GREAT WEEKEND ESCAPES IN PORTUGAL
With the Weekend-Break Bookpacks available it’s time to start planning some short escapes throughout the country. There are options for everyone and here are a few of our favourite destinations.
Hike your way through Peneda-Gerês National Park
Peneda-Gerês National Park is located in the northeastern part of the country and occupies an area of almost 70.000 hectares. It was the very first protected area nationwide not only because of its natural value, but also for the rich cultural heritage.
The landscapes around Peneda-Gerês are unlike any other in the whole country. Within a relatively short distance you can find massive U-shaped glacial valleys, dense woods, rocky mountains and crystal clear lagoons.
Peneda-Gerês is a perfect weekend-break destination to escape the routine and find peace of mind. Exploring the park on foot is for sure the best way to discover some of its hidden corners. There are many hiking trails with various difficulty levels. Some are steep ones with obstacles along the way and others are mostly flat and easy to do with kids. Some take you to the top of the mountain chains, others snake around the woods to access hidden lagoons. A few take you through small villages, others aren’t even marked and follow the old shepherd trails.
All in all, hiking across the national park is a great way to unplug, recharge batteries and get to know some of the park’s secrets. Click here to learn more about this destination.
Discover Serra da Estrela
Serra da Estrela is the largest protected area in Portugal, located right in the heart of the country, 2h from either Porto and Coimbra. It is one of the most famous natural parks because it is where Portugal mainland highest peak can be found, where one of our best cheeses is produced and also one of the few areas where there are snow sport facilities during Winter time.
Massive rocks with over 250 million years mark the southern part of the park, whereas the territory to the north is taken over by large plains. Also, three important Portuguese rivers have their origin in Serra da Estrela. This generates different habitats, which are a joy to discover specially during Spring and Autum, when the temperatures are milder.
In terms of cultural and historical legacy, old customs and traditions are still very much alive and farming cattle and agriculture remain the main occupations.
Doing a roadrip across Serra da Estrela is a great weekend plan, as it allows you to admire the scenic landscapes, discover some of the most iconic villages and taste the delicious home-cooked food. Although most people head there for the snow, it is actually a great destination during spring time too, when the flowers start to blossom and the icy hiking trails become green again.
If you’re curious and want to read more about the park click here.
Explore Sintra and its natural park
Located only 45min. by train from Lisboa, Sintra and its natural park are definitely one of the country’s best weekend getaways.
The idyllic palaces and mysterious private estates are the main reason Sintra is UNESCO World Heritage. However, the green forest areas that fill in the gaps also have great value and the coast has gorgeous wild beaches to explore. Most people hop on a train, pick 2 or 3 sights and spend a day in Sintra. On the contrary, we believe it is well worth staying for a couple of nights to really get to know this fairy-tale destination and its surrounding scenery.
Going with time allows to do a lot more than just visit the main sights. You can hike in the heart of the natural park, explore Cabo da Roca - Portugal’s westernmost point - and grab lunch with spectacular sea views. Then you can enjoy the village of Sintra towards the end of the afternoon, when the crowds return to the city and leave only the silence behind.
Get immersed in the history of Évora
Évora is the capital of Alentejo and a city with a great historical and cultural heritage. It is only 1h30min driving from Lisboa, which makes it a fantastic weekend break for those living in or around the country’s capital.
The unparalleled historical value can easily be perceived as soon as one approaches the city. Around Évora can be found the biggest megalithic complex in the Iberic Peninsula. The origin of the city dates to the Roman period and as time passed it suffered many different influences, creating an interesting mix. Walking around the historical centre almost feels like visiting an open-air museum, with beautiful fountains, beautiful convents and churches, royal palaces and university buildings appearing in every corner.
Apart from the intricate historical legacy, Évora is also a city of welcoming people, great food and beautiful surrounding landscapes. Staying in a farmhouse in the countryside or at a boutique hotel inside the walled city are two great alternatives, depending if you rather stay in a more remote and peaceful location, or nearer the main sites.
In case you have more time and want to explore Alentejo inland, get your inspiration going here.
Ride some waves in Sagres
Sagres is a fishermen town located in the southwestern tip of the country, about 1h30min. from Faro, the region’s capital. It is located inside a protected area, which means landscapes are beautiful and wild. Plus this area has many secluded beaches perfect for all kinds of surfers. The beaches on the southern coast are smaller and the sea is warmer and more gentle, so they’re great for beginners or families. On the western coast the stretches of sand are wider and the rocky seas attract more experienced surfers.
For those looking for a surfing break, Sagres is a charming place to head to. It marries gorgeous surroundings with a laidback vibe, perfect to explore all year round. Apart from the surfing, there’s many other things worth doing: visit Sagres fortress, explore Cabo de Sao Vicente, go for a hike along the fishermen trail and taste the delicious fish and seafood.
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