Montargil: River Swimming Done Right

It's unlikely that you'll have to share your strip of riverbank with anyone other than a hawk, stork, or falcon.

Sweltering heat and the ice-cold ocean seem like two extremes that work well together, but sometimes seeking out the shade of a cork tree just a few meters away from a swimming spot that won’t freeze your testicles is just what you need to rejuvenate yourself.

Albufeira da Barragem de Montargil, unlike the other praia fluvial spots within a two-hour drive from Lisbon, doesn’t flow directly into the Tejo (Tagus). It feeds into the Sorraia River Channel from the Montargil Dam located in Portalegre‘s Ponte de Sôr, so it’s arguably the cleanest option for dips, dives, and watersports. And because the riverbank is long and sprawling, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have to share your spot with anyone other than the occasional hawk, stork, or falcon. Pro tip: Do bring the black flies an offering and they’ll leave you alone. An apple core will do.

Aside from the natural beauty of the river, the drive to get there from Lisbon is spectacularly enjoyable. Once you cross the Ponte Vasco da Gama, you’ll be on one of the most charming national roads in the country until you arrive. Here’s what you’ll pass along the way.

For those looking to prolong their stay, there’s an Orbitur campsite right on the river, separated by a chain-link fence. You can only access the water by exiting the campsite, but it’s a five-minute walk from the entrance. The campsite offers tent, caravan, and bungalow camping, and there’s a small café on site. There are no central grills for cookouts there, but they do rent out small, personal-sized grills for a small fee.

If you’re looking for more of a five-star experience, you might want to check out the Lago Montargil & Villas scene with its four outdoor pools, childcare center, and direct access to the Montargil Marina with a host of eager guides to take you waterskiing, jetskiing, and more.

Not feeling this river beach in particular? Here’s a list of all the Praia Fluvais in Portugal, thanks to go-swim-outside.org. You can find a list and all of their individual positions on the map, organized by municipality, and see a few images to give you an idea of what you can expect.

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