Praia da Ursa (Ursa Beach), located a few hundred meters from Cabo da Roca, in the municipality of Sintra, is considered the westernmost beach in continental Portugal.
Considered as one of the most beautiful beaches in the country, it has a very complicated and dangerous access.
Its name is due to the enormous rock in the shape of Ursa looking at the sky, side by side with another rock formation called Gigante, and everything derives from the legend of Ursa Beach.
The legend says that in the Ice Age there lived a bear with her children, and when the thaw began, the Gods told all animals to flee from the coastal areas. But the bear did not want to accede to the orders of the Gods and there she wanted to stay with her children because she was born there, and there she wanted to stay.
The angry gods turned the bear into a huge rock and her children into small rocks scattered around them, forever and ever.
To get to Ursa Beach, you will have to take the N247 and turn to Azóia, towards Cabo da Roca. Less than 1000 meters from Cabo da Roca, after a left turn, and already after passing the village, you will see a sign indicating Praia da Ursa on the right. Before it was possible to leave the car right there, in a small dirt park, but it is private land that is now usually fenced.
There are now two options, either leave the vehicle next to that entrance and do the rest of the route on foot, about 500 meters or continue by car through that sand road to the inner park closer to the beach, however, it is important to note that the sand road is in poor condition and not all cars will be able to do so successfully due to two areas very damaged by rain and the passage of vehicles.
I only recommend this route if you know it well and/or if you are in an all-terrain vehicle because only one vehicle passes at a time and there are not many areas to perform maneuvers. Even for motorcycles it can be dangerous for less experienced drivers.
From this place it is already possible to see the two big emblematic rocks of this beach. The green of the undergrowth and constant connects with the blue sky and the ocean ahead.
There are now two options. The path on the right, or the path on the left?
The one on the right gives access to a natural viewpoint and does not give access to the beach. It once was, but several landslides have cut off the access to the beach, so you should choose this path only if you want to see the beach more closely as if it were a viewpoint, but not reach the sand.
The path on the left, that one will lead to the sand, but we will go there later.
In my visits to Praia da Ursa, I usually go down on the right because it is not always my intention to reach the sand, and you will understand why by the photos further ahead.
The path on the right is very well laid out, impossible to get lost, and only in one or two places requires a little more care on the way down so as not to slip on the sand which may be looser.
Needless to say, the use of appropriate footwear and clothes, preferably wide, will be recommended so as not to trap movement.
Be it summer or winter, the undergrowth is immense and it is the predominant color that accompanies us to the cliff.
To the north, in the distance, you can observe the Ericeira area.
This route will take you to an area that looks like a natural belvedere. It is about 420 meters from the car park, according to my GPS Tracker used in the last visit to the site.
You will find the first place where it is possible to see the sand, but you will be able to go down a bit further to a set of huge stones where you will be able to observe and/or photograph with better vision.
Attention, even the most experienced hikers should be careful because this area is about 100 meters high and one false step can cause a fatal accident.
In my many visits to Praia da Ursa, this is the route I use because it is faster, easier, and because it gives me a better view of the sand to photograph or simply meditate. Believe that it is the will that gives being with such natural beauty ahead of us.
I have to confess that I never could see the shape of the bear looking at the sky, which tells the legend, and now much more difficult after the collapse of much of the rock that occurred in April 2011 and that was captured by the photographer Eliana Lemos.
There is no perfect time or tide to photograph this beach because all hours and tides are perfect. I recommend a wide-angle lens, otherwise, you won’t be able to photograph the whole beach at once.
On my last visit it took me about 8 minutes to climb back to the car park, however, consider an average of 15 minutes to make the climb calmly and with rest points along the way. A bottle of water will come in handy especially on warmer days.
You can now return to the car park area, or, in the middle of the climb, opt for a small trail on the right that can take you directly to the trail down to the sand. But those who do not know should not risk because one of these trails, which led before to the sand, was the one that collapsed and no longer gives access.
This trail to the right of which I am now speaking is more or less in the middle of the ascent, after a large cluster of vegetation to the right and after passing through an area where we can see the path that leads to the sand on the other side of the cliff.
If you chose at the beginning to go down the path on the left, towards the sand of Praia da Ursa, or if you chose to cross in the middle the path that leads to the natural viewpoint, be prepared that the descent to the sand is more complicated and demanding than the path on the right.
There are more areas where the sand can be loose and cause a fall. There is even an area where you will probably have to hold on to the rocks because it is a steep, rocky, and very dangerous descent.
The only thing I can say is that when you get to the sand, all this effort is rewarded.
Again, I recommend appropriate footwear as well as appropriate clothing.
The climb I made from the sand to the parking lot took about 17 minutes, according to my GPS Tracker, so you should have about 30 minutes of calm and rest to catch your breath, especially if you are loaded with beach equipment.
Already in the sand, all the effort of the descent, and after the ascent that they still have to do, is rewarded with the astonishing view of the Ursa and Giant rocks, on the right.
During the low tide you can discover a cove to the north, named Pesqueiro do Abrigo, and to the south the Palaia. But be aware because you can easily lose track of the time and if the tide fills you may have problems because the passages are interrupted by the water.
With about 100 meters of sand, the beach is really fantastic and quiet, or at least it was, as I had already talked about Praia Ribeiro do Cavalo, near Sesimbra.
Now, with the ease of communication in the social networks and not only, this beach that was first frequented by nudists, but I also venture to say that in summer it almost looks like a “normal” beach with many people in the sand. For this reason you should respect all other vacationers, especially nudists since the beach is classified as such.
Finally, I leave another important note, as I said before several times there have been landslides and landslides in Praia da Ursa, so all the care is little, not only because the access is very difficult but also because there is no facilities or equipment to support the beach.
Still, in early 2018 there was a landslide with a deadly victim to mourn, and it was not the only case until today.
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