Portugal: your road trip off the beaten track

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Portugal: your road trip off the beaten track

With its endless beaches, fishing villages, walled cities and wind-buffeted cliffs, beautiful Porto and rolling green hills, Portugal will inspire a wide range of emotions.

Portugal: your road trip off the beaten track

Day 1: a stroll around old Porto

A soon as you arrive in the northern city, head for the Ribeira district, the beating heart of Porto. On the hill which slopes gently down to the Douro, the colourful old houses form a joyful anarchic mosaic. Stroll through these winding back streets, where washing hangs from the balconies. In the last five years, the Ribeira neighbourhood has been transformed: the time-blackened facades are resplendent again, wine bars and delis have replaced traditional shops, and guesthouses while concept stores have been set up in renovated buildings. At the end of the day, stop for a while on the river banks to watch the traditional boats drift past the magnificent Dom Luis 1st bridge. In the evening, check into your accommodation at the Hotel Teatro. You will be enchanted by this former theatre transformed into a cosy sanctuary, inspired by the world of the stage.

Hotel Teatro
Rua Sá da Bandeira 84
4000-427 Porto
Portugal
+351 220 409 620
www.hotelteatro.pt

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Portugal: your road trip off the beaten track

Day 2: gourmet markets and wine tasting

For lunch, why not opt for the gourmet delights of Bolhão market. With its 19th century ambience, wooden stalls and jokey stallholders ... this popular location has retained its traditional spirit. Next, sample the more contemporary decor of Bom Sucesso market which is part of an urban design project. No point trying to resist the gastronomic specialities of its restaurants.

In the afternoon, head over to the other bank of the Douro, to Vila Nova de Gaia, where the cellars of the great port wine producers are found. Visit one of these cellars laden with humidity and the heady aroma of oak barrels, then sample a ruby port grand cru produced in the high Douro region. You will be amazed by its fruity notes.

Bolhão Market
Rua Formosa
4000-214 Porto
Portugal
+351 223326024

Bom Sucesso Market
Praça Bom Sucesso
4200-132 Porto
Portugal
+351 22 605 66 10
www.mercadobomsucesso.pt/home/

Vila Nova de Gaia
Portugal

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Portugal: your road trip off the beaten track

Day 3: a day at the beach

Leave the winegrowing region and make your way southwards along the coast by car or train from the magnificent Porto-São Bento station. After around 45 minutes, you will reach Aveiro, nicknamed the “Little Venice of Portugal”. Explore its picturesque canals and climb aboard traditional moliceiros boats to cross this colourful city with its numerous art nouveau buildings and pretty, friendly squares. Then head for the seaside, at Costa Nova. This little seaside resort has a crazy charm, with its colourful striped houses, lined up opposite the estuary, between the fish market and tantalising restaurants. By the ocean, you can hire a multicoloured windbreak to blend into your surroundings!

After this breath of fresh air, take the road up the hills to Buçaco National Park. This magical site has a forest in the middle of which monks built an impressive monastery in the 17th century and is an ideal place for a hike. If you wish to prolong this moment of tranquillity, go overboard and spend the night at the Buçaco Palace Hotel, a building converted into a luxury hotel called a pousada.

Costa Nova
3810-079 Aveiro
Portugal

Buçaco National Park
3050-261 Luso
Portugal
+351 231 937 000
www.centerofportugal.com/bucaco-woods//bucaco-woods/

Buçaco Palace Hotel
Mata do Buçaco
3050-261 Luso
Portugal
+351 231 937 970
www.pousadasofportugal.com/pousadas/bussaco-palace-hotel/

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Portugal: your road trip off the beaten track

Day 4: A Gothic interlude in Nazaré

After a heavenly night, set off next for Nazaré. There you can check into the Ribamar family hotel, an elegant white and yellow building on the seafront. You will adore the slightly old-fashioned, informal atmosphere of this coastal town. A few grandmothers still wear the traditional dress, and the smell of grilled fish floats through the air. Climb up in a cable car to the promontory on the cliff. Beneath your feet lies an immense beach, famous for its enormous record-breaking waves which, in winter, attract the most audacious surfers. Nazaré is an excellent home port for an excursion to the monasteries of Alcobaça and Batalha, two Gothic sites with UNESCO World Heritage classification, less than half an hour away. Historical and architectural masterpieces which are worth a detour.

