OUT AND ABOUT: SUGGESTIONS TO GO OUTSIDE IN PORTUGAL

4 May 2022

Now that the days are getting longer and warmer and summer is just around the corner, there are many places in Portugal where you can simply enjoy the fresh air and the laid-back atmosphere. Whether it's in the countryside, surrounded by nature, or on one of the most gorgeous beaches, it’s time to get out and about and leave the blankets behind! You can get off the beaten path and embrace the hospitality and friendliness of the Portuguese in schist villages, or put on comfortable shoes to explore ravishing waterfalls and lagoons, or even spread out your towel, sunbathe and dive in crystalline waters without lifting a finger. The choice is yours and, as some might say, the world is your oyster! Here are some of the best suggestions we can give you to really enjoy the outdoors in Portugal.

 

Gerês

Aerial panoramic view of the historic village of Lindoso
Aerial panoramic view of the historic village of Lindoso

If you’re a nature lover looking for some fresh air, in the Peneda-Gerês National Park, the first protected area to be established in the country, you’ll find everything you need and more. It includes the municipalities of Melgaço, Arcos de Valdevez, Ponte da Barca, Terras de Bouro and Montalegre, and extends to the mountains of Gerês, Amarela and Peneda. Characterized by lush greenery and a wild, impressive landscape, Gerês is the kind of destination that will surely blow you away. Mesmerizing waterfalls, valleys of pine, oak and yew trees, phenomenal lagoons hidden amidst the forests, rugged hills, amazing mountains, flora and fauna are just some of the things Gerês has to offer. Recognized by UNESCO as a World Biosphere Reserve, the Peneda-Gerês National Park is without a doubt one of the most visited natural attractions in Portugal. There are many hiking trails, scattered amidst the untouched nature, and plenty of small, quaint villages for you to explore, such as Castro Laboreiro, Lindoso or Soajo. In almost every village, you will notice an interesting cultural aspect: the granaries, peculiar grave-like boxes. And don’t be surprised if you cross paths with horses, cows or sheep, as Gerês is home to several animal species. One of the main highlights is definitely the spectacular natural surroundings and the jaw-dropping waterfalls and lagoons with crystal clear waters (Poço azul, for example, just to name one). Put on some comfortable shoes and get ready for a journey of discovery!

 

Viana do Castelo

Santa Luzia sanctuary
Santa Luzia sanctuary

In the north of Portugal, you will find a picturesque, peaceful coastal city, in the heart of Minho. Viana do Castelo is mostly known for the Santa Luzia sanctuary, a majestic landmark at the top of the large hill that offers some fantastic views, and for the “Hearts of Viana”, filigree pieces made by goldsmiths. But besides these highlights, Viana do Castelo has also some heavenly beaches for you to enjoy in the summer days. You can opt for exploring the port and the marina (where the famous Gil Eannes Hospital Ship, one of the main attractions, is anchored), by strolling through the riverside, or the compact, well-preserved, historic medieval center, with plenty charming attractions. Viana do Castelo is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful cities in the north of Portugal, and it’s quite easy to see why. With a strong, traditional connection to the sea and river, this fishing town has a rich, cultural heritage, ready to be discovered. Coat of arms-adorned palaces, ornamental fountains, churches and convents are just some of the city’s wonders. Stroll through Praça da República, the main square, full of centuries-old buildings – you will easily understand why Viana do Castelo is also known as the "Mecca of Architecture". Learn about the remarkable costumes, the gold work with the filigree technique and the deep-rooted history behind this inviting city. Head to one of the two closest beaches to the city center, Praia do Norte and Praia Cabedelo, and take your time to soak up the sun, or to just stroll through the walking paths along the unspoilt coast.

 

Serra da Estrela

Snow covered mountains reflected in a lake in Serra da Estrela
Snow covered mountains reflected in a lake in Serra da Estrela

