The beach is open 24 hours. However, in the summer of 2020 signs were put in place on the road into the beach saying “residents only”.
In the summer, so many people come here that residents can be blocked in or out by parked cars.
If that’s the case, you’ll have to either park at Benagil beach and hike.
Photos from Praia da Marinha
There are countless angles and photos to make at Praia da Marinha. So, I’m not going to be super exhaustive in this explanation. But, overall there are 3 places that make great photos: The double arch (cathedral), the sea stacks, and the arch that looks like a heart (also cathedral, but from above)
This is probably the most iconic photo of natural arches in Portugal. Sure, there are plenty of places that have them. Albandeira Beach, for example. But, this is definitely the most photographed. The thing, though, is it really isn’t an easy photograph at all. The conditions need to be perfect, there’s not a lot of foreground to work with, and you have to scramble over rocks to get there in the first place.
But, when it all comes together, it is pretty special.
The Sea Stacks
The beauty of the sea stacks is that you can photograph them no matter the conditions. You can sit up on the beach and take minimalist images, or you can play with some of the rocky foregrounds. Overall, it’s a pretty easy place to photograph.
As to where they are. Well, they’re basically directly in front of Praia da Marinha, so you can’t really miss them.
The “Heart” Arch
This has become a favourite spot for Instagrammers in particular. But, it’s actually an incredibly easy photo location and photo to make. The “heart” arch is actually Cathedral. But, the photo is taken from the trail that goes along the edge of the cliffs above the beach.
Please be careful when going to this location. The rocks are brittle, so try to protect the environment (and obviously your health and safety) when walking along the cliff edges.
Getting to Praia da Marinha
I mentioned this in the previous paragraph, but the difficulty in getting to Praia da Marinha depends greatly on the time of year. During the summer, the road in might be closed. During the off season you can drive right up to the parking lot.
Then, from there you have to hike down the stairs to the left of the parking lot. The walk down is only a couple minutes. But, it is all steps. There’s no way down if you can’t do stairs.
If you’re looking to get to cathedral arch, you then hike along the beach, climb over some rocks, and you’ll be at the arch. Just be warned that the rocks can be slippery and it’s only accessible at low tide.
Where to Stay near Praia da Marina
You can’t stay right at Praia da Marinha. The nearest hotel is Casa Mar Benagil which is about a 10 minute walk. Like most of the Algarve (aside from maybe Lagos) you’ll want a car to visit this location. You do have options that are a short drive though.
The village of Carvoerio is a bit of tourist haunt. It’s full of villas and beach chasers. There are some hotels, but the way to go is likely AirBnb.
- Hotel: There’s a Tivoli Hotel just outside of town that’s really nice. In town, the best bet is likely the Hotel Carvoiero Plaza
- Hostel: There is no hostel in Carvoiero.
- Camping: There’s a campsite in nearby Ferraguda. Or, if you have a camper van there are plenty of places to park for the night just outside of town.
- Guesthouse: Castelo Guesthouse has great reviews and is right on the beach.
Armação de Pêra
The small coastal city of Armação de Pêra doesn’t get as much love as nearby spots in the Algarve. But, it can be a better value place to lay your head and isn’t far from some really awesome places.
- Hotel: There’s a Holiday Inn right on the beach.
- Hostel: Sorry, no hostels here either.
- Camping: Yes! There’s a nice campsite just north of town, walking distance to the beach.
- Guesthouse: You’re better off looking for an AirBnB apartment. There’s lots of really great value ones right on the beachfront.
I don’t know how to describe Albufeira. It’s like Vegas, if Vegas were small, Portuguese, and full of Brits. But, it’s the big city in this part of the Algarve, and it has its charms.
- Hotel: No shortage of hotels. I’d recommend Hotel Sol e Mar.
- Hostel: In my opinion, the best hostel is Orange Terrace Hostel.
- Camping: A couple kms north of Albufeira there’s Albufeira Camping.
- Guesthouse: Like much of the Algarve, you’re better off with an AirBnb than trying to find a guesthouse.
Best Time of Year to Visit This Part of Portugal
When it comes to the Algarve, I usually say that there’s no bad time for it. And that’s true. But when it comes to Praia da Marinha in particular the best bet for photographers is the fall. You get the best light – actually some clouds – and the crowds really aren’t around. You also don’t have to get up so early for sunrise.
In the summer, you’ll be battling not only crowds but the constant clear skies. And those blue skies are definitely great for life, but they’re not so great for photography.
That being said, if you’re looking to do astro photography, the summer is a brilliant time to be around.
Winter is also a great time. Sunrise is around 730am, so it’s still early enough to beat most people to the locations. Sunsets are a lazy 530pm in the dead of winter. And, there are clouds. February and March are the rainiest months. So, if you’re scared of a bit of rain, maybe avoid them.
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