2018 is water under the bridge. The beginning of the year is time for new resolutions and travelling more is always a good one!
Portugal welcomes travellers from all over the world all year round. There are many destinations worth visiting and for the second year in a row we came up with a list of “When to go Where”. These are our 2019 picks and we’ll tell you why.
1. JANUARY: SORTELHA & MONSANTO
The historical villages located in the countryside of Beira are perfect for a wintery escape. They might be small in size, but they have a long history, a rich cultural heritage and beautiful natural surroundings. There are 12 in total and we picked 2 for a weekend break: Sortelha and Monsanto.
SORTELHA is one of the most beautiful and oldest Portuguese villages and is also one of the best preserved ones. The narrow alleyways, cute stone houses and old castle almost seem to be part of a movie set. MONSANTO is only 1 hour away driving and also deserves a visit. With human occupation since the Stone Age, it was even considered "the most Portuguese village". It was donated to the Knights Templar by our very first king after it was conquered to the moors and the tower that still stands was built then.
During winter time this part of the country has a special charm because it is very peaceful, ideal to disconnect and recharge batteries. The weather might be a bit frosty but the local wine and typical dishes are perfect to warm up.
Visiting some of this region's historical villages makes an amazing road trip! Here you can read more about it.
2. FEBRUARY: SERRA DE MONCHIQUE, ALGARVE
MONCHIQUE park and town are totally different from the most common image people have of the Algarve. This part of the region located more inland is a joy to discover whilst still being very close to the coast - Portimão and Lagos are less than 1 hour driving and Aljezur is only half an hour away.
SERRA DE MONCHIQUE is a chain of mountains and the highest peak is Fóia at 902m. There are many hiking and MTB trails that cross the hilltops and the views are incredible. Plus, it is still pretty much off the beaten track! The nearby town of CALDAS DE MONCHIQUE is famous for the thermal springs, which sprout at temperatures between 27°C and 31.5°C and have relaxing properties. These "sacred waters" are the perfect place to relax and recharge batteries.
The VOLTA AO ALGARVE, one of the best European tour races, will be held from 20 to 24 February. The race has 5 stages, 773 km and will reach Fóia during the 2nd stage. For each participant a tree will be planted in the hilltops of Monchique in an effort to reforest the area that burnt down in the terrifying fire last Summer.
The peaceful vibe of Monchique makes it a great place to be based at to explore the southwestern part of the country. Read more about this other Algarve we've been writing about here.
3. MARCH: PORTO SANTO, MADEIRA
PORTO SANTO is the second biggest island of the archipelago of Madeira. It is located about 700 km west of the African coast and almost a 1000 km of Lisboa, Portugal’s capital city. It is a great destination for nature and outdoor lovers and exploring the island on foot is an incredible experience. This time of the year is fantastic to venture there because there aren't that many tourists, the landscapes are astonishing and the temperature is just perfect for some laid-back walks. If these aren't good enough reasons Porto Santo also has the best beach in the whole archipelago. March might still be too chilly to go for a dip, but reading a book in a nice esplanade or walking along the golden stretch of sand are great alternatives.
In the beginning of the month the trail-running event NATURE TRAIL takes place. The longer one, with 43,5 Km, goes around the whole island and allows to really absorb the surrounding natural landscape.
Apart from Porto Santo, it is also worth visiting the main island ILHA DA MADEIRA, full of incredible gardens, great food and beautiful natural sites. Read more about the archipelago hereMADEIRA.
4. APRIL: PARQUE NATURAL DA SERRA DE SÃO MAMEDE
PARQUE NATURAL DA SERRA DE SÃO MAMEDE is the only natural park in the northern part of Alentejo. It comprises an area of 31.000 hectares cornered against Spain and a mountainous range known as SERRA DE SÃO MAMEDE. This peak creates a completely different landscape from the flat plains that can be found to the south.