The highest mountain range in Portugal, Serra da Estrela, is just begging to be discovered! The Serra da Estrela Natural Park is a protected area of about 1000 km2, making it the largest protected area in the country. It is also home to the highest point in mainland Portugal, the Torre (Tower), which is almost 2000 metres above sea level. You can hike up the Torre Mountain and enjoy the impressive views! In this park, you will come across astonishing icy lakes of glacial origins, which led to the creation of various paths, ideal for hiking enthusiasts. Between wooded valleys and rivers, you will find charming little villages that dot this mesmerising natural scenery. This scenic diversity forms the Estrela Geopark, recognised by UNESCO for its geological value. If you enjoy hiking, climbing or even winter sports like skiing, Serra da Estrela is a great destination for you. A visit to the Covão dos Conchos, one the most interesting and mysterious natural highlights of Serra da Estrela, is a must. It resembles a waterfall-like hole or a funnel in the middle of an artificial lake! There’s plenty to do here in the winter, but there’s also a lot to explore in the summertime. Visit Lagoa Comprida, the many viewpoints and waterfalls, and maybe stop by Loriga, one of the most famous towns in the region, known as the “Portuguese Switzerland”. And don't forget to take home the famous Serra da Estrela cheese! Escape into nature, dive into an adventure and enjoy the tranquillity.

 

Sintra

Azenhas do Mar, coastal town in Sintra
Azenhas do Mar, coastal town in Sintra

You will feel like you just accidentally stepped into a fairy-tale universe when you visit Sintra. This mystical, romantic, picturesque village, known for its enchanting corners and lush vegetation, has many attractions in store: the Quinta da Regaleira, the Pena Palace, the Moorish Castle, the Monserrate Park, the Capuchos Convent… The list goes on and on. Strolling through the historic center of Sintra is like discovering a whole new world, where magic does exist. The ravishing landscape is well worth admiring, but there is more to Sintra than this amazing cultural and natural heritage. Further away from the historic center, you will find beautiful beaches (still part of Sintra), ideal for spending the longest and warmest days. Azenhas do Mar, for example, has a very picturesque beach, which, although it is quite small, is extremely beautiful. It has a beach bar where you can have a refreshing drink and a lovely natural pool. Praia Grande, Praia Pequena or Praia das Maças, which also has good public swimming pools, are other beach options in Sintra. The best thing about visiting this region is that you can choose to explore the magnificent heritage, or spend a relaxing day at the beach. Isn't it great to travel to a destination where the possibilities are endless?

 

Serra da Arrábida

Portinho da Arrábida beach seen from the hill
Portinho da Arrábida beach seen from the hill

The Serra da Arrábida is a very complete natural destination - here you will find a little bit of everything. There are hiking trails, clean and pristine beaches with white sand and calm waters to discover, beautifully carved coves, forts and castles, caves and ruins. There are also some viewpoints that will absolutely make your day, with breathtaking views of the Portuguese coast. As an example, you have the viewpoint of Portinho da Arrábida, one of the most photographed places in the region. As you drive from one side to the other, you'll cross scenic roads that will entice you to stop and soak up the beauty of nature. The Serra da Arrábida is the perfect place for a boat trip, as on the Sado River you can admire the adorable dolphins swimming and jumping in the blue waters. Serra da Arrábida is full of possibilities, and there are dozens of ideas for real explorers. The fauna and flora of the Serra da Arrábida Natural Park is very rich - in this area you will find a wide variety of animal species and unique plants. On top of that, the gastronomy will make you want to cry for more! In the area, the so-called fried cuttlefish (choco frito) is very famous. In all restaurants you will find this dish on the menu. As for the golden beaches you can explore here, you should visit, for example, Figueirinha beach, Galapinhos beach, Portinho de Arrábida beach or Ribeiro do Cavalo beach (although the latter is more difficult to reach, it is worth a visit).

 

Costa Vicentina

Wood passage in a beach near Vila Nova de Milfontes, Alentejo
Wood passage in a beach near Vila Nova de Milfontes, Alentejo

Coastal landscapes, unspoiled bays, rugged cliffs, jagged capes and heavenly beaches make up the Alentejo coast, better known as Costa Vicentina. When we talk about Alentejo, our imagination takes us to a rural landscape, calm and peaceful, dotted with villages where time seems to have stopped. However, the Alentejo region is much more than that – this area also covers a large part of Portugal’s coast. A trip along the Costa Vicentina is the perfect way to get to know a totally different Alentejo. The Costa Vicentina Natural Park is located on the southwest coast of Portugal and stretches for 110 km, between the Ribeira da Junqueira, in São Torpes, and Burgau beach, near the city of Lagos in the Algarve. In addition to the world-famous beaches, this coastal area is dotted with picturesque fishing villages, such as Vila Nova de Milfontes, Sines or Porto Covo. In Porto Covo, you will even see ostriches by one of the beaches (but don't worry, they're inside a homestead)! This region is also ideal for foodies, as you can taste delicious fresh fish and seafood in the many restaurants. These are destinations sought after by those looking to enjoy the sun and dive into the crystal-clear waters, breathe in the aromas of the sea, absorb the aura of cozy villages or even surf. The idyllic beaches are often embroidered with lush vegetation and dunes, and the dramatic cliffs and wild, secluded coves make for a jaw-dropping scenery. In the villages, the small houses with colorful outlines and the cobblestone streets make you want to stop time. Get ready to discover a whole new Alentejo!

