Azibo reservoir: the beach of Trás-os-Montes

The Azibo reservoir is unique in Portugal: its beaches are of an unusual quality and its biodiversity is unique. The beaches of Trás-os-Montes offer a lot all year round.   Many people go to Trás-os-Montes every summer to go to the beach and they are not wrong. The beaches of Ribeira and Fraga da Pegada, in the Azibo reservoir, are the main bathing resort in the north-east. With grass and sandy areas, sun and shade, water parks, seagulls and canoes, with cafés, lifeguard surveillance and a children’s playground.

And if when the weather starts to warm up, the usual bucolic landscape of Azibo gains the colour of the bathing suits and the laughter of the children, it is in August that the floods arrive. Then, many hundreds of people dive in the warm waters of Azibo. But there’s room for everyone, and you never have to ask permission to put your towel on and find a corner and then enjoy the water, which remains at 22 degrees Celsius at the surface and whose quality allows it to bear the Blue Flag.

Azibo has hosted the finals for 8 years
Beach Volleyball Finals

Ribeira beach is the best known and also the biggest. Elected Wonder of Portugal (the only river beach north of the Tagus that won that distinction), it is here that every year the finals of the national beach volleyball championships take place. It is also, therefore, the busiest beach.

Pegada’s beach is smaller. This is the river beach in all Europe that has had the Blue Flag hoisted for the longest consecutive years. It owes its name to a geological and archaeological monument. Pegada’s Crag is a metavolcanite similar to those found in the Azores and Madeira archipelagos and also has important archaeological remains, such as excavated footprints (podomorphs).

With a café-restaurant overlooking the lake and another small beach support, it is from this bathing area that starts a pedestrian trail that skirts part of the lake shore. Not all of it, because we are in the middle of a protected area.

The natural conditions and the constant work of the Macedo de Cavaleiros Town Hall to guarantee all the conditions for the holidaymakers have made the success of Azibo’s beaches, but we must also add its location, right at the exit of a motorway junction and right next to Podence, the village that the Caretos put on the map and where you can also eat very well.

Azibo is a Protected Landscape

The Azibo reservoir was built as a water reserve for agricultural activities, but quickly became a point of great biodiversity. So much so, that today it is a Protected Landscape, integrating that which is the largest reserve in Europe declared by UNESCO, the Transfrontier Biosphere Reserve of the Iberian Meseta.

It is here that the Crested Grebe nests in the middle of the water in early spring, and it is also in Azibo that we find an unusual concentration of butterflies. By the Santa Combinha Biodiversity Station – a riverside village worth visiting – we find 43 of the 135 diurnal butterfly species known in Portugal.

Azibo reservoir
The beauty of the sunset over Azibo

This is why Azibo is not only sought after in summer. The observation of birdlife and butterflies also attracts nature tourism lovers to the border between the Terra Quente and Terra Fria transmontana.

From the Biodiversity Station there is also a small circular trail of 4.1 kilometres that uses recovered rural paths and allows a journey through traditions and nature.

Lying on the sand, enjoying the hot sun of a late August afternoon, the holidaymakers have the tranquillity that the place provides on their faces. Many are habitués of the beaches of Ribeira and Pegada, but there are also those who have just arrived for the first time. When challenged to describe Azibo in one word, they repeat: “tranquillity”, “wonder”, “beauty”!

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