Hotel Ribamar
Rua Gomes Freire 9
2450-222 Nazaré
Portugal
+351 262 551 158
www.yellowpages.pai.pt/ms/ms/hotel-ribamar-restaurante-2450-222-nazare/ms-90065337/

Alcobaça Monastery
2460-018 Alcobaça
Portugal
+351 262 505 128
www.mosteiroalcobaca.gov.pt/en/

Batalha Monastery
Largo Infante Dom Henrique
2440 Batalha
Portugal
+351 244765497
www.mosteiroalcobaca.gov.pt/en/

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Portugal: your road trip off the beaten track

Day 5: surfers and fairy-tale landscapes

Head even further south, and you will arrive at the mediaeval city of Óbidos. Its ramparts are worth visiting very early in the morning, to avoid the crowds. Take a walk next through the little back streets of this very charming village, then turn to the west, towards the pretty beaches of Peniche. If you are not afraid of rollers, ride a few waves, before enjoying some shellfish in the port. Then walk it off with a little stroll to the impressive fortress which juts out into the sea. This bleak site was used as prison in the past.

After this visit, hit the road again for a two-hour journey to Alentejo, where you will arrive at the small hilltop village of Monsaraz. From the summit of its 340-metre high hill, the panoramic view of the olive groves and the Guadiana River, a natural border with Spain, is breathtaking. With its garden, a perfect place for contemplation, its heaven-sent pool and dream location opposite the largest artificial lake in Europe ... what would you say to a countryside stay at the Monte Alerta hotel? A rural hotel in keeping with an authentic and unspoiled region. In the evening, lift your eyes heavenwards: the sky there has been recognised by UNESCO as a vantage point for star gazing.

Óbidos
Rua Direita
2510 Óbidos
Portugal

Peniche Beach
2520 Peniche
Portugal

Monte Alerta Hotel
Monte Alerta Caminho Municipal 1127
7200-174 Monsaraz
Portugal
+351 968 756 785
www.montealerta.pt/home-1

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Portugal: your road trip off the beaten track

Day 6: mountains and Neolithic remains

In the early morning, you might decide to take a stroll around the village's pedestrianised back streets. The white walls have a yellow glow in the first light of dawn. Impressed by this sight, set off next for a hike around the nearby hills. After walking for one kilometre, you will reach the intriguing monoliths of Cromeleque do Xerez. This Neolithic group in the middle of an arid plain will inspire thoughts of early man erecting these menhirs. Further on, you can explore the Orada Convent, and its long baroque facades. A setting which will transport you into another fascinating ambience, that of the great Westerns.

Cromeleque do Xerez
7200-175 Monsaraz
Portugal

Orada Convent
8100 Telheiro
Portugal
fundacaoconventodaorada.pt/historia_convento.html

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Portugal: your road trip off the beaten track

Day 7: the unspoiled coastline of Alentejo

The following day, set sail to the south-west coast, along the unspoiled coastline of the Alentejo region. After passing the port of Sines, you can explore the regional nature park. Stop in Porto Covo, a picturesque white-walled fishing village. Abandon your car and put on your hiking shoes for a coastal walk which will take you across fine sandy beaches, wide dunes and cliffs with many-hued rocks. Take a dip in the invigorating ocean before having a picnic in the shade of the Almograve dunes. An unforgettable landscape! A little detour further south will take you to the traditional port of Entrada da Barca, hidden amidst the rocks. In the evening, tuck into some fresh fish at A Barca Tranquitanas a restaurant right by the ocean.

Porto Covo
7520 Porto Covo
Portugal

Entrada da Barca
7630-734 Entrada da Barca
Portugal

A Barca Tranquitanas
Entrada da Barca
7630-734 Zambujeira do Mar
Portugal
+351 283 961 186

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Portugal: your road trip off the beaten track

Day 8: nature by the ocean and historic discoveries

It is time to head off to Zambujeira do Mar to walk along its immaculate cliffs, where the sea air will give you an appetite. What a piece of luck! This charming small town can offer you a feast of incomparably fresh fish and seafood.

Along the country roads, plains planted with cork oaks and olive trees stretch as far as the eye can see. At the natural viewpoint of Santarém, stop to contemplate the view of the vast Tagus River. Low white houses are dotted here and there across the hillsides.

In Évora, an old walled city with an abundance of Roman remains, you must not be afraid of the 5,000 skeletons covering the walls of the Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones), which dates back to the 16th century. Regain your composure with a tasting of natural wines on the remote estate of Herdade dos Lagos, near the Guadiana Valley nature park, known for its spectacular Pulo do Lobo waterfall and its many age-old windmills.

