Ready for Quality Time: Authentic People, Incredible Nature, Great Food & Wines
Central Portugal is the green heart of the country, blessed with a diverse landscape from fantastic beaches to enchanting mountain villages and the rugged slopes of Serra da Estrela, the highest peak on mainland Portugal.
Visitors will not tire of the spectacular views from the Serra da Estrela. Source of the Mondego and Zêzere rivers, this natural park encompasses the largest area of protected forests in Portugal, filled with crystalline lakes and hiking trails. The valleys and ridges transform through the seasons: in winter, the snow-covered slopes are popular with skiers and families, while in spring and summer, the stunning scenery forms a wondrous backdrop for adventure sports including rock climbing and paragliding. Autumn heralds a dazzling display of colour through the mountains.
Distinguished Coimbra is home to Portugal’s oldest university, boasting a magnificent 13th century library and some of the most beautiful Baroque architecture in the country. The historical towns ofViseu and Castelo Branco are worth a visit, as well as Aveiro, known as the ‘Portuguese Venice’ for its canals, gondola-shaped boats and picturesque lagoons. Golden beaches and charming fishing villages can be found heading south along the coast. Historic Fátima is Portugal’s most famous pilgrimage site and contains a vast shrine with a beautiful basilica.
Cultural attractions in Central Portugal include cathedrals, museums, art collections and Roman ruins, as well as defensive fortresses along the Spanish border dating back to the 11-13th centuries. This region is also famous for its traditional festivals, tasty leitão assado (roast pork) and handmade artisanal cheeses, especially queijo da serra, considered Portugal’s best.
Hidden Schist Villages
A great, not to be missed, attraction of the Centre of Portugal are the restored schist villages. Hidden between mountain slopes of leafy vegetation, the schist villages are one of Portugal’s best kept secrets, but one that their pleasant, friendly inhabitants enjoy helping to reveal.
In this magical world, where time passes more slowly, the hospitable people always have the time to welcome visitors, and to share their stories, crafts and traditions. Just as we like to savour their gastronomic delights, made from recipes passed down from generation to generation! Or take with us a handmade article in linen or wood into which the local craftsmen have put all their knowledge.
But much of their charm is in the pure nature. In the river beaches with crystal clear water where you can spend moments of relaxation. And in the forests you can discover on foot following the “Schist paths”, or on the bike trails defined by the Mountain Bike Centres according to various levels of difficulty, and which also provide support to bikers. There are also other extreme sport alternatives such as canoeing, climbing, abseiling and rope slides.