During the past week, in preparation for a bus tour planned for Spring 2019, two members of the Travel Enriched team have been busy exploring southern Portugal. Particularly interesting places visited on the south west coast include the small town of Aljezur with its historic hilltop fortress; Sines with its gigantic oil rigs; and Odemira with its colourful streetscapes.
Lucky for some! One evening, at a cliff-side cafe high above the white washed village of Odeceixe we dined on tapas, before the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean. We spoke to other travellers who had walked for several days along fishermen’s trails, and through lush valleys and pine and eucalyptus forests. Breath-taking views of wide, white sandy beaches and rugged coastline greeted us in the small villages of Arrifana and Carrapateira; and in Bordeira with its colourful display of wild flowers growing out of the sand dunes.
Other highlights were reaching the iconic lighthouse at Cabo Sao Vicente on the westernmost tip of Europe; exploring the former Arab settlement of Lagos; and visiting the red brick fortress of Silves, a hillside town steeped in history, with Moorish, Greek and Roman influences. Perhaps the jewel in the crown was the chance to spend a couple of days in Tavira, one of the prettiest towns on the south coast. This former trading port, where one can see the foundations of a seven arch Roman bridge, was under Arab rule between the 8th and 13th centuries. Today a short ferry ride to the 14km sandy beach of Tavira Island is a popular day trip amongst visitors.
Before returning to Lisbon we also visited the former Roman settlement of Evora with its well maintained ruins of the Temple of Diana and remnants of an 8km aqueduct through the centre of town. From there a one hour drive took us to the strategic and stunningly sited walled village of Monsaratz that was successively occupied by different peoples since prehistoric times. We explored the remains of its Moorish castle dating back to the 12th C.
We will now add these new insights about southern Portugal to the host of information that we have gleaned over the past 7 years of Camino walking in areas north of Lisbon. The itinerary for our 15 day bus tour commencing in late April 2019 should be finalised by July 2018.