Another one and half hours on the road takes you to the sandstone cliffs of Ericeira, a pretty whitewashed village. Its coastline, studded with surf spots, attracts young bohemian visitors, who pack the trendy bars interspersed between the fishermen's huts. In the evening, push open the blue door of a little white-walled village house, and you will find yourself in the charming hotel Casa das Aguarelas where you can spend a peaceful night in a tranquil atmosphere.

Zambujeira do Mar
7630 Zambujeira do Mar
Portugal

Santarém
2000 Santarém
Portugal

Capela dos Ossos
Praça 1º de Maio 4
7000-650 Évora
Portugal

Herdade dos Lagos
Vale de Açor
7750-056 Mértola – Alentejo
Portugal
+351 286 991 145
en.herdade-dos-lagos.de/

Casa das Aguarelas
Travessa do Honrado, n°1
2655-290 Ericeira
Portugal
+351 261 866 837
casadasaguarelas.pt/en/home/

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Portugal: your road trip off the beaten track

Day 9: architectural extravagance in Sintra

Leave this Portuguese-style relaxed atmosphere for the city of Sintra, straight out of a fairy-tale. Treat yourself to a delightful stay at Casa da Estefanea Boutique Bed and Breakfast, an exclusive address, set in a grand building. A delightful walk through the old quarter will take you to the National Palace of Sintra, remarkable at first glance with its two 33-metre chimneys, which are the symbols of the city. The building contains the largest collection of azulejos mudéjar, those little colourful earthenware tiles which are typical of the Iberian Peninsula. Stop for a bite to eat and sample a queijada, the local sweetmeat, a delicious little cake made from soft cheese, sugar and cinnamon. It is said that the recipe dates back to the 13th century at least!

The real local treasure stands amidst the lush hills of the Serra da Sintra National Park. At the Palace of Pena, you will be amazed by the mixture of exuberant styles, from Moorish to mediaeval Gothic. Inside, time has stopped at 1910, the date on which Portugal's last monarchs were driven from power. Consisting of 26 buildings, it is one of the rare Royal residences to have remained intact. Furniture, silverware and crockery have all remained as they were. Hidden pathways through the forest add to the romanticism of the location.

Casa da Estefanea Boutique Bed and Breakfast
Av. Heliodoro Salgado 75
2710-421 Sintra
Portugal
+351 960 276 687
www.casadaestefanea.com/

National Palace of Sintra
Largo Rainha Dona Amélia
2710-616 Sintra
Portugal
+351 21 923 7300

Pena Palace
Estrada da Pena
2710-609 Sintra
Portugal
+351 21 923 7300

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Portugal: your road trip off the beaten track

Day 10: a tram trip and a bike ride in Lisbon

Lisbon is half an hour's journey away. In this city of seven hills, the slopes are steep, but the famous yellow trams will come to your rescue. Climb aboard tram number 28 which crosses the old city, from Alfama to Bairro Alto. In this maze of back streets swarming with life, marvel at the tall houses with their plinths adorned with azulejos tiles, the trendy galleries and designer boutiques. Breathe the delicious aromas and listen to the sounds of fado escaping through the open windows.

Go back down to the Tagus and rent a bicycle to take you to Belém. This neighbourhood will whisk you back in time to the era of explorers and the Age of Discovery. It was the home port for the caravels setting sail for the New World. Recoup your energy by sampling a pastel de Belém purchased at l'Antiga Confeitaria, a gastronomic institution. This divine pastry is made using an ancient recipe from the nearby Jerónimos Monastery. Continue your gastronomic journey at the Manuel Tavares delicatessen, in the Baixa district. In this shop, which first opened in 1860, you can stock up on hams, sausages and other delicious preserves. Nearby, take the old wrought iron lift of Santa Justa. The view of the sunset from its viewing platform is magical. Time for an aperitif. Share a glass of ginjinha, a cherry liqueur in a Rossio bar before continuing your evening in the busy back streets of Bairro Alto, where small restaurants, bars and clubs jostle for space...

Antiga Confeitaria, Pasteis de Belém
Rua de Belém nº 84 to 92
1300 – 085 Lisbon
Portugal

Jerónimos Monastery
Praça do Império
1400-206 Lisbon
Portugal
+351 21 362 0034
mosteirojeronimos.pt

Manuel Tavares (delicatessen)
Rua da Betesga 1 A and B
1100-090 Lisbon
Portugal
+351 21 342 4209
manueltavares.com/en/