Portugal, a small country located on the far west of the Iberian Peninsula in Western Europe; a country which holds quite a lot of history and once ruled a lot of the world (land and sea) during the era of the Portuguese Empire. Today, it is constantly visited by thousands of people, coming to do a whole range of different things such as water-skiing, surfing, drinking Port wine and a whole lot more!
Last month, I set off to this country for my annual holiday. In today’s Purist article, I will be focusing around one specific district of Portugal which has been made globally famous due to what is currently being offered to everyone else in the world. Here I count 5 of the best places to go in the northern Portugal district of Vila Real.
5. Vila Real
What better way to start off this list than with the district capital, Vila Real? This historic city is filled with plenty of things to explore and can be reached easily from Porto’s airport far in the west. The old town of Vila Real is one of the better areas to go to in the city, with its old fashioned stone houses and lifestyle. Another great sight would be the newly made bridge, named the “Viaduto do Corgo” (which translates to “Corgo Bridge”) that extends for 2795m across the River Corgo and allows some of the best views of the city on one end, and the mountainous region of the “Alto Douro” on the other end. It is currently the highest bridge in Portugal and Spain. Finally, Vila Real has the largest shopping centre in the district, containing loads of things to shop for (and also where I got my Wind Waker HD Wii U). If you’re that kind of shopping person, this would definitely be the place for you!
4. “Nossa Senhora da Graça” Sanctuary – Mondim de Basto
Literally translating to “Our Woman of Grace”, this catholic saint is very important to the people who live in the town Mondim de Basto, located on the far west of the district. Not only is the town a lovely place to visit, but when seen from the town, there is a huge mountain, not far off into the distance which peaks really high up into the sky. At the top of this mountain, there is the sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Graça. From the sanctuary, you can see the huge view of the Vila Real district as well as the Braga district on the other side. What’s better is that there is even a restaurant all the way at the top of this mountain, so people can dine while looking at the spectacular view all at the same time. Furthermore, there is the occasional rally car racing that goes all the way up the mountain... though I wouldn’t say it’s really safe to be watching the cars go by right behind the barriers, especially when they are placed right on the edge of the mountain.
3. Vidago Palace
Located about 50km north from Vila Real, past Vila Pouca de Aguiar, lies a historic town known for its interesting feature. Vidago is home to an active volcano, which lies right underneath the town. The last time this volcano erupted was during the dinosaur era and probably won’t erupt again in quite a long time from now, so this area is relatively safe for a long period of time. Vidago’s best sight is the huge hotel, Vidago Palace, located on the edge of the town. This hotel is a large beauty, popular for golf players. This hotel contains natural hot spring water straight from the ground, and is also really good for treatment on bones, liver and kidneys. There is also a huge complex forest filled with lakes and old structures, which represents Portugal back in the 19th Century really well.
2. Alvão Natural Park
Not far from the city of Vila Real, and high up on a mountain, lies a beautiful natural park known as Alvão. The main highlight of this park is the two gigantic lakes which are great for swimming in. The park is mostly a rocky terrain and while there are rarely any forests, the rocky landscape makes some interesting sights. To fully experience this park in its beauty though, a quick trip to the forestry tavern near to the lakes will be the best place to view the park. What’s even better is the tavern inside actually looks like something out of 19th Century Portugal, which is a really rare thing to see in the country these days.
1. Alto Douro
The Alto Douro region of Portugal is by far the best area to visit in the Vila Real district, especially going from Pinhão in the east to Peso da Régua in the west. The road going between these two places shows some of the best views in the whole country, and is incredibly famous. Firstly, the vine yards all over the mountains in this particular region is very different to the usual forests and rocks throughout the rest of the country, and with the river Douro right next to the road, it makes the perfect view. Furthermore, the Alto Douro is home to the world famous Port wine, which has been in the making in this region ever since the 18th Century. And to make things even better, you can take a cruise down the river, passing through the dam of Régua, which seems to be a really popular attraction. Finally, over at Régua, there is the annual firework display on the edge of the Douro river, and it’s a beautiful sight to see at night, right alongside the river. This beautiful region marks my #1 spot on this list.
Even though I mentioned just 5 of the amazing things found within this district, there are loads more things you can find. For example, there is the “Mamoa de Madorres” tomb of kings a bit east of Vila Real and the war town of Murça, which holds a statue of a famous Portuguese soldier which took part in World War 1. With that said, thank you guys for reading and we will see you in the next issue of The Purist!
Also, big thanks to TS for proofreading and spotting some really dumb mistakes