During summertime the heat in Alentejo inland can be unforgiving, but Spring is a great season to head there and explore this off the beaten path destination. The fields are covered with flowers and birds humming is the natural alarm clock. There are some small picturesque villages worth getting to know inside the natural park, such as MARVÃO and CASTELO DE VIDE. They both have a very rich cultural and historic heritage and the views from the top are a stunner.
Outside the park there are also some other places worth discovering on a road trip, not to mention the welcoming people, great gastronomy and peaceful pace of life... The countryside of Alentejo really is a heartwarming destination and we've tried to sum up how here.
5. MAY: COMMUNITARY VILLAGES OF TRÁS-OS-MONTES
In the northeast region of Trás-os-Montes there are some villages that preserve old traditions and ancient customs that have long been lost in most areas.
RIO DE ONOR and GUADRAMIL are two excellent examples of places where people still live in a simple and sustainable way, helping each other out and keeping a close relation to the natural surroundings. The houses are built with the local stones, agriculture is a reliable food source and water is collected from the streams that run nearby. The village inhabitants share a wood fired oven, a threshing floor, a windmill, fields and even animals. This communal way of living brings the best in people and visiting this little enchanted villages is a life lesson of resilience, humility and generosity.
Apart from that, the natural park of MONTESINHO also has a few hidden gems and exploring the 74.230 hectares territory on foot or cycling is an exhilirating experience, specially during Spring.
6. JUNE: SERRA DA ARRÁBIDA
SERRA DA ARRÁBIDA is located between Palmela (Setúbal) and Sesimbra and is an absolute paradise that marries the mountain and the beach. The hilly terrain, green surrounding vegetation and spectacular beaches create a picture perfect destination.
Mountaineering fans will find this place a show stopper, with cracks and gaps on the rocks that require challenging skills but offer rewarding views. Cycling through the steep hills or kayaking across the clear blue waters are two other incredible activities around here. Another exciting experience is taking a boat trip along the coast towards the Sado estuary to spot bottlenose dolphins.
The area of PORTINHO DA ARRÁBIDA is perfect to rest and relax while stocking on some well-deserved vitamin D. The beaches are delightful during this time of the year, before they get flooded by tourists in July and August.
To finish the days on a high note around Setúbal you can taste some of the best fish in the country and some delicious wines, including the famous moscatel.
7. JULY: PENICHE & BERLENGAS
PENICHE is a famous surfing destination that attracts visitors from the 4 corners of the world, particularly due to the incredible wave baptised as Supertubos (Super Tubes). Apart from the local surfers who visit all year round, during summer time Peniche is also a chilled holiday destination that manages to keep its fishing town vibe.
When in Peniche, a visit to the nearby archipelago of BERLENGAS makes a great day-trip! The mix between Mediterranean and Atlantic climate creates conditions for unique species of fauna and flora to thrive and the crystal waters and incredible caves are great for scuba diving and snorkeling. These islands are the oldest protected area in the country and were declared UNESCO World Heritage in 2011.
Half an hour driving from Peniche is the medieval town of ÓBIDOS, which was also declared UNESCO World Heritage. Inside its walls you can find the castle and a maze of adorable cobble stone streets, where you feel like travelling back in time.
8. AUGUST: FLORES & CORVO
August is obviously the busier time of the year in terms of tourism... kids are on Summer break, some people are forced to take holidays then and the weather almost never disappoints. For these reasons destinations tend to be less peaceful and also more expensive. With that said, there are still some islands in the archipelago of AÇORES that are relatively unknown and worth exploring even during peak season.
Corvo and Flores belong to the western group and are the ones located further away from Portugal mainland, being some kind of remote destinations. CORVO is the smallest island in the archipelago and it is probably the most distinct one. It has about 400 inhabitants in total who live all in the same small town near the ocean.
FLORES is a winner when it comes to natural beauty, being an absolute paradise for those looking for virgin and wild landscapes. There are beautiful hiking trails that cross the island and take you to mesmerising waterfalls and other hidden gems.
