Portugal's picturesque towns and awe-inspiring nature scenes
Portugal is well known for its vibrant city life and popular beaches. This trendy corner of Europe does however also offer quieter locations especially suitable for those looking for something to feast their eyes on. Visit some of the traditional towns or hike out to see what the areas unique nature has to offer. Make sure to bring your camera, since the area is rich with picturesque village scenes and marine life.
Around 70 km from Porto you can find the quaint village of Aveiro, also called the Venice of Portugal due to its pretty canals with colorful boats (barcos moliceiros) aplenty. A boat trip along the canals is a must! Architecture fans will enjoy the Art Nouveau buildings in the old town centre as well as the museum dedicated to the style.
Aveiro has a rich maritime past, and it is known for its seaweed and salt, as well as fishing of course. It is one of the best places in Portugal for delicious, fresh seafood. Eel is a local specialty that is used to make the traditional stew “Caldeirada de Enguias".
There are plenty of authentic cafes and restaurants around, so take your pick! Aveiro is easy to reach by train from Porto and makes a good destination for a day trip.
Natural Reserve of Dunas de São Jacinto
Located close to Aveiro this natural reserve is a great place for a hike with a vast network of trails. The vast, almost 1000 hectare peaceful area combines sandy beaches with marshland and forest. Bird watchers will love the reserve since it is the home for plenty of marine birds.
In the middle of the area you can find freshwater ponds to give shelter to some of the rare bird species especially during their migration. Even the vegetation is specific to the dunes and in addition maritime pine and acacias have been planted around the borders to stabilize the sand.
You can make the most of your trip by using the comprehensive online guide on Natural.pt. There are also guided tours in case you are curious to hear more about the site. You can visit the area for free, but visitors should register before entering.
Costa de Caparica
Costa de Caparica is a 26 km long stretch of beautiful sandy beaches situated right outside Lisbon - but not as well-known as some of the other beaches around the city. The area works well for a scenic hike, but you could also just make it a beach day destination.
Parts of the coastline have an amazing backdrop of Arriba Fossil, a red fossil cliff. Arriba Fossil is one of a few similar natural wonders in Western Europe and the area surrounding it is a botanical reserve. Good nature trails and picnic spots make it easy to visit. The beach itself is an endless stretch of fine sand and it has good surfing and kite-surfing spots.
It is also a place to see some of the traditional fishing techniques still used in Portugal. South of Costa de Caparica is where it is most peaceful, and you can also see the very pretty and colorful beach huts used by the locals on their days out. The area round the town of Costa de Caparica is busier and more touristy so heading outside of its beaches is recommended. From Lisbon Costa de Caparica is easy to reach by bus, taxi, or rental car.
Azenhas do Mar
High up over sea cliffs looking over to the Atlantic the magical village of Azenhas do Mar is picture perfect with its whitewashed houses and cobbled streets. Azenhas do Mar is only a short drive from Lisbon and it makes a good destination for a pit stop when visiting Sintra.
Sintra may have the castles and palaces, but Azenhas do Mar most certainly has the best sea views. Up in the village there are several great spots to take in the breathtaking scenery and even a marked walking trail through the town to make sure you find them.
Even the narrow streets of Azenhas do Mar offer a variety of picturesque details, ready for Instagram shots. Azenha means mill in Portuguese and some of the favorite locations to take pictures are where you can find the remainders of old mills.
From the village there is a steep ancient staircase leading down to the beach and a saltwater pool dug directly into the cliffs. There you can also find a very popular restaurant, named after the village, that serves high quality sea food sourced from local fishermen.