We understand long holidays are usually taken during Summer when warm sunny weather is a given. However, travelling during off peak season has its perks: there are no crowds, the hotel fares are cheaper and the destination is sure to be more authentic.
Plus with the undeniable climate change winter is no longer a marked colder and harsher season, particular near the coast. With an average of 300 days of sun and mild temperatures, our country is a delightful destination during winter time as well. Here we picked a few destinations that have a special charm during Winter.
Historical villages of Beira Interior
The region of Beiras is located in the central part of the country. In Beira Interior you can find a network of 12 historical villages worth exploring. They were built before Portugal was even considered a country, meaning they are over 1000 years old and most of them served as strategic defense points. Some are more picturesque than others, but pretty much all of them are located on top of hills, have a castle and are surrounded by walls. The narrow cobblestone streets and adorable little stoned houses complete the scenery, and visiting almost feels like time travelling. Particularly during Winter time, Beira interior is a very peaceful destination, perfect to unwind and enjoy the natural surroundings.
A few days on the road allow you to visit a couple of villages, discover the nearby highlights and try the delicious local gastronomy. If you opt to visit the ones located further north you can also venture to Côa archaeological park, famous for the high concentration of pre-historic rock engravings. In case you decide for the southern ones, then you can head to Serra da Estrela Natural Park, where you might even be able to play in the snow.
Shale villages around Lousã
Serra da Lousã is a mountain range in the southern portion of the Beiras region, about 30 minutes driving east from Coimbra. Apart from the historical and cultural heritage, this area also has a remarkable biodiversity.
There are 27 shale villages in the centre of the country and 12 of them can be found in serra da Lousã. Some of them are located within walking distance from one another, which means you can base yourself in one and then visit others during the same weekend.
The old customs and traditions are still very much alive around here, which makes this a very authentic destination, and the local dishes are proper comfort food.
During winter time the shale villages are even more magical as the rain enhances the different colours of the stones, the river streams form pretty waterfalls, the forests seem even more mysterious and the silence is deafening... This atmosphere is ideal for a laid-back break with no alarm clocks and timetables.
Read this journal post to find what are the highlights of the shale villages.
Óbidos is an adorable medieval town located 1h away from Lisboa. The historical centre is made of a maze of cobblestone streets and whitewashed houses, nestled inside the castle walls, which are a delight to explore on foot. Apart from the castle and the old doors that give access into town, there are many religious buildings with great history that can be visited. Also nearby there are marked trails that pass by the lagoon and other natural gems.
In fact Óbidos makes a famous day-trip from the capital, but most visitors tend to spend half day there and do not stay over nor get to know the surrounding area. This means that when the sun goes down it becomes a very peaceful traditional village, ideal for a romantic or a family break.
When in Óbidos, it's worth driving towards the coast to watch the sunset, taste the typical fish stew and maybe even ride some waves in Peniche, one of the surfing Meca's in Portugal.
Óbidos is a charming town no matter the time of the year, but around Christmas time it becomes even more magical. Read this post to find out why.
Montesinho and Rio de Onor
The north-westernmost tip of the country is quite remote, but it isn't forgotten.
Montesinho Natural Park is one of the country’s biggest natural parks and is part of the so-called Terra Fria (Cold Land), located in the region of Trás-Os-Montes. The park comprises the mountains Serra da Coroa and Serra de Montesinho, which is in the origin of the park's name.
This park is still one of our best kept secrets, and to a certain point it’s best to keep it that way. There's plenty to do around the area, but to make the most of the weekend the ideal is combining hiking trails and road trips.
One of the villages that shouldn't be missed is Rio de Onor, located right by the border. It is one of the last communal villages in the country, meaning its inhabitants share an array of tasks and services, such as an oven, agricultural lands, herds of sheep, and other. This creates a close link between the local people, who are used to making sacrifices for each other and sharing, a humbling and useful lesson for everyone that isn't aware of what life is in the countryside.
Around Christmas and NYE there are a few peculiar celebrations in this part of the country. If you're curious read the journal post we wrote about them.
Monsaraz and the Alqueva
Alentejo is Portugal’s biggest region and it is only inhabited by about 5% of the population, meaning you can travel for miles without crossing paths with anyone. The peaceful and relaxing landscapes and the chilled vibe invites you to slow down the pace, particularly during this time of the year.
Many of the cities and towns located inland were strategic defence points, specially near the border with Spain. A fantastic example is the adorable town of Monsaraz, which is one of the oldest and best preserved villages nationwide. The views from the hilltop are breathtaking as it's possible to see the wide plains all the way to Spain and river Guadiana reflecting the sky.
The Alqueva lake was formed as a consequence of the construction of a dam, has 250km2 and is the biggest one of this kind in Europe, perfect for a lazy boat trip in a winter sunny day.
If you're curious about Alentejo read more about it in the inspire me section of our website.
If you're thinking about taking a winter break, get in touch and we'll be more than happy to help. Let us know what are your interests and expectations, or just go all in and let us surprise you! Click here and let's get it over with :)
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