Portugal is not a big country but there is a lot to see and do. Most people only focuse their attention in its two main cities, Porto and Lisbon, or the touristy Algarve beaches. But the country has much more to offer.
We have already written in this blog about some of the main hotspots of our Portuguese road trip, but we wanted to write down a brief guide about the itinerary that we followed in case it may inspire somebody. We think that in around 10 days most of the hotspots of central Portugal can be visited. Do you want to know how? Keep reading!
For some of our friends and acquaintances it’s still summer. Everyday in the social networks we find lots of pictures of nice beaches and exotic places. But for us routine is back. We are already working and I (Laura) am getting used to a new job. However, we are trying to extend the summer period with weekends of beach, drinks and swimming pool. And this has reminded us of one of the most beautiful beaches where we’ve been together: the Costa Nova beach, near Aveiro (Portugal). Its colourful houses stole my heart.
Aveiro in fact is a synonym of colour. The vibrant houses, the drawings of the moliceiros… The two big cities of Portugal, Porto and Lisbon, are easily reached by plane from Barcelona. But if you want to get lost among the beautifull villages of this country, having a car is a must. So two years ago we decided to cross the entire Iberian Peninsula with our own car to start a roadtrip that we will always remember.
Portugal is known for its perfect beaches for surfing, its fantastic food, its cultural heritage… and, unfortunately, also for its wildfires during summer season. We experienced hundreds of wildfires when we visited Portugal two years ago. We remember ourselves crossing black smoke, having fire on the road margins, smelling smoke all day and wondering how far was the fire. One of the worst days was the one we spent in Porto. It was almost impossible to breath and it was raining ash as if a volcano erupted close to us.
The geography of Lisbon has turned it into a city full of hills that are overcome by means of the funiculars, which are an essential part to Lisbon’s mobility. This particular geography, together with certain amazing monuments, brings to visitors lots of opportunities to enjoy great views of the city and to take nice pictures anywhere. We reached Lisbon by car last summer after a short visit to the Alentejo region and we definitely fell in love with that colourful and vibrant city that we could observe from many viewpoints. Those are, in our oppinion, the best places to see Lisbon on your feet.
1. Padrão dos Descobrimentos
Inaugurated in 1960, the Monument of the Discoveries is located in the northern bank of the Tagus River estuary, from where ships used to depart to explore and trade with India and Orient. The monument recalls the Portuguese Age of Discovery (XV and XVI centuries). If you visit the Belém quarter don’t forget to climb up to the top of this monument to have amazing views of the compass rose and mapa mundi (a gift from the South African government) at its feet and the Jerónimos Monastery in the background.
We are used to travel on the weekend or while our (never enough) holidays and thus we try to make the most of our trips with lots of planning and less room for improvisation. But last summer, in Portugal, we had the three things that any traveler needs to decide the destinations along the way: a car, a camping tent and a travel guide.
We had travelled through central Portugal from Lisboa to the medieval jewel of Guimarães and our next stop in our way back home was fixed at Burgos (Spain), a city dominated by its amazing Word Heritage cathedral. But we still had one night and some hours driving to reach Burgos, so we decided to open the guide and look for hotspots in the way back to Barcelona. We had heard about Miranda do Douro, a Portuguese town, belonging to the Braganza district, located in the border with Spain and next to which environmental cruises depart to sail through the international natural park of the Douro river. Moreover, the town has a municipal camping site, so we couldn’t ask for more!