Praia de São Paio – Labruge, Portugal - Atlas Obscura

Labruge, Portugal

Praia de São Paio

Iron Age runes and ruins hide in plain sight along this Portuguese beach. 

Along most of its length, the narrow boardwalk that parallels the ocean at Labruge shows you tourist-free expanses of sand and exquisite rock formations verdant with algae. But there’s more than these splendid natural scenes. For those who prefer to avoid the crowds and those who get a thrill stumbling upon ancient history, this stretch is unbeatable.

While exploring this sliver of coast, the average wanderer doesn’t need to look far to find some fascinating glimpses into Iron Age life. With the assistance of occasional plaques, it’s possible for keen-eyed visitors to spot ruins, runes, and what amount to massive whetstones scattered along the beach.

The carvings are somewhat hard to see and harder to photograph, as they’ve faded into the weathered granite over time. But thankfully, the helpful plaques hint at the runes hiding within the stones. The sharpening stones, large boulders with deep grooves etched by countless spears being turned to a fine point, are slightly easier to see. You’ll also come across a small church and the ruins of an Iron Age house.

Though well off the beaten path, the beach and its historic secrets aren’t completely unknown. Locals and the rare in-the-know visitor sometimes use the sheltering rock formations as a public bath.

Know Before You Go

There's free street parking close to beach. The trail is a few miles long and there is one restaurant along it. A boardwalk runs the length of the beach, but there are a number of stairs. It's not a hard hike, but it is not wheelchair-accessible.