Activities

Under your feet

gruta da moeda_4Most people visiting Portugal will want to see the monuments, cities, towns and villages, besides the landscapes. But… did you know Portugal also has caves? In fact, Portugal has lots of caves, but plenty of them can’t be visited because they’re not, well, easy to access.

gruta da moeda_1In the area of Serra de Aire e Candeeiros (not far from Lisbon and close to Fátima) there are several caves that you can visit. Today I’m bringing you some images from Grutas da Moeda (literally, “caves of the coin”).

gruta da moeda_2These caves were discovered in 1971, when two hunters were chasing a fox. The fox eventually hid in a hole in the ground, which they found out to be an entrance to a cave. The two men explored that entrance for almost two months, discovering some of the galleries that you can visit today. gruta da moeda_6The part that you can now visit is about 350 meters long (not very long, but there’s plenty to see!) and there’s a constant temperature of 18ºC all year round.

gruta da moeda_5Obviously, like with so many other places in Portugal, there’s a legend about these caves. Many, many years ago, a wealthy man was passing by the area and he carried with him a bag heavy with coins. A band of thieves tried to rob the man and, in the struggle, he ended up falling down a hole in the ground (the cave, as you probably guessed), taking with him the bag of coins.

gruta da moeda_3

Enjoy!  🙂

The website: http://www.beyondlisbon.pt/

You can follow me on: Facebook – Pinterest – TripAdvisor – Instagram – Youtube

Categories: Activities, History, Legends, Nature, Places | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Along the coast

milfontes3

Along the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast you’ll find some of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal. This area covers most of the Alentejo coast and part of the Algarve, in a total of about 110km of cliffs, unique plants, big waves, rich culture and history and, yes, amazing sunsets. Actually, this is such a special region that it is the only place in the world where storks make their nests in the rocks by the sea – and by rocks I mean cliffs!

milfontes2

But today I bring you another side to this coast: The town of Vila Nova de Milfontes, in the Alentejo, as seen from the river Mira. No cliffs seen from here, just the peaceful sunset inviting your mind to drift away and relax. There’s a lighthouse at the mouth of the river; you can see some boats and a few of the white houses from the town. The beaches are empty now and every living thing seems to stand still to appreciate the sun going down and the moon coming up.

milfontes1

Enjoy! 🙂

The website: http://www.beyondlisbon.pt/

You can follow me on: Facebook – Pinterest – TripAdvisor – Instagram – Youtube

Categories: Activities, Nature, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Once in a lifetime

pena1
When I was a kid several of Sintra’s monuments, which today are crowded with tourists at any time of the year, were kind of my weekend playground.
I remember Capuchos when it was a semi-abandoned place, which I later refused to visit having known it had been vandalized. I also remember the castle and the old man selling entrance tickets, postcards and pots of honey on a stall with cats sunbathing on its roof. But my favourite of these places was, probably, Pena.
pena4
As a kid I was obviously impressed by the outside architectural “layers” and details, in a time when it was all, still, in different shades of dusty grey (the palace was later painted with its original colours). What really had a magic of its own, however, was the park. It was, to me, a piece of forest with mystery around every corner: The stone tables, the well, the metal bridge, the sculpted warrior and the gigantic trees seemed to me to be “extra magical” at a time when there really wasn’t a lot of information around regarding the park. I was always secretly hoping to come across a fairy somewhere – and I could almost swear I caught a glimpse of a pointy red hat once!
pena6
When I read that Parques de Sintra would open the Pena park and palace at night I had a “now or never” kind of feeling. Besides, they were doing it for charity purposes, so what could be better?
pena5
Although it had only been two days after a full moon (which means plenty of moonlight) Sintra did its best to keep up with its reputation and the whole area was surrounded by fog. While it was certainly amazing I really don’t have any good photos of the park that night because of the fog and because most places were, well, almost pitch black – except for the fireflies!
The lakes looked amazing at night with the fog and the Fonte dos Passarinhos, lit by our lanterns, had its own mystique. My good friend, the ginormous Western red cedar, was part of the tour as well, as did the century old ferns.
One of the ferns in this part of the garden was, if I’m not mistaken, planted in 1850, which makes it… 165 years old! Did you know that the ferns in the Feteira da Rainha and the surrounding trees make up an ecosystem of their own? The trees protect the ferns from the harsh Summer sun, but allow for enough sunlight in the Winter, after their leaves fall. This was all part of the king‘s project when he planned the park. This plan was so detailed, in fact, that it even took into account the winds coming from the sea.
When reaching the highest point, near Cruz Alta, the wind transformed the heavy fog into rain, so when our group got to the end of the tour, and we “emerged” into the middle of the crowd near the palace, we all looked like we had actually ran a marathon! 😀
pena3
I didn’t get to visit the inside of the palace this time (too crowded!) but I did get to wander around the terraces a bit. Once again, the fog worked its magic!
The best part of this night? They actually managed to collect a total of about 5 tons of food! Everyone working there, from the five companies and institutions involved, was a volunteer. I can tell you our guide was one enthusiastic volunteer!
pena2
P.S.: I do hope this will not be a “once in a lifetime” opportunity and that they repeat it sometime in a not very distant future!

