Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wanderlust Wednesday - Bucket List Edition: Places to Visit in Portugal #3

Hey everyone! It's Wednesday, and you know what it means... it's time for some wanderlust dreaming. Today I'm carrying on with my 'Bucket List' series and finish (for now) my list of places to visit in Portugal. My country is a small one, yet bursting with outstanding nooks to discover, natural and cultural. Even if you don't have plans to visit Portugal in the near future, I invite you to scroll down this post. Perhaps it will sharpen your curiosity... and if you like this, be sure to take a look into parts #1 and #2 as well!

In no particular order as usual, here are 9 more places I'd love to visit within borders:

1. Serra da Estrela, Guarda

Image sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 

Its name literally meaning "Mountain Range of the Star", Serra da Estrela is the highest mountain range in Continental Portugal, surpassed only by the Pico mountain in the Azores. Its highest point stands in a plateau, where there is a ski resort. This makes Serra da Estrela an awesome winter destination, although this mountain range can be as scenic and entertaining in the summertime too. Serra da Estrela actually comprises a Natural Park, whose landscape shows visible marks of ice action in the past, like ravines, lakes of glacial origin and U-shapped valleys, like the Zêzere Valley in the first picture.

2. Almourol Castle (Castelo de Almourol), Santarém

Image sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Standing in a rocky river islet, this medieval castle seems taken right out from a fairytale! It is believed it was constructed over a primitive Lusitanian castro (read more about these hill forts here, together with photographs of my visit to the ruins of Briteiros), however its construction date is unclear. It is known, although, that this castle served as a stronghold during the Portuguese Reconquista and is one of the best (if not the best) representations of the Knights Templar in Portugal.

3. Porto Covo, Setúbal

Image sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Porto Covo is located along the Alentejo coast, south of Lisbon. I have a crush for all things white sand, isolated coves, rock cliff shores and warm temperatures, so Porto Covo's beaches are on my wishlist. The town of Porto Covo itself looks lovely too. Also, there is an island with more awesome beaches, two 17th century fortresses and the ruins of a Roman harbor nearby.

4. Piódão, Coimbra

Image sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

This village is located on a hillside and its dwellings show traditional schist walls, slab roofs and doors and windows painted blue... Piódão's inhabitants live mainly through agriculture, livestock and beekeeping. It is sad, although, that younger populations keep emigrating abroad or to the coastal cities in search of better living conditions.

5. Laurel Forest (Floresta Laurissilva), Madeira

Image sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

A laurel forest, also called laurissilva, is a kind of subtropical forest characterized by broadleaf tree species with evergreen leaves, mostly like the laurel family. This type of forest is present in many parts of the world, from East Asia to the southeast states of the USA and from Australia to Macaronesia (Azores, Canary and Madeira islands). The laurel forest in Madeira, however, is a World Heritage Site since 1999, being considered the largest and best preserved forest of this kind in the entire world.

6. Almendres Cromlech (Cromeleque dos Almendres), Évora

Image sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

As the largest existing group of structured menhirs in the Iberian Peninsula and one of the largest ones in Europe, this complex covers a period of time from the Neolithic to the Chalcolithic. It is supposed that this monument served religious or ceremonial purposes, or as a primitive astronomical observatory. The stones are organized in a circular pattern and some of them show carved drawings. The second and fourth pictures are particularly appealing to me; just imagine how magickal it might feel to be in a place like this at nighttime, under the starry sky!

7. Batalha Monastery (Mosteiro da Batalha), Leiria

Image sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

This monastery is one of the best examples of late Gothic architecture in Portugal, and was built in commemoration of the Portuguese victory in the battle of Aljubarrota in 1385. It took over a century to build it! But today it is also a World Heritage Site.

8. Monsaraz, Évora

Image sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

The hilltop of Monsaraz is located near the border with Spain and is one of the oldest portuguese settlements in southern Portugal, having been occupied by different peoples since the pre-historical record. Traces of all these peoples can still be seen throughout the place, like hundreds of megalithic monuments and a medieval castle, as well as evidences of a castro and Roman occupation. It was also occupied by the Visigoths, Arabs and Jews until the Reconquista. I love the way this lovely village adorned in traditional stone and bright white fits into the surrounding landscape!

9. Berlengas Archipelago (Arquipélado das Berlengas), Leiria

Image sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

And finally, this. This is heaven within borders. It's a group of small islands belonging to UNESCO's World Network of Biosphere Reserves, therefore, the Berlengas are considered a reservation area, so there is no permanent population although scientists and tourists do travel to this archipelago. One day, I will too.

I hope you've enjoyed scrolling down these Portuguese wonders as much as I've enjoyed compilling this list. If you ever have the chance to travel to Portugal, please do not hesitate; I assure you you will never regret it. After all, Portugal won several top prizes at this year's World Travel Awards!

Thanks for taking a look into this post, and stay around for more wanderlust goodness in the future!

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