Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lisbon to Oporto Motorhome Road Trip

Although not as well known as the routes around the Algarve in the south, a road trip along the western side of Portugal is a great alternative. For visitors on a motorhome rental or campervan hire holiday this route will take you through some of the more traditional areas and unspoilt countryside, for a different view of the country.

Day 1.

Whether you have been in Lisbon a few days, or if you have just arrived, pick up your motorhome rental or campervan hire vehicle and make a short journey out towards the coast at Cascais.

Cascais is a typical picture postcard cosmopolitan beach town with elegant pedestrianised streets, cafes, and luxury villas. This town was once a fishing village, and even today keeps up the tradition of the afternoon fish auction on the beach; the ideal place to buy some sardines for a barbeque. Once you’ve explored the historic centre there are two short walks along the coast to enjoy, one leading to Boca do Inferno and the other to Estoril.

The 20 minute walk to Boca do Inferno, or Mouth of Hell, is a leisurely stroll to caves which have been carved out of the rocks where high waves crash against them. Just as leisurely, but in the other direction, is the boardwalk to Estoril.

This is a popular tourist area so there’s a good choice of places to overnight before returning tomorrow towards Lisbon.

Day 2

An hour and half north of Lisbon is the first stop of the day at Fatima, and getting here will be a miracle. Well not really, but Fatima is famous for its religious visions. Stop here for a while and visit the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, who reportedly in 1917, was a vision to three peasant children. If you’re in the area on May 13th or October the 13th, significant dates in the Fatima apparition calendar, expect to be surrounded by thousands of pilgrims.

After lunch, and no doubt feeling blessed, another hour away is the city of Coimbra, and the ancient Roman city of Conimbriga. Conimbriga is the largest Roman settlement in Portugal, and some of the site dates back as far as the first Iron Age in the 9th century BC. If you’re not into ancient things there are also small fortified towns such as Montemor – o – Velho with its Moorish castle, Lousa, a charming town where the plains meet the mountains, and the spa towns of Luso and Curia. There is so much to see and do here, and that includes some great shopping opportunities, you could if you had time spend a few days. If you decide to stay in the area but prefer to stay near the coast, then the coastal town of Figueria da Foz is the perfect spot.

Day 3

Today we continue north 121 Km’s to Oporto or Porto, depending on where you come from! Although its only day 3 there’s still a northerly detour, so don’t worry you haven’t finished the trip yet.

The city is one of the oldest ports in Europe as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are lots of things to see and do here (see Motorhoming in Porto) there’s also a wide range of places to stay, so park up and enjoy the area.

Day 4

For a change, today’s journey is in an easterly direction towards Vila Real and wine country. The journey is only 95 Km’s and the route follows the Dura River and of course the vineyards, so you can take your time and ‘drink’ in the views! Now, in the 1970’s some wine from the region was not drunk because of its taste, but for the bottle. For those who don’t remember, this is the home of Mateus Rose, and the bottles were made into table lamps. Today you can take a tour around the beautiful baroque palace of Sol Mateus, the house that was depicted on the side of the bottle, but please don’t try to steal the lampshades as a souvenir. The whole town is very beautiful, so why not find somewhere to stay for the night and explore the cathedral, and ancient town hall.

Day 5

Its 119Km’s to Braga, one of Portugal’s most beautiful cities, and home to the Bom Jesus Sanctuary. The city also has some beautiful buildings and squares where you can relax, but if you only have one day to spare, make sure you visit the Sanctuary and the Cathedral.

Day 6

The last day and a short drive to Geres. This is the Peneda-Geres National Park, a wild and dramatic mountainous site, scattered with rural villages. Most tourists head for Soajo which has some huge granaries topped with crosses, known locally as esipguerios. Also make sure you visit Caldas do Geres, a pretty spa village which is the place to pick up details about the park, where to stay, and places to visit. Can you squeeze in a few extra days?

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