Discovering Portugal: The Other Side
Where to travel next? You want somewhere accessible where you feel safe? Somewhere not extortionate where you are able to experience a genuine traditional holiday that isn’t over touristy.
Portugal has become a very popular tourist destination with good reason. It is a stunning country with breath taking scenery, abundant history and beautiful people. You can travel here in only a couple hours on a flight from London. Most tourists head to the Algarve as this has been the number one attraction in this country for many years, but there is so much more to discover in Portugal, and often away from the large crowds that this region draws in.
There are many alternatives to the Algarve along this strip of land west of Spain:
This city was Portugal’s medieval capital for more than a century and rises on a hill overlooking the Mondego River, where you can wander the cobbled streets seeking out treasures. The famous university here is the oldest in Portugal and is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. If you are into gardens, you will find the largest botanical gardens here in Portugal.
The Serra da Estrela
The Serra da Estrela, Portugal’s largest national park, is easily accessible from Coimbra. At nearly 2,000 metres its highest point is a perfect backdrop, and relaxing for a few days amongst this beautiful landscape will fill your senses. If you happen to be around in the winter months you can even ski here, or if that’s not for you, then maybe try your hand at sledging! Horse riding, paragliding, mountain biking or just a simple hike, are all within reach.
This is a vibrant busy city but worth spending a few days in, as is Porto. In comparison to other popular European cities, Lisbon is far more affordable. You can fine dine here at a fraction of the cost of say, Paris. Wander from the main thoroughfare and look for the smaller restaurants and bars where the locals hang out. Tascas are a mix of the two with large portions priced cheaply, with the added bonus of mixing with the locals.
Praia de Galapinhos
We can’t take you to Portugal without the mention of stunning beaches. One such idyllic spot is Praia de Galapinhos near Setubal, south of Lisbon. Stunning golden sand backed by forest. Access is not easy for this little bit of paradise, but the bonus of that is it keeps the crowds at bay!
In 2017 Porto was listed as Europe’s best destination. It is classified as World Heritage by UNESCO and rather importantly sits at the entrance to the Douro Valley! This area is a must-see with incredible vineyards clinging to the hillside producing the country’s famous Douro wines, and is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world. You can travel along the river by road, train or even take a week long cruise through this stunning valley. This is a wine lover’s paradise!
There are many gems in this corner of Europe; towns and cities that are under the radar with most foreigners, but popular with locals, especially at weekends. Whether you have a few days, a week or even longer, this is an area definitely worth visiting. Of course the bigger cities will be busy, especially in the height of the summer, but visit out of high season and you will be more than pleasantly surprised.