Portugal: one of road trips
An unforgivable defect of the traveler is to assume that magic only hides in the most remote places. It is no exaggeration to say that Portugal is one of the most wonderful destinations in the world and we are lucky to have it by car.
For that reason, so that there are no excuses, we propose several road routes for you to ride your own road trip lusa. There is only one condition: do not hurry and never hesitate to deviate from the indicated route. Even of these that we propose below.
The Portuguese-Spanish border has gone through all possible neighborhood phases: territorial wars, smuggling, and finally, civilized exchange of travelers and tourists. One of the traditional entrance doors to Portugal from Spain (if you can choose a single point on a border of more than 2,000 kilometers) it's Valença do Minho, on the border with Galicia. The fame of being a great towel bazaar for tourists weighs on this beautiful city, but the truth is that It has a very delicate old town and from its strategic walls you get a fabulous view of the Miño river and the Spanish shore.
Santurario do Bom Jesus in Braga © Corbis
From there you continue on your way to Braga, a flirtatious city of feverish street life which has one of the youngest populations in the country. Very close to the city is the Bom Jesus sanctuary, with its zigzagging baroque stairs whose vision creates an effect of an infinite staircase by Escher's painting.
From Braga we continue on the N101 to Guimaraes, without discussion, one of the most monumental old town in Portugal. We set sail for the coast to the quiet Vila do Conde, with its fortress built to repel pirates and the still picturesque seaside neighborhood. From there we continue along the coast towards Port, possibly the last forgotten jewel of Europe.
Guimaraes © Corbis
We enter Portugal through the N620 from the province of Salamanca, crossing one of the most mountainous and historically most fortified regions, as the remains of the castles of Castelo Bom and Castelo Mendo. Past the city of Guarda, the N16 road enters the Serra da Estrela Natural Park. The ruins of Celorico da Beira castle They are a privileged watchtower to admire the landscape of the mountains and the Mondego Valley.
Serra da Estrela © Corbis
At kilometer 157, after taking a small detour on the A25, we arrived in Viseu, an ideal place to walk without haste and taste the cheeses of the region. At kilometer 220 appears on Buçaco forest, which could well be called tropical rainforest, which produces that impression of lush and fancy whim that botanic gardens possess with species from all over the world.
Coimbra © Corbis
We continue towards Coimbra, the university city par excellence of Portugal, where the traveler will feel, unfailingly, a shiver of student nostalgia. The best medicine is to attend an evening of Coimbra fado, the most famous, along with that of Lisbon, which is classified a World Heritage Site by Unesco.
From Coimbra we set course for the Portuguese capital, following a route marked by memories of mythical battles like Aljubarrota. After arriving in Lisbon we can continue until Sintra and find fairy tale architectural whims like the National Palace of the Rock, in Sintra.
Pena Palace in Sintra © Corbis
The Romans built a Roman road to communicate Augusta emerges with the Atlantic coast, and later generations put asphalt on it and renamed it as N246 and N118. That is the route we will follow to enter Portugal from the province of Cáceres, following the course of the Tagus, to flow into Lisbon. Along the way, castles of Marvão, Belver or Almourol, the two Pegões aqueduct, Drink (with the Convent of Christ, UNESCO Heritage), the Natural Reserve do Paul do Boquilobo or the privileged natural view of the Tagus from Santarém.
Almourol © Corbis
The smooth undulating landscape of the Extremadura pasture, with its hills of cork oaks and olive trees, imperceptibly enters the Portuguese Alentejo region without attending to geographical borders. Entering through the A6 from Badajoz, we arrived to Évora, which was the artistic and cultural center of the country in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and today retains an old World Heritage Site, labyrinthine and monumental, to combine a walk of narrow streets and gothic facades, white houses and Roman ruins. Évora's only problem is the temptation to stay here and not keep going.
But you have to continue, missing out on secondary roads, to savor the quiet villages of Alentejo, with white architecture, leisurely coffee, and coffee without haste: places like the walled village of Evoramonte, where you arrive by taking a small detour from the A6, or Santa Susana, with its geometric streets of white houses underlined with a blue frieze. The end of the trip is the wild beaches of Alentejo, with the cliffs south of Sines and the kilometer beaches of Almograve.
Almograve Beach © Corbis
FROM BARLAVENTO TO THE VICENTINE COAST (ALGARVE)
The topic is that the southern coast of the Algarve is much more touristy than the Vincentian coast that extends north from Cabo San Vicente to Alentejo. However, it is necessary to know both coastlines, each with its different charms, and, better yet, experience the smooth transition between the sophisticated boutique hotels of Barlavento to the beach bar of Amoreira, through the Sierra de Monchique, with its wrought iron spas, pastel colors and overseas palm trees.
Amoreira Beach © Corbis
One option is, after a tribute of sardines in Portimao, take the N124 and the winding N266 towards Monchique. From here, the N267 heads to the Vincentian coast at the height of Aljezur. From here, there is only one dilemma: enjoy the wild coast that stretches north, direction Odeceixe (where, with a little luck you will start a conversation with the owner of the mill) or southbound towards the Cabo San Vicente, the corner where all the winds of Europe are manufactured.
FROM LISBON TO THE SOUTH
After a few days in Lisbon, the traveler is tempted to travel south following the Atlantic coast, in search of the Alentejo and Algarve beaches, but lazily stopping along the way. We leave Lisbon and we go to Setubal, with a small detour on the N379, towards the fishing port of Sesimbra. From Setubal we enter the Estuário do Sado Nature Reserve following the call troia peninsula, a sandpit-marsh of 17 kilometers.
Sesimbra © Corbis
The N253 leads us to the end of the peninsula, topped by the tiny soft town of Behaves, deliciously messy on the banks of the marsh. From here we continue on IP8 towards Grandola, a discreet city that, however, occupies an important place in the sentimental memory of the Portuguese thanks to the song 'Grandola Vila Morena', which was used as the radiated password of the Carnation Revolution of 1974.
The N261-2 introduces us to Bajo Alentejo through landscapes of mountains and forests that descend gently to the coast in Melides. From here, always heading south, the traveler enters the wild beaches of Alentejo and Algarve.
THE BORDER OF GUADIANA
On one side, Alcoutim; the other, Sanlucar del Guadiana. In the middle, the traveler in a boat, caught between two time uses, surrounded by a landscape of low hills and beautiful white houses with their own jetty. We make a parenthesis of the road trip sailing towards the mouth of the Guadiana to Vila Real de Santo Antonio, on the border between Huelva and the Algarve.
We change ship by car and enter the Ria Formosa Natural Park, through the Algarve Sotavento, with its shallow, warm waters and open sea shelters, topped by strong crenellated turned into hotels, postal towns like Cabanas, lively fishing ports like Olhao and kilometer beaches.
The beautiful and flirty town of Sines © Corbis