Portugal’s Absolute Musts

Porto, Portugal (88) - Ribeira houses

Portugal‘s Absolute Musts

Most Beautiful Nature Spot

Whilst it would be obvious to choose of the many beaches that are so popular with families and two week holidaymakers, for us rock always trumps sand and we feel that Serra da Estrela, the highest mountain range in Continental Portugal, is the most beautiful nature spot and well worthy of a place in our Portugal’s Absolute Musts list. Its highest point 1,993 m (6,539 ft) is distinctive in the fact that it is a plateau rather than a peak but the views it affords and the walks through the surrounding valleys make this one of Portugal’s most scenic places.

Mountains - Serra de Estrella, Portugal (15), Portugal's Absolute Musts

The most central town in the range is Manteigas, a town with just over 3000 inhabitants and there is a campsite a few kilometres west of the town. Do not fear, however, as there are other campsites in Santa Ovaia, Colviha and Valhelhas, in which we ourselves stayed.

Map Serra de Estrela, Portugal's Absolute Musts

source: summitpost.org

The tourist information centre is in Manteigas (Rua 1.º de Maio) and has a useful selection of maps offering a variety of different walks with degrees of difficulty, although even the most challenging is not so difficult. At the time of our visit, the staff didn’t speak English, though.

Manteigas - Serra de Estrella, Portugal (3), Portugal's Absolute Musts

Best City / Town

Portugal is not lacking for wonderful cities. Coimbra, with its student heavy population, Evora for its wonderful winding streets and white stone houses or Braga, and its nice balance of liveability and subtlety are all potential outsiders. But like most arguments in and about Portugal is always come to one thing. Lisbon or Porto? The coastal giants: Porto with its sophisticated cool and Lisbon with its alternative vibe.

At this point I think that by now most of our readers, and certainly our friends, would expect us to choose Lisbon, but they would be wrong. We fell in love with Porto and its spectacular Ribeira that looks like something straight out of a film. The whole waterfront area is stunning with its houses stacked up on the rising hill and it isn’t hard to see why it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ribeira houses - Porto, Portugal (88), Portugal's Absolute Musts

One of the fantastic elements about the city is its diversity. The juxtaposition of the stunning old town with the Port Wine factories sprawled across the opposing side of the river is a sight to behold. The food is wonderful especially the fish and seafood, although a bit pricey and there are countless bars dotted all around its winding alleys.

Funicular dos Guindais and Av - Porto, Portugal (83), Portugal's Absolute Musts

Best area for hitch-hiking

Hitchhiking in Portugal isn’t easy and as a general rule Portuguese don’t stop. This is especially true in the inland areas that are more sparsely populated. Generally speaking we had more luck in the south of the country, possibly because there are more tourists heading towards the Algarve beaches on the south coast.

On our hitch-hike from Lisbon to Evora, we were quite successful once we had taken a train to get out of the orbit of the capital. We also managed to hitch-hike from Evora all the way to Seville in Spain. In the north we failed on our attempt to get to Braga from the mountains of Serra de Estrela after we got trapped in the Porto ring road system. We would love to hear other people’s experience to see if they differ.

Rua Largo Luiz de Camões  seen from Rua José Elias Garcia - Evora, Portugal (7), Portugal's Absolute Musts

Tourist trap

We have racked our brains to try an think of a place that disappointed us in Portugal but we have come up with nothing. All the places we visited didn’t let us down, so we are turning it over to you good readers if you can think of any place that you felt was over-hyped in Portugal then contact us with your ideas.

Back alley with Wanna Be Free graffitti - street art - Coimbra, Portugal (28), Portugal's Absolute Musts

written by: Jon

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Our Experience

We hitch-hiked in Portugal as part of our ‘A dedo por La Península Ibérica‘ (The Iberian Peninsula by Thumb) trip in 2012.

When hitch-hiking in Portugal we covered 672.1 km and got picked up by around 20 drivers from 6 different countries!

Read about our experience of crossing the Spanish-Portuguese border and watch a video here.

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