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Costa Azul
Nature and Environment

Portugal > Tourism > Lisbon > Costa Azul > Nature and Environment

From the coast to the interior, the sea to the hills and rolling plains of Setúbal, one can find a series of naturally enchanting values, both socio-economic and cultural; a diversity of which is difficult to find elsewhere.

The need to conserve nature, landscape, heritage in harmony with the growing needs of a nounshing population has recently been responsible for the establishing of protected areas, one National Park, two Natural Reserves and an area of Protected landscape.

The idea is to establish a closer contact between man and nature, keeping alive traditional activities and resources to provide for balanced development.


Along the coast between Setúbal and Sesimbra, the Serra da Arrabida stretches up. These chalky hills have the only surviving example of primitive Mediterranean vegetation. Tucked away in the heart of Arrábida's Natural Park, the formation goes back 180 million years. The soil and mild climatic features, considered the best in Portugal, have produced a lush vegetation rich in species.

The Arrábida Natural Park was formed in 1976 and covers an area of 10,800 hectares. Setúbal, Palmela, Azeitão, Sesimbra and the sea make up its boundaries. The countryside is hilly and we can find the Serra dos Gaiteiros, S. Luís, S. Francisco, Louro, Risco along with the highest hills, the Serra da Arrábida which stands at 499 metres high. This ends abruptly and cuts into the sea, providing a scene of picturesque beauty with the lush green vegetation and the chalk white face of the cliffs, such beauty which inspired poets like Sebastião da Gama.
On the coast, between the sandy beaches and clear water, up above, breeding grounds for birds of prey abound and one can also find a typical maritime flora which extends as far as the Serra do Risco, the highest coastal point of continental Portugal (300 metres above sea-level). In Creiro, around the Pedra da Anicha, an island traced above the sea leads us to the only zoological reserve of the Natural Park, named so because of the value of underwater plant species found there.


To the south of the Setúbal peninsula, the Sado Estuary twists to through diversified countryside. Huge rural properties connected to agriculture and forestries, areas rich in fish and sea-food, salt pans, urban occupation, buildings of great architectural and historical value as well as dunes, marshes and areas rich in rushes.

The Natural Reserve of the Sado Estuary, created in 1989 covers an enormous area of 23,160 hectares. It was created to conserve nature and preserve values found in and around this magnificent estuary.

From a natural point of view, this protected area presents a huge ecological contribution with vegetation extending as far as the salt water at the river mouth, marshes, loam which comes and goes with the tide and the many species contained therein. One can also find playful dolphins, herons, white swans, flamingoes, river birds, ducks, birds of prey along with the European otter and bucks amongst other species which just show the diversity of life in the estuary. In the Botanical Reserve amid the dunes in the Tróia peninsula, the amazing variety of flora from the estuary to open sea is also the object of special protection.


Estuário do TejoThe Natural Reserve of the Tejo Estuary was proclaimed in 1976. The surface area is 14,560 hectares extending from North of Alcochete to the estuary waters, loam areas, salt pans, marshes, sand-banks and agricultural areas. The bird population of between 70-80 thousand in the winter months makes this a vital reserve both nationally and internationally. The gathering of avocets (Recurvirostra avosetta), totalling half of the European population of this species makes this area even more important. Flocks of these birds are a common sight here yet so rarely found in other areas of the world justify the protection of this area. Bird-watching is a fascinating pastime. Here one sees poetry in motion as flocks of birds By high and swoop down.


Still in the Setùbal Peninsula, in addition to the coastline with its townships, beaches, marshes and mountains, is the protected Arriba Fossil area of the Costa da Caparica which is situated between Trafana and the Lagoa de Albufeira. This area occupies an area of 1,570 hectares and was so defined in 1984 because of its geological importance of sedimentary rocks which form the river bank, some of which go back 15 million years in time. The river bank dates from when the coastal line was further inland. Nowadays, due to the accumulation of sediment along the coast, the bank is in a fossilized state. The fossilized fauna on the bank is diverse - fluviomaritime in nature one finds bivalves, gastropods and traces of fish from the Miocene epoch.


Further interior, the National Medos Forest (Mata Nacional dos Medos) which, rumour has it, King John V ordered the plantig of to prevent the sands encroaching upon fertile ground. This area is classified a Botanical Reserve due to its significant floral content and unparalleled specimens of pine and juniper which make a superb recreation ground.


The 'Mata das Dunas' in the Costa da Caparica was planted with various specimens of the acacia variety at the end of the last century and again in the sixties. The main reason was to immobilize the moving dunes characteristic of this area and also create attractive intervals to the beach, providing welcome recreational areas.

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Nature and Environment
Costa Azul