Portugal, largely unknown to us, was a great surprise. We found good climbing and hiking, fantastic food and friendly and helpful people. My last blog covered the Southern end of Portugal with the Rota Vicentina (Fishermans Way) as the focus. The North of Portugal is very untouristy which is hard to understand, because the mountain areas although smaller, are beautiful and unique. This is a quick round up of favourite places visited in the whole country.
Pretty coastal town popular with Scandinavians. We went up to the castle with beautiful flower gardens and trees.
Olhos de Agua, red sand cliffs and stunning beach
Interesting small city with lots of independent shops and lovely sandy beaches
We are very enthusiastic about this city. It’s relaxed and great fun, with lots of art on display. The downside was the queuing. You must go on the old trams and visit the less busy Bridge Experience (Pilar 7) and then have coffee and cake on a double decker bus (mounted on a shipping container) at the Village arts area, the food is also very good there. Famous galleries and world famous custard tarts at Pasteis De Belem bakery and cafe (Belem area). We ate an unforgettable meal at seafood restaurant Marisqueira Uma, that only has one dish on offer each night. We stayed in Zetubal on the outskirts of the city, and got the train in.
We spent a washing weekend at busy seaside resort full of surfers. Big Waves. Large selection of restaurants in nice old town. Plus a cool skateboarding and surfing supplies shop with cafe and large skate park.
Stayed in wooded hills and got wet exploring the misty woods. Very beautiful with large hillside castle to visit. Excellent cake shop in village. We came back for more and did a long walk.
Another chance to see some large stormy seas.
Good climbing is on on sea cliffs close to town, very good routes and friendly local climbers. Great atmosphere and views.
Peniche, Sau Pedro Lighthouse - locals gather to watch the sunsets here. Watch out for the fishermen.
Reguengo do Fetal
Well worth the trip for a very good climbing area, choice of crags and plenty of routes in easier grades. Scenic climbing venue and very friendly village with bars. Spent a couple of days climbing here.
The place that has the biggest waves in the world but on this occasion they were not spectacular. If you don't know it check out the videos on Youtube. The surfer visitor centre well worth a visit. Explains geology of sea bed that causes the huge waves and celebrates the amazing skill of the world's best surfers.
Costa Nova and Aveiro
Art Deco stripy houses by the dozen. Nice Art Nouveau gallery
Lovely city. Some of the same easy vibe that Lisbon has but more art. Museu de Serralves International gallery; we saw exhibitions by Tacita Dean, Joana Vasconcelos and Susan Hiller, and you visit a large Art Deco house on same ticket. Great pub bar serving tapas in the area near the sea. Food speciality is a cheese filled fishcake shaped like a bomb and served with port (at bar in town centre). Also try the tiny sweet cakes that are shaped like shellfish.
Paiva Valley (Espiunca village)
One of my very favourite places on this Portugal trip.
We spent two days white water rafting, and a day walking on a special wooden walkway along the valley. The grassy car park at the village has a handy bar. Up stream are other bars worth a visit (on the walks or via boat). The river is beautiful and serene, and passes through stunning gorges and rock formations.
Mizarela and Serra De Freita
Climbed on granite faces for two days. After which we followed the geological trail footpath and saw Black Mica birth stones and Dolman. Fascinating unspoilt area of medieval farming methods and traditional costume.
Geres (Parque Nacional de Penada-Geres)
Scented and dramatic 10 Km walk in beautiful hills and plateaus covered in large boulders, heather and broom.
Best steak I have ever tasted at this popular restaurant (Restaurante Videira) in a tiny village. Served with grilled vegetables on a large terracotta platter. We went for a run the next day up into the hills above the village. If you go, look out for horned cows, goats and sheep in small herds. Ancient Celtic huts abound.