It may not be the season for the monster waves, nevertheless, one never ceases to be overwhelmed by the big waves that batter the coast of Nazaré, Portugal. The monster waves, come rushing into the shallows from the sea, providing a fearsome spectacle as they crash on the beach or on the rocks below the Sitio fort and the lighthouse.
The waves are also the acid test for die-hard surfers who attempt to conquer the giant waves on their tiny boards.
In November 2011, renowned surfer Garett McNamara surfed a record-breaking giant wave of 23.8 at Nazaré, and repeated his feat on a wave that appeared even bigger on 28 January 2013. Later that year, on 28 October, Carlos Burle surfed another wave that is touted to be the biggest wave ever ridden. The big surfers will return, daring the waves again and again.
These waves form due to the presence of the underwater Nazaré Canyon that creates an interference between incoming swell waves which tends to make the waves much bigger.
Nazaré is one of the most popular seaside resorts in the Costa de Prata, Portugal, and the Sítio – an old village, on top of a cliff provides spectacular views of the Praia below, and offers some fine restaurants for those who love Portuguese food.
According to legends, the town derives its name from a small wooden statue of the Virgin Mary – a Black Madonna believed to have been brought from Nazareth in the Hoy Land to Spain in the 4th century. The legend has it that the statue was brought to its current place in 711 by another monk who lived and died in a small natural grotto on top of a cliff above the sea.
A small chapel (Capela da Memória) was built over the grotto in 1182 to commemorate a miraculous intervention by the Virgin Mary that saved the life of the 12th century Portuguese knight Dom Fuas Roupinho while he was chasing a deer in the thick fog. The legend states that his horse miraculously stopped at the edge of the cliff, and you can still see the hoof mark made in the rock.
The miraculous statue is now housed in the Church of Nossa Senhora de Nazaré, an imposing baroque building with some beautiful blue tiles on its interior. The Church also houses a small museum and a souvenir shops that sells nice plates that picturise the legend of Nazaré.