As I was searching for things to do in the southern part of Portugal during our two-week Spain and Portugal road trip, I discovered something pretty darn cool: there are dinosaur footprints in the Algarve region!
Yup, you read that right: you can find actual fossilized dinosaur footprints in the Algarve area right along the beach.
Keep reading, because I’ll tell you exactly how to find them.
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So, Wait. Actual Dinosaur Footprints?
The Algarve coastline is made up of limestone with cliffs and rock formations dating back the to Lower Cretaceous period, around 150 MILLION years ago…AKA: when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
I’m no Ross Geller (a fictional paleontologist), but from researching these footprints, I discovered that the footprints were likely from a dinosaur called an Ornithopod; a 25-ton, 50-foot herbivore that literally translates to “bird-foot.”
How to Find Dinosaur Footprints in Algarve
Supposedly there are a few places that have fossilized dinosaur footprints in Algarve, but we only found them in one spot, and I’ll tell you exactly how to get there.
I’m also including a map, and step-by-step instructions to make it even easier for you to find them.
Lookup Praia da Salema (or Salema Beach) on Google Maps with the satellite view. Zoom in, and you’ll see a parking lot, and then you’ll see stairs to the left.
Feel free to use the map above
If it’s low tide (and you don’t mind a walk through the beach):
Park in the Praia da Salema parking lot and walk towards the Atlântico restaurant. Continue walking past the restaurant, onto the beach, and then walk along the cliffs.
Once you reach the steps, go a bit further and you’ll see the flat rock bed in front of you. Climb on top and you’ll see the footprints right on top!
If it’s high tide (and you don’t mind stairs):
Park at the top of the stairs (see map above), and walk down. Before you get to the very bottom, look down and to your right. If the water isn’t too high you’ll see the footprints on top of the rock bed. They may be even easier to see with a little water on them.
Pretty Cool, Right?
I’ll be honest: I was completely excited about seeing dinosaur footprints in Portugal during our trip to the Algarve area. I’ve seen fossilized artifacts before, but never actual dino footprints, and never out in the open like this.
We thought our kids would be thrilled…but they were more excited about playing at the beach. It reminded me of when we were standing on an active volcano and they didn’t seem to care. (I realize saying that out loud makes them sound spoiled, but I truly think it’s just them being young and not realizing the importance of these moments.)
Either way, it was something I’ll never forget.
Saw the Footprints. Now What?
There’s so much to see in the area that you definitely won’t be bored. If have more time to spare, check out this itinerary for 3 days in Algarve.
Before/after you see the dinosaur footprints in Algarve, pop a squat and stay awhile. Praia da Salema was one of our favorite beaches, especially over by the footprints.
Fair warning: we saw a couple of topless beach goers (normal in the area), and the sun gets pretty warm there, so pack a beach umbrella if possible.
Grab Some Food
We grabbed some lunch from A Bóia nearby, and it was delicious. I highly recommend their sardines or the catch of the day—ask and they’ll bring out several different options.
Have you seen the Dino Footprints in Algarve?
If you end up seeing these, I’d love to hear about your experience! And if you know where other sets of dino fossils are, please let me know so I can include them here!