Stories

 

Portugal


From the 19th of February to the 8th of March, 2017



As Portugal is surrounded by Spain on all sides, it came to us as a little break. Not only the language changed but also the sights:

The Algarve region is dotted with beautiful typical villages and small medieval towns. The Rio Formosa follows the coast from Casela Velha to Faro creating huge lagoons which are important stopping points for migratory birds in spring and autumn. Hard to find but definitely worth the detour, was the Pero de Infierno waterfall dropping in a beautiful lagoon surrounded by green vegetation. The site is surrounded by orange and mandarin plantations. They were the sweetest mandarins we ever had!


FARO

The old town of Faro has a mix of nice old buildings like the bright white cathedral lined with orange trees, some picturesque narrow lanes with flower pots decorating the windows. For an interesting contrast, some other streets are showing tired facades covered in tags and broken windows.

    


CARVOEIRO REGION

The coastline between Praia Albondeira and Cabo Carvoeiro is totally breathtaking and can easily be explored on foot. Time and erosion carved out huge arches, sinkholes, coves, hidden caves and pinnacles left alone in the ocean. My favorite places are definitely Playa Marinha with its huge pinnacles and arches as well as the hidden cave of Benagil which is only accessible by boat or by swimming. Of course we decided to go for the wet option... shuddering like a leaf we reached the secluded beach inside the magnificent giant dome. Rays of sunlight falling through a hole at the top made the orange color of the rock pop out while the waves were entering the cave through the two arches shaped by the ocean. It was only a 100 meters swim around the corner, but with the water at 16 degrees and pretty strong waves, that proofed to be more challenging than expected. Anyhow, if that is the way to have this magical place to yourself, then it is totally worth it!

    


PORTIMÃO

On the west side of Portimão, the eroded coast between Praia de João de Arens and Praia dos Três Irmãos is no less of an attraction. There are some little islands covered in vegetation, forming double beaches and hiding some steep sinkholes.

    


LAGOS

Kayaking around the Punta da Piedade was a delight. We paddled through the many arches and channels leading to cathedral like caves and hidden dark sinkholes letting some light highlight the green color of the water. Despite the massive earthquake in 1755 which devastated the city and the fort, we can still see the (restored) fortified wall and the steps where the first slaves brought to Europe had to disembark. Don't miss my video of the spectacular cost of Algarve at the bottom of the page!

    

The first thing which struck us when entering Portugal was the number of campers: They seem to grow well under the usually sunny skies, occupying every flat and empty spot, regardless of huge 'no camping'-signs. Apparently most of this crowd use to spend the winter in Morocco. But with the momentary situation in the area, they rather stay on this side of the straight. That said, I'm still wondering why there are so many here in Portugal and so few in Spain.


LISBON

An afternoon stroll in Lisbon revived the memories of my last visit ten years earlier. The castle offers beautiful view over the city, de Vasco da Gama bridge which looks like the Golden Gate in San Franscisco and the Cristo, a copy of the Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro. Unfortunately there are not too many original ancient buildings to be seen as the terrible earthquake which devastated southern Portugal reduced the city to dust and ashes. Nevertheless, it is a nice place to wander in the narrow streets surrounding the castle area and have a look at the rundown facades with grassy balconies standing side by side with a nice typical Portuguese house covered in tiles matching the door and windows color.

    


FORTS & MONASTERS

Portugal is full of old castles, forts and monasteries. The weirdest one we have visited is the Pena National Palace. This romanticist castle which look like the one from Disney was built in the 19th century as a summer residence for the royal family. King Ferdinant II intervened in the decoration of the castle which resulted in a very surprising patchwork of styles and colors. For a more authentic medieval feeling, we enjoyed our morning walk on top of the wall offering perfect vantage point over the fortified village of Obido and its fort. In the same region, the castle of Almourol perched on a little island in the middle of a river is pretty cliché. We are not so much into visiting churches, convents and pilgrim places but in Tomar we stepped into the pretty impressive former roman catholic 'Convent of Christ' built side by side with a castle. A few kilometers away, we can still see the beautiful double story aqueduct which was channeling the water to the convent.

    


NAZARE

Two days before we reached Nazare, the big wave surfers elite flew in from all over to catch some of the biggest waves of the world. During the winter, strong swells pushing the water in an underwater canyon form very high breaking waves. The biggest one ever surfed was 30 meters high in 2013. This phenomenon only occurs for a few days a year during the winter season. The surfers are being towed by their jet ski buddy (like wake-boarding) to the edge of the monsters before to start the ride. If all goes well, the surfer will be able to exit the wave and will immediately be picked-up by the jet ski before the next waves kicks in. But if they get washed things can really go wrong! That day a few of the surfers got in trouble, including the jet ski which ended up in the washing machine. Luckily no-one was hurt but the jet ski is dead. Those guys are totally insane...


PORTO

The Douro river flowing through the city of Porto offers a charming setting. The double deck bridge crossing the river offer perfect views over the vast expands of wine cellars on one side and the colorful houses of the old town on the other side. I'm totally fan of the narrow houses covered in colorful tiles with a cloth line of drying laundry.

    

After this change of sights and sounds, we nevertheless felt good to go back 'home' to Spain. Why? Find out in my next story about northern Spain.

Click here to read the following story about our journey through northern Spain.

Album "Portugal - February-March 2017"