 

Estremoz

Typical street in Estremoz
Typical street in Estremoz

If you’re a person who finds peace of mind in the countryside and appreciates a calm environment, in Alentejo you will find several destinations for you. One of them is undoubtedly Estremoz, known as the “white city” of Alentejo, due to its whitewashed houses and quarries of white marble. Estremoz has a rich cultural, archaeological and historical heritage, so there are many outstanding highlights to visit and admire – the castle and fortifications, the Church of Santa Maria e Santiago, the old Paço Real (where the Pousada is currently located) and S. Francisco Convent are just a few examples. This beautiful city is surrounded by an ancient wall and is dominated by a medieval castle from the 13th century. To really enjoy the Alentejo landscape, there is nothing better than strolling through the labyrinthine and winding streets of the old town and stopping to feel the local atmosphere in the main square, Rossio Marquês de Pombal. In fact, Estremoz is divided into two parts: the old town, where you can find the white houses lined along the narrow streets, and the more modern part outside the walls. Olive groves and vineyards stretch into the horizon and contribute to the typical landscape of the Alentejo region. Needless to say, the noble city of Estremoz is also a land of good food and good wine, just like the rest of the region. Also famous are the red clays of the region, which gave rise to the traditional dolls that can be found in the handicraft shops throughout the city.

 

Algarve

Rocks on the coast of Lagos, Algarve
Rocks on the coast of Lagos, Algarve

Sun-kissed shores, golden sand beaches, crystalline waters in various shades of blue, natural caves and amazing rock formations pretty much sum up what you will find in the Algarve region. Every year, this incredible destination draws the attention of hundreds of people. Known for its paradisiacal coast, the Algarve is Portugal’s visiting postcard. There are several towns you can visit – from Albufeira, Lagoa, Lagos and Loulé, to Monte Gordo, Portimão, Carvoeiro, Tavira or Vilamoura – and they all have something to bring to the table. The beach on the island of Tavira, Ponta de Piedade in Lagos (or Camilo beach, or even the Dona Ana beach), the Benagil caves in Carvoeiro, the Ria Formosa Natural Park, Falesia beach in Albufeira… the list of idyllic gems is endless. Even for water sports enthusiasts or for those who want to enjoy the exciting nightlife to the fullest until their feet hurt, the Algarve region has a little something for everyone. Even historic castle towns and whitewashed villages make up this coastal landscape! There's nothing better than walking along the wooden walkways by the beach at sunset, surrounded by sand, dunes and vegetation, and ending the day in one of the many beach bars eating fresh fish and drinking a cold drink. And the warm nights? You’re in for a treat!

 

Madeira

Traditional rural house in Santana Madeira
Traditional rural house in Santana Madeira

You won't be short of things to do in Madeira, a Portuguese archipelago known for its natural beauty. Wherever you go, you'll have incredible views of the sea, amidst vibrant green vegetation and misty mountains. In Madeira, you can take a levada, a hiking trail along an irrigation canal, enjoy the beaches – some of them with dark sand, as Madeira is an island of volcanic origin -, or simply stroll and explore the heritage and visit beautiful viewpoints. In fact, Madeira is a good destination at any time of the year, but on warmer days it feels good to take a dip in the sea or in the natural pools. Did you know that this is the homeland of the famous Cristiano Ronaldo? There's even a museum about the world's best-known soccer player. You can choose to visit museums, go down avenues in the famous basket cars, ride the cable car, go shopping at Mercado dos Lavradores, take a boat ride, try local food (such as the delicious limpets), explore the picturesque houses in Santana, visit caves or just enjoy the fantastic nightlife. You won't be short of options! And all this with a backdrop that will make even the less impressionable fall in love. There are several islands that you can visit, with Funchal, the capital, being the most famous. Wherever you choose to go, you will be fascinated by the mixture of colors, between the blue of the ocean, the green of nature and the exotic colorful flowers.

 

 


 

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