The website: http://www.beyondlisbon.pt/

You can follow me on: Facebook – Pinterest – TripAdvisor – Instagram – Youtube

Categories: Activities, Nature, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Before the crowds arrive

vilardemouros1

Vilar de Mouros

Yep, it’s true: we’re rapidly approaching the most wonderful time of the year! So today I’ll be showing you the location of two famous Portuguese music festivals – before the crowds arrive.

Vilar de Mouros, in the north of Portugal, is home to the oldest music festival in the country. It all started in 1971 and, at the time, the festival attracted thousands of people from other countries as well – much like today, except they had funkier outfits back then! The lineup of the two-day festival consisted mostly of Portuguese bands, but also included Manfred Mann and closed with Elton John. Woho! I found some amateur footage from then which I’m sharing here to spread some 1971 groove… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrXB84e6uXU (Embedding disabled by request. Sorry, not my fault!)
Not far from Vilar de Mouros there’s Paredes de Coura, which also hosts an outdoor summer music festival. Both festivals take place in beautiful natural areas (rivers included!) and if you happen to be nearby – even if it’s not summer – a detour is well worth it!
paredesdecoura1

A detail in Paredes de Coura.

If you’re planning on coming to a concert, music festival or historical reenactment in Portugal this year you might want to check the website’s page with that info – and with everything neatly organized by dates and location, including links (when available).
vilardemouros2

Vilar de Mouros

 Have fun!

The website: http://www.beyondlisbon.pt/

You can follow me on: Facebook – Pinterest – TripAdvisor – Instagram – Youtube

Categories: Activities, Nature, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Highlands – Portuguese style

castrolaboreiro2

Sometimes travel doesn’t have much to do with monuments or with a huge checklist of things you have to do in order to “have fun”.

Sometimes travel is just about soaking up the energies from the place you’re visiting and about collecting memories. Personally, I like to daydream a little.

castrolaboreiro1

When in Castro Laboreiro (which I mentioned before) I couldn’t helpt but get a “Lord of the Rings” kind of feeling. I was sure that at any minute I would see a legion of soldiers (or orcs!) coming from around the mountain.

castrolaboreiro4

Then I remembered my favourite part from the Latin classes I took in college. Despite being fairly technologically advanced Romans were superstitious and, might I add, a little too full of themselves.

Apparently, it took them a long time to enter the area we now call Serra da Estrela because, among other things, they must have thought it was a good idea to bring horses to a mountainous area! Oh, and Viriato played an important role, of course.

castrolaboreiro5

Standing there, with the wind rushing past my face in the grey and cold weather, I wondered if the north of what we today call Portugal had other characters, similar to Viriato. Even if it never did I can only imagine that living here, especially centuries ago without the comfort we now have, made everyone a hero in their own way.

Do you daydream when you travel? 😉

The website: http://www.beyondlisbon.pt/

You can follow me on: Facebook – Pinterest – TripAdvisor – Instagram – Youtube

Categories: Activities, Nature, Places | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A long, long time ago…

mezio1Before Portugal even existed there were people already living here. Obvious, right? Those people built huge stone monuments, some of which made their way to our day and age more or less intact.

mezio3

Today I’m bringing you a couple of examples you can find in the Peneda-Gerês region, particularly in the area called Mezio (near Soajo).

mezio2

Not much is known about them, but they’re thought to be approximately 5000 years old. You can find examples of this type of pre-historic monument all over the country, but mostly in the north and in Alentejo (as far as I know).

mezio4

Truth be told, they’re not always easy to find, even when they’re mentioned in maps and hiking trails. Sometimes you’ll just have some obscure reference to a dolmen in a particular area and little more information besides that.

mezio5

But who doesn’t love exploring around a bit? 😉

You can follow me on: Facebook – Pinterest – TripAdvisor – Instagram – Youtube

Categories: Activities, History, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Beyond the obvious

tavira4Reputation can be a good thing or a bad thing – a bit like tourism.

