Portugal’s Undiscovered Countryside
When travelling to Portugal, few visitors make it past her major cities of Lisbon and Porto. While these two centres are beautiful, entertaining and unique in their own right, Portugal has a great deal more on offer when you take a step outside the big cities and explore Portuguese country life.
The central region of Portugal; the Viseu and Coimbra provinces, reaching from the Serra da Estrela down to Coimbra and Tábua boasts a variety of scenic nature walks, quaint villages celebrating annual festivals, historical monuments and delicious food.
Hiking and Nature Walks
Portugal’s highest peak, the Torre da Estrela takes up residence in the Serra Da Estrela National Park. Here, you’ll find plenty of hiking trails, including one that takes you up to the Torre but there is also the option to drive to the Torre for those who aren’t so active. During winter the peak is covered in snow and is frequented by Portugal’s skiing community.
Portuguese Village Life
Coming down from the Torre and taking a drive through the valleys and countryside you’ll find a ‘bush’ landscape that I found somewhat similar to some areas of Australia with trees of the Eucalyptus and Pine families.
The country roads wind through quaint towns and villages including Viseu, Oliveira do Hospital, Vila Nova do Oliveirinha, Meruge and Coimbra. A visit to a local village market is a must if you’re in the area, here you can purchase your week’s groceries and even clothes, kitchenware, linen, armchairs and I’m sure I saw a kitchen sink there too. But after you’ve done your shopping, head over to the chicken tent for a lunch of butterflied, peri peri-basted, Portuguese chicken BBQ’d over hot coals in front of you (see video above for demonstration)!
Village Festivals and Food
Just like many towns and villages right across Europe, Portugal’s centres have many of their own festivals and celebrations. The week my mother and I were visiting, was the week of the Pork and Medieval festival, in Meruge.
The Feira do Porco e do Enchido in the town of Meruge is an extremely lively festival that takes place in the centre of town, in front of and surrounding the church.
There are coloured flags hanging everywhere. In the main square, medieval re-enactments and demonstrations take place, kids can also pet farm and domestic animals at a small ‘petting-zoo’ set-up. Music is a big part of the celebration, I counted at least 5 different folk, traditional and modern music ensembles playing their way around the festival (listen to the music in the above video).
Stallholders line the street and town village square, selling everything from handcrafts like leather jewellery and bags, wood carvings and hats to warm spiced wine, local cheese, home-cured meats and homemade baked goods. My favourite was simply snacking on chestnuts, freshly toasted on hot coals!
Camping in the Coimbra/Viseu region?
Why not consider camping or caravaning while visiting Portugal? My Aunts run the Tapadinho Camper and Caravan Park just outside of Vila Nova do Oliveirinha. It’s a relaxed, peaceful, dog & family friendly caravan/camping park in the middle of the countryside. It’s a perfect place to stay if you just want to get away from all touristic and busy places.
Check out their promo video below and some pictures I took while staying there.
Wherever you choose to stay, one thing is for sure, Portugal is a unique and beautiful place where it’s worth the effort to explore beyond the borders of larger cities.