Both islands are a great retreat to unplug and disconnect from the caos of a loud city, but because they are quite remote, tourism infrastructures are scarce. In August renting a car and finding a nice place to sleep might be challenging, so it's important to plan ahead.
Read more about the islands of Corvo and Flores here and about archipelago of Açores here.
9. SEPTEMBER: SAGRES
Sagres is a cute town located at the very bottom of the country. Gigantic cliffs, unforgiving winds and rocky seas are the main characteristics, which attract surfers all year round. It is also common to find many walkers finishing the Fishermen trail (read this article to understand what this trail is all about).
It is worth heading to Sagres to visit the fishing harbour, stroll around the cute little streets and venture to the FORT. However, the highlight is driving 5km west to CABO DE SÃO VICENTE, continental Europe’s southwesternmost point.
September is a great time of the year to explore the COSTA VICENTINA NATURAL PARK, a protected area along the southwestern coast filled with absolutely gorgeous beaches. After July and August it suddenly becomes an extremely peaceful location, great to relax and enjoy some of the best sunsets in the country. Find more about Costa Vicentina Natural Park here.
10. OCTOBER: ARCOS DE VALDEVEZ & SISTELO
The town of ARCOS DE VALDEVEZ and the small village of SISTELO are located in Minho, more accurately in the outskirts of Peneda-Gerês National Park, and make a fantastic late Summer escape. Apart from the historical and cultural heritage, they are connected by an eco trail made of wooden platforms and dirt roads with 20km known as ECOVIA DO VEZ. The trail goes along the water and offers amazing views, particularly during this time of the year when the leaves turn brown, yellow and red. The trail is quite easy so even with smaller children you can do a stretch.
After a walk there's nothing better than tasting the northern treats and washing down the tasty dishes with a glass of vinho verde is pretty much mandatory.
Apart from Arcos and Sistelo, there are many other towns and cities worth getting to know in the Minho region, such as Ponte de Lima and Viana do Castelo. You can learn more about the history, cultural heritage, delicious traditional dishes and the minhotos here. To know more about Arcos and Sistelo read this post.
11. NOVEMBER: DOURO INTERNATIONAL NATURAL PARK
The DOURO INTERNATIONAL NATURAL PARK is a protected area right on border with Spain, where it is known as Arribes del Duero. It is the river Douro that marks the frontier between both countries for about 122 km, separating the Portuguese and the Spanish sides of the park. The highlights are the incredible cliffs that flank the river and are home to many species of birds, such as eagles and griffon vultures. The landscape is absolutely mind-blowing and taking a boat trip along the calm waters is a great experience to spot the birds in their natural habitat.
Although the temperature tends to be on the lower side in late Autumn, November means chestnuts and mushrooms are available on the menu as they're both harvested during this time of the year. They're both absolutely delicious paired with the succulent posta mirandesa, a prime cut of meat from Miranda do Douro. Apart from these delicacies we also have to mention the excellent quality olive oil and the fantastic wine. Altogether they're the perfect recipe to fight the cold.
Find more information about this natural park here.
12. DECEMBER: COMPORTA
COMPORTA is a posh destination between June and September, but during Winter it's the perfect hideaway to recharge batteries and slow down the pace.
Somehow Comporta manages to merge harmoniously modern and sophisticated places with more rustic and humble ones, meaning there are options for all types of travellers. The village itself has a laid-back vibe and the surrounding landscape is marked by woods of pine trees, giant dunes and long stretches of rice fields.
December is proper low season and the village is almost unrecognisable, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It also means restaurants do not require booking with a week ahead, accommodation prices are reasonable and the beaches are pretty much deserted. Picture a sunny winter day and absolute silence apart from birds chirping... Is there a more idyllic scenario to catch up on a good read or just to have a snooze?
DO YOU NEED HELP PLANNING AN ESCAPE FOR 2019?
Let us know what are your interests and expectations and we'll help you come up with an itinerary and sort out everything else for you.
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