The Huge Waves At This Southern European Beach Makes It One Of The Most Dangerous In The World

When you think of beaches, you probably think of warm sand, blue water, and relaxing with a drink in your hand. Perhaps you dream of going for a swim, but if you visit this one dangerous beach in Europe, you should cross that off your list. Praia do Norte (meaning North Beach) in Nazaré, Portugal, isn't for the faint of heart. It's beautiful, but it has the biggest waves in the world, which can reach almost 100 feet high. Even professional surfers may look askance at attempting to hang 10 here. 

You may have heard of it back in 2011 when surfer Garrett McNamara broke the Guinness World Record for the largest wave ever surfed, at 78 feet high. Then, in 2017, Rodrigo Koxa rode an even bigger wave, which was an incredible 80 feet. While you might not be able to surf them (and please, please don't try unless you're absolutely qualified), you can watch them from the top of a fort that is hundreds of years old. Let's take a look at this wild place and why the waves are so enormous here.

All about Praia Do Norte

To watch people surf the powerful waves at Praia do Norte, the best time to go is the winter (from October to March) when they're most intense. Forte de São Miguel Arcanjo offers a great viewpoint and was built in 1577, with a lighthouse added in 1903. It's right above the beach and even has a surfing museum inside. Hey, if you can't get in the water, at least you can learn all about it and watch other people risk their lives instead. As you can see from the picture above, you can drive up and park there. 

Even watching is impressive if you consider that several records were actually broken here. Maya Gabeira surfed a 68-foot wave and broke the record for the largest wave ever ridden by a woman. It isn't just for surfers either. Nuno "Stru" Figueiredo broke the record for the biggest wave ridden on a kitesurfing board when he caught a 62-foot wave. People also bodyboard, windsurf, and more, but again, this is for experienced professionals.

What makes the waves so dangerous

So why are the waves here so dangerous? Well, under the water in front of the beach is the largest underwater canyon in Europe, the Nazaré Canyon. It's three miles deep and 141 miles long, and it creates an intense current and some massive waves. When water comes up from the depth of the canyon, it combines with the regular surface waves swelling along the top of the canyon. That canyon water pushes those smaller surface waves to greater heights, making huge waves that smack against the shore. 

It has always been an area to avoid for fishers, as there have been a number of shipwrecks. The waves have caused a lot of injuries, and this place has actually killed a surfer. In January of 2023, Márcio Freire died after a wipeout, and there have been reported drownings of tourists who were swept away. We're not trying to scare you away from this incredible place, truly. Viewing these waves is an amazing experience. That said, please exercise caution, because Praia do Norte isn't a place to be messed around with.