In the mood to experience Portugal in a completely different way? Then the west coast is the place to be. Golden beaches, wild waves, colourful azulejos, gorgeous porcelain, masterly sculptures and... the finest cod.
Your gastronomic itinerary starts in Costa Nova. Via Ílhavo, the cradle of cod fishing, you will head to Aveiro, for a boating trip along the impressive salt pans. Then on to the wine region of Bairrada and to Coïmbra, the city of art and literature, with its famous cathedral, magnificent old university and, above all, its enormous underground tunnel system that resembles the Parisian catacombs.
And, of course, there will also be plenty of time to discover the West Coast's most beautiful beaches. You will not only visit the famous seaside resorts Nazaré and Peniche, Portugal's second largest fishing port, but also smaller gems along the mighty ocean.
Day 1 : Flight to Porto - Ílhavo
You will arrive at Porto airport and collect your rental car. On the way to your hotel, make a stop in Valega with its typical church whose façade is entirely covered in - rather exceptionally - colourful azulejos. Also make sure to visit the museum of the prestigious Vista Alegre porcelain factory.
Day 2 : Costa Nova - Ílhavo, cradle of cod fishing
Kick off your day with a visit to the colourful fish market of Costa Nova, a picturesque coastal town with striped wooden houses in bright colours interspersed with white stripes. They were once built by fishermen for shelter and to store their fishing gear. The expansive beach, Praia de Costa Nova lies by the wild ocean, popular among many surfers and ideal for lovely long walks. Be sure to visit Ílhavo, a town boasting a long tradition of cod fishing, even as far as Newfoundland waters. We also recommend you to visit the maritime museum.
Day 3 : Aveiro and its salt pans
Aveiro goes hand in hand with a landscape dominated by water. It is located by the sea and the river and intersected by canals on which the colourful moliceiro boats navigate. These sleek boats used to serve to collect algae and seaweed from the Ria, but now you can take a boat ride on them. Aveiro features some beautiful Art Nouveau buildings in the centre that are within walking distance of each other, as well as a museum with the mausoleum of Princess Joana. If you like contemporary architecture, you should definitely visit the university buildings. Cross the river by boat to admire the white salt between the salt pans, which are drying in the sun in the form of pyramids in summer. In he Reserva Natural das Dunas, you can enjoy a relaxing walk on the pristine beaches.
Day 4 : The Bairrada wines and Coïmbra
Located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Serra do Buçaco, the Bairrada wine region holds the ideal conditions for sparkling wine production. Taste the local white and red wines in one of the wine cellars. You will learn all about them at the Museo do Vinho da Bairrada. You'll then head on towards Coïmbra where you'll spend two nights. Coïmbra is the city of art and literature with its famous cathedral and beautiful old university that is renowned far beyond its borders. Aficionado of art? Then don't forget to stop by the Museu Nacional Machado de Castro. Inside the former episcopal palace there are mainly sculptures on display. More ancient statues, tombstones and Visigothic works of art can be admired in the Criptoportico de Aeminium, a peculiar underground tunnel system dating back to Roman times. After spending so much time on art and culture, it's time to unwind by taking a stroll through the beautiful 16th-century gardens surrounding the museum.
Day 5 : The West Coast's most beautiful beaches
Today you will head towards the coast with a stop at Montemor-o-Velho, an important fortified station of Coïmbra in the Middle Ages, with an impressive castle called 'Paço dos Condes'. At the mouth of the Rio Mondego facing a landscape of salt flats is Figueira da Foz, a fishing port with dockyards and a huge beach with fine sand. It is especially popular with surfers because of its high waves. On Tocha beach you can still spot the typical palheiros, a type of stilt houses that used to serve as granaries. Afterwards, you will head back via Mira with its colourful fishing boats on the beach to Cantanhede. If you like, make a small detour to Buçaco, Portugal's loveliest forest, with the impressive Hotel-Palácio de Buçaco, a former hunting pavilion of the royal family and an example of the Manueline style with many azulejo decorations. The town of Luso, famous for its mineral water, lies not much further; enjoy a coffee or tea here at the Art Deco tea house, the 'Casa de Chà'.
Day 6 : Continuing southwards
If you are interested in Roman ruins, make a stop in Conímbriga. The nearby and cosy town of Condeixa-a-Nova and its several beautiful palaces is also worth a visit. Then you can continue your journey south towards Batalha and Alcobaça with its monumental monasteries. Here you will stay in a Caractère hotel for two nights.
Day 7 : The almighty ocean
Besides the famous seaside resorts of Nazaré and the less crowded Peniche, Portugal's second-largest fishing port, it's also well worth visiting smaller resorts such as São Martinho do Porto. The completely walled whitewashed Óbidos is a must-see for many, but is also one of Portugal's most visited tourist attractions. This means that it might get crowded. Maybe you would prefer letting off some steam by the sea instead?
Day 8 : Lisbon - Return home
Your journey has unfortunately come to an end. You will return your rental car at Lisbon airport and head back home. Would you rather stay a while longer? Then extend your trip in Lisbon and explore the city's cosy streets.
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