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North Tourism Guide - All Central Portugal

The central region of Portugal is largely rural with some fantastic mountain ranges, rivers and wooded countryside. The eastern boundary of Spain is dotted with Border Castles that were erected to fend off the invasions from unfriendly neighbours in the past. Today a closer relationship exists shown in the cross border nature reserves full of exciting bird populations and of course the endangered Iberian Lynx.

Thermal spas, outdoor activities and mountain landscapes are also what the central region of Portugal is renowned for. Coimbra is the main city of the region with its historic university and hilltop medieval town. There is so much to see and do here that you're unlikely to be able to fit it all in in one holiday.

Coimbra

Coimbra is steeped in history having been the place for Portugal's first and only university for some time and also Portugal's capital. Today it is a lively cosmopolitan town alive with students in term time. The old town of whitewashed and azulejo covered houses with red tiled roofs is piled on top of the hill and is full of character - a great place to explore on foot.

Coimbra is a handy stop off point mid-way between Lisbon and Porto, as well as being an excellent base from which to explore the Beiras' regions of central Portugal.

Conimbriga Roman Ruins

Conimbriga is the best preserved Roman ruins in Portugal showing a variety of different ancient Roman housing. Conimbriga is a fantastic site and not to be missed if you're in central Portugal. It is a partially excavated site of Roman ruins that include houses, Roman baths, shops and lots of different examples of mosaic flooring - you can still see the different colours used!

It's only about 30 minutes drive from Coimbra so easy to fit into a morning or day trip. There's certainly enough to see to make a day of it.

Luso & Forest of Bucaco

Luso, a small thermal spa town, has become synonymous with the Bucaco Forest. The forest is renowned to be a spiritual and peaceful place although today it is more popular with walkers and picnickers.

Accommodation here is evocative of a bygone luxurious era and you can even stay in the former Royal summer residence of the Palace Hotel Bussaco in the heart of the Bucaco Forest.

Anadia & Bairrada Wine

Anadia is a small town in the heart of the Bairrada wine growing region of Portugal. It is also home to the region's wine museum.

Curia Spa Town

Curia, twenty kilometres from Coimbra, is located in the heart of the Bairrada wine region and is famed for the healing properties of its thermal waters discovered by the Romans.

The town's heyday was frm the late nineteenth century through to the roaring twenties and much of the architecture harks back to that time with examples of buildings from La Belle Epoque and Art Nouveau architecture throughout the town.

Cantanhede

Cantanhede is a small town not far from the Silver Coast near Mira between Figueira da Foz and Aveiro. It is also in the Bairrada Wine region, renowned for its sparkling wines.

Lousa - Outdoor Recreation

Lousa is in the heart of the several mountain ranges just 25 kilometres south of Coimbra. It is a fantastic base for exploring the Serra da Lousa, Serra da Alcor and the Serra da Estrela Natural Park.

The relatively unexplored rivers, mountains and woodlands offer ample opportunities for you to get away from it all or make your own adventure out in the wilds.

Penacova - Watersports

Penacova is a small town situated high above the River Mondego. It is a good base for exploring the central Portugal region including the spa towns of Curia and Luso as well as Coimbra that is only 22 kilometres away.

Overlooking the River Mondego and the lush countryside around there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation including canoeing on the river and rock climbing and mountain climbing.

Tabua

Tabua is well situated near Coimbra to visit its historic sights as well as being near the countryside around the Serra da Acor countryside.

This area is well known for its walking routes, horse-riding, canoeing and activity holidays.

Serra da Estrela Natural Park

The Natural Park of Serra da Estrela is the largest in Portugal and has the highest mountain peaks in Portugal. Both the Rio Mondego and the boulder strewn Rio Zezere start here and cut through the Natural Park. These are the only two rivers that start and end within Portugal's boundaries.

The Park was designated in 1976 to protect the rural character of the serra villages and its landscape. In the process some important wildlife has also been conserved.

Viseu, Beira Alta

Viseu is the capital of the Beira Alta region nestling between the Serra do Carumulo and Serra da Estrela mountain ranges and a countryside dotted with vineyards, orchards and pine forests. The town has a historic centre full of 16th-18th century buildings with a huge granite cathedral towering over the old town from the hill.

Today the town is important as the centre of the Dao wine-growing region and a wide variety of regional gastronomic specialities are on offer at the restaurants in the town to accompany them.

Guarda - Highest City in Portugal

Guarda is an old frontier town high up overlooking the Spanish border in the east of the Beira Alta region. Its popular description fria, farta, forte e feia (cold, rich, strong and ugly) doesn't do the town justice. The heart of this welcoming city is high up on a hill with a series of narrow streets leading into the central square housing the imposing gothic cathedral.

It is an excellent centre from which to travel into the nearby Serra da Estrela Natural Park, the largest in Portugal.

Serra da Malcata Nature Reserve

The Serra da Malcata is a rolling heather-clad mountain range on the Portuguese/Spanish border in the Central region of Portugal.

It is most famous for being home to the Iberian lynx although it is critically endangered and worries remain that it may not survive even here in this wonderful, wild countryside.

Covilha Mountain Town

Covilha is one of the main gateways into the beautiful Serra da Estrela Natural Park. Its steep streets actually giving it a mountain feel itself - very much what you'd expect from a ski resort, which it does become in the winter.

In the summer day trippers and weekenders come to picnic on the slopes just out of town near Penhas da Saude. The N339 road that brings you straight into the heart of Covilha from the Natural Park is a fantastically scenic route taking you through the striking countryside and glacial mountain valley into Manteigas.

Castelo Branco Frontier Town

Castelo Branco was an important frontier town that was subject to many attacks from nearby Spain. It's most famous for its exquisitely silk embroidered linen called colchas - bedspreads or coverlets that were inspired by those that were brought back by Portuguese explorers from India and China. They became a symbol of wealth and prestige and the designs of exotic flora and fauna came to represent different things, like two birds symbolise lovers.

Today Castelo Branco as the capital of Beira Baixa is a modern town with all amenities you might need for exploring the more rural areas around the region including the Tejo Internacional Natural Park and the Naurtejo Geopark.

Tejo Internacional Natural Park

Along the Spanish border to the south of Castelo Branco is the Parque Natural do Tejo Internacional.

This is a beautiful area noted for its birdwatching along the rivers of the region.

Photos of All Central Portugal

Coimbra's Se Velha - old Cathedral
Coimbra's Se Velha - old Cathedral
Slightly younger 19th century buildings in Coimbra
Slightly younger 19th century buildings in Coimbra
Parks in Coimbra are good for the children & romantic walks by the river
Parks in Coimbra are good for the children & romantic walks by the river
Conimbriga Roman ruins near Coimbra-example of a Roman city in Portugal
Conimbriga Roman ruins near Coimbra-example of a Roman city in Portugal
Roman mosaic floors are amazingly intact
Roman mosaic floors are amazingly intact
Explore the imposing castle at Montemor-o-Velho on the way to the coast
Explore the imposing castle at Montemor-o-Velho on the way to the coast
Serra da Estrela is just one of the mountainous areas worth exploring
Serra da Estrela is just one of the mountainous areas worth exploring
Guarda, the highest city in Portugal, & its impressive cathedral
Guarda, the highest city in Portugal, & its impressive cathedral