Marvao

LEGEND

* Easy to get to, but takes a bit more effort.
** Perhaps a bit out of your way, but worth it.
*** Strap up your boots. But MUCH easier than Nepal or the Machu Picchu Trail.
**** Not necessarily easy, but places like this are where dinner party stories are created.


* Amarante

The Vibe – Chill riverside town.
Where – On the banks of the Tamega, about 45 minutes from Porto.
Why Go – A great walking town with tons of shady streets and 17th century mansions.
For – The leisurely traveler.
Insider’s Tip – The Festa de Sao Goncalo, each June, celebrates fertility and matchmaking – complete with suggestively-shaped (please don’t ask) cakes.

** Arrabida

The Vibe – A wild landscape of mountains, ocean and beach, popular with Lisboetas.
Where – A thirty-minute drive south of Lisbon.
Why Go – Unique fauna, rocky beaches, and the exquisite seafood.
For – Beach bums, nature lovers, and families.
Insider’s Tip – Bring the kids for dolphin watching or to see the Jurassic dinosaur tracks. They’re only 160 million years old.

**** Braganca and Surrounds

The Vibe – Historically rich area with an immaculately-preserved citadel and Renaissance cathedral.
Where – In the northeast corner of Portugal (about two and a half hours from Porto).
Why Go – Good base to explore the surrounding villages.
For – Those who can’t resist a good citadel.
Insider’s Tip – Visit the nearby village of Podence during Carnaval to see the exuberantly-costumed (and often naughty) caretos.

*** Marvao

The Vibe – Tiny (population 3,500) medieval town known as the “Eagle’s Nest,” perched atop a mountain with a once-impregnable 13th century fort.
Where – On Portugal’s eastern border, overlooking Spain – an hour and a half drive northeast of Evora.
Why Go – Pristine views, eagles, and storks. And to keep an eye on Spain.
For – Suckers for a breathtaking view.
Insider’s Tip – Climb the castle stairs all the way to the top for the best view of all.

*** Monsaraz

The Vibe – A bit like stepping back into the Middle Ages.
Where – Not far from Marvao (and an hour northeast of Evora).
Why Go – Whitewashed houses with medieval doors and family crests. Moorish pottery. Oh, and did we mention it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
For – Your inner romantic or poet.
Insider’s Tip – The bullfight arena is still in use in July and August. In Portugal, bullfighting is non-lethal.

**** Peneda-Geres National Park

The Vibe – A protected wild nature reserve, scattered with small traditional villages.
Where – On the Portugal-Spain border, about an hour and a half northeast of Porto.
Why Go – Portugal’s top park, known for its unique biodiversity, including the roe deer and wild horses.
For – Hikers, nature enthusiasts and anyone who is looking for a moment of tranquility.
Insider’s Tip – Visit the town of Soajo with its unique espigueiros, elevated communal granaries.

*** Serra da Estrela

The Vibe – Dramatic mountain range whose valleys are populated with charming towns.
Where – On the eastern side of Portugal, not far from Spain.
Why Go – This is more-or-less untouched, small-town Portugal. In towns like Belmonte and Trancoso, there is fascinating Jewish history.
For – Lovers of mountainous landscape and Jewish heritage aficionados.
Insider’s Tip – Stop in Manteigas, home of the best Portuguese cheese, “queijo da serra” and in Seia for the Bread Museum.

* Sines

The Vibe – Labyrinthine coastal town with blue and white houses and an imposing castle.
Where – On the Atlantic coast about halfway between Lisbon and the Algarve.
Why Go – The ocean; along with great views and sunsets.
For – Those who want to feel like locals. Portuguese are drawn here because Vasco da Gama was born here. Plus, the sardines are great.
Insider’s Tip – In June, the castle is home to a large festival of world music. And did we mention the sardines?

* Tavira

The Vibe – Everything you’d expect from the Algarve, except the tourists.
Where – A half-hour drive east of the Faro Airport.
Why Go – It’s an attractive coastal town with a strong Moorish influence. Sample the old-fashioned Moorish polenta.
For – Your inner Moor.
Insider’s Tip – If you’re obsessed with salt (don’t lie…we know some of you are), there are 2,000-year-old salt pans nearby. And if you’re obsessed with sweets (we’re looking at you), Tavira is famous for its desserts.