This Beautiful Beach Is Rick Steves' Favorite In All Of Europe

Rick Steves is one of the most trusted names in travel and has become an expert in nearly every single travel topic you can think of. How to plan for your next big trip? Yup, he's got you covered. The best way to pack your luggage? He's gotchu. Traveling with kids through Europe? You already know the answer to that! The man is just a treasure trove of hacks, tips, and tricks. 

One insight he has shared in his book "Europe Through The Back Door," is how to find those hidden, unspoiled places where you can have an authentic experience with local culture. In a 2018 Facebook post and accompanying video, he revealed that he was wandering through the Algarve, the southern region of Portugal, when he found what he called "the quintessence of a back door." One of those pleasant travel discoveries where you realize you're having an authentic local cultural experience without the crush of tourists. "My favorite beach in Europe? Salema, on the Algarve — the south coast of Portugal," he shared with his Facebook friends and followers.

He describes Salema in a Times Colonist article as one of "the last true villages on the Algarve." Why should you make the trek to Salema the next time you're in Portugal, and what discoveries away you there? Let's explore all that Steves had to say about the "back door" locale.

Salema is untouched by American tourists

On TikTok, users are sharing their experiences of visiting the sleepy town of Salema in the Algarve region of Portugal. They are gushing about the authentic seafood, quiet streets, friendly locals, pristine beaches, and lack of tourists, like user @toddcarter91 does in his review. Another TikTok video by @andrewtate30 shows that the beaches have more fishers pushing their boats out for the day's catch than tourists scrambling for a spot in the sun. Those aspects are part of why travel expert Rick Steves calls this village a true and rare discovery in Europe.

In his video, Steves says that Salema is perfect if you want "the most beautiful sand, the freshest seafood, without all the crowds, intensity, and concrete." He also points out that the beach is at the southwestern coast of the continent. It was likely the last stretch of European shore explorers like Ferdinand Magellan and Christopher Columbus would have seen before crossing the Atlantic in the Age of Discovery, more than 500 years ago. 

As far as he's concerned, if you're tired of going to Europe only to encounter other Americans, Salema is the place to interact with locals. "I've been here for a couple of days and I have not seen another American!" he raves. 

Salema has archaeological finds

If you think Salema's connection to Magellan and Columbus is ancient history, wait until you discover that Salema Beach actually has 150 million years of history! There are fossils, shells, and rocks dating from the Lower Cretaceous period at the end of the beach, and in 2001, geologists found actual dinosaur footprints embedded in the sedimentary rocks! We suspect that if Salema Beach had the same foot traffic as the beaches of Nice, Corsica, or Ibiza, those fossils and footprints would have been trampled on and ruined long ago! 

If you're in Portugal and looking for this hidden nook, getting there isn't as difficult as you might expect. The town is only 64 miles from Faro Airport, which is the main airport serving the southern region of Portugal. In his Facebook video, Rick Steves notes that the capital city, Lisbon, is only three hours away from Salema. The popular Spanish hub, Seville, is a four-hour drive east. Writing in the Times Colonist, Steves points out that the village of Salema is "an easy 25-kilometre [sic] (15.5 miles) bus ride from the closest train station in Lagos."