Hiking at your own pace is one of the most fabulous ways to experience a country. Some people prefer the challenge of group hiking, keeping up with an experienced group who have a more competitive angle.
We love nothing more than just the two of us, wandering around at our own pace and taking time to savour the flora and fauna as we meander through the beautiful terrain of this glorious country. These are a few of our favourite routes, nothing too taxing and so much breathtaking and diverse scenery to absorb along the way.
CABO DA ROCA/SINTRA (5 miles hiking, 5–6 hours)
We started by following the Atlantic coast from Lisbon to the picturesque village of Almoçageme. This was our starting point for a coastal hike to Cabo da Roca—the westernmost point of continental Europe. From Almoçageme, we crossed a small forest to reach the cliffs overlooking the Praia Grande (or big beach) and Praia da Adraga (Adraga Beach). After climbing up to the top of the cliffs, we passed secluded coves and valleys en route to the Cabo da Roca lighthouse. At the end of the hike we travelled to the enchanting town of Sintra where we thoroughly deserved that Sagres or two!
SERRA DA ESTRELA NATURAL PARK (5–6 miles hiking, 4–5 hours)
We stayed overnight at the most beautiful Serra da Estrela, where mirror-like lakes reflect the dramatic granite peaks above, and forests ring with the song of over 150 species of birds. Set out to explore the 5,000-foot high Penhas Douradas plateau, trekking across woodlands and rocky valleys dotted with shepherds’ huts. We stopped for lunch at the Vale do Rossim lake then continued to the hillside village of Manteigas.
DOURO VALLEY (4 miles hiking, 3–4 hours)
With a slightly less taxing hike set for the day we followed the Douro River into the terraced vineyards of the stunning Douro Valley, where some of Portugal’s best wines and ports are produced. Our hike began at the charming village of Provesende then wandered along rolling vineyards to the sleepy riverside town of Pinhão. We were fortunate enough to discover an hotel located on a family-owned wine estate so a deep hot bath followed by several glasses of beautiful local wine was like heaven!
PINHÃO/DOURO RIVER (7–8 miles kayaking, 4 hours)
This was a hike with a difference – more or a river hike! We headed to Pinhão and boarded a rabelo, a traditional wooden cargo boat native to the region. We glided up the Douro to its junction with the Tua River then kayaked back down to Pinhão, paddling past scenic port wine estates. Here we stopped for lunch and a swim at a beautiful sandy beach, accessible only by boat. We finished the day with a walk through the regions vineyards and were invited to a wine tasting at our hotel’s award-winning cellar.
FAVAIOS/PORTO (4 miles hiking, 3–4 hours)
We began the day at the scenic village of Favaios, known for its production of moscatel wine and “four-cornered” bread. We stopped to visit a traditional bakery and watched local bakers prepare their signature buns in a wood-fired oven then set out on a hike across the Favaios plateau, crisscrossing tranquil vineyards on well-worn trails. Our hike culminated at a family-run wine estate, where we stopped for yet another wine tasting and lunch.
As this was our first hiking holiday we took it easy and incorporated some fabulous vineyards and local hospitality. I think we feel ready to tackle something a little more adventurous next time and will visit a different region of Portugal. We experienced Fado, amazing food and wine and definitely felt we had experienced the real Portugal.
text credit: Dawn Annandale