In Portugal, the Algarve (in the south part of the country) has a reputation for being one long strip of sand, sea and sun, filled with restaurants, pubs and hotels – a place that becomes overcrowded in August with both Portuguese and foreign tourists, battling for a spot on the beach.

tavira1The truth is, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can experience the real Algarve, if you dare to look beyond the obvious. Altough this a region which has beautiful beaches (many of which with very few waves you fraidy cats) it also has castles, old forts, white-washed villages and towns, wonderful cuisine, thermal baths and even a natural park (Ria Formosa).

tavira3

Today I’m sharing with you some images taken, just last week, near Tavira, in the Ria Formosa area. You don’t get to see this unless you leave your hotel-with-swimming pool-and-5-bars-in-a-nice-all-inclusive-package.

tavira2

Will you dare to step out of your comfort zone? 😉

You can follow me on Facebook – Pinterest – TripAdvisor – Instagram

Categories: Activities, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Simple pleasures

PdB7

I already mentioned Ponte da Barca on the blog before, but I couldn’t skip the opportunity of bringing it up again. I mean, look at those trees.

PdB6

Sometimes you really don’t need an incredible work of art or a fancy resort to enjoy being somewhere. Sometimes the colors of the sky and the trees are just right and Nature creates a perfect paiting.

PdB4

Or maybe it’s just the way a boat fits a reflection – almost perfectly.

PdB2

Or noticing an unexpected rower.

PdB3

Trivia tidbit of the day: Remember when I told you about Santo António? His mother was born in Ponte da Barca, no less!

You can follow me on Facebook – Pinterest – TripAdvisor – Instagram

Categories: Activities, History, Nature, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A castle on the limit

lindoso2

Recently, I got to spend a few days in the Minho region, in the North of Portugal and let me tell that although this is a relatively small part of the country, it is packed with history and things to do and see.

You know when you look at a map and think that a small place will have nothing to see and no stories to tell? Don’t let yourself be fooled! Minho is packed with history and beautiful landscapes, making it a mix of brain and beauty! Old churches, monasteries and manor houses seem to pop up everywhere – besides pre-historic remains and landscapes that make you go “wow”.

Today I bring you a castle from Lindoso, a town located very very close to the border with Spain, in the area of the Peneda-Gerês National Park, which offers jaw-dropping views of the surrounding area, including the river Lima. This castle, classified as a national monument in 1910, is not big or of very intricate design but it served its purpose of defending the border. It was built in the 13th century and, like so many other fortifications, it went through some modernisation work throughout the times.

Near the castle you can also admire a different type of architecture, which will be topic of the next post. Let’s call it… a system that allows you to keep your corn dry and safe from rodents! 🙂 Stay tuned!

You can follow me on Facebook – Pinterest – TripAdvisor – Instagram

lindoso1

Categories: Activities, History, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Out and about

rio2

Do you like to explore new places? I know I do!

This spot in particular is in Sintra, although it’s not what you’d call a “touristy” place. Actually, it’s one of those places you hear about or have a vague memory of reading about in some obscure blog (ah!).rio1

Being there I thought of how much I believe “authentic” travel to be important. And what do I mean by “authentic” travel? Exploring! Even if you’re in a city, venture out of the most famous streets, have your lunch where the locals go to, lose the tourist guide!

So many people seem to focus on going somewhere to see castle A, palace B, famous street C… I see that happening everyday  – in Lisbon, in Sintra, in Porto. I know that sometimes we manage to fit a little “travel time” on a weekend or a business travel and time doesn’t stretch. But, come on, get out of your comfort zone!

This place is close to Lisbon, very close to Sintra and I can tell you the GPS coordinates I had for it were wrong!

There were a few BTT lunatics people there but it’s far from being a well known place. Unfortunately, I didn’t reach the waterfall because my hiking shoes are not that good and I was in serious risk of slipping. Still, it’s a beautiful place and I will surely go back!

Location? Top secret! :X

rio3

Enjoy! 🙂

Oh, before I forget, there’s a surprise on the way! 😉

You can follow me on Facebook – Pinterest – TripAdvisor – Instagram

Categories: Activities, Nature, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: