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Mónica Da Silva: My Top 5 destinations for avoiding summer crowds in Portugal

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Summertime is coming and with it, huge crowds of tourists everywhere! Portugal is a very well-known summer destination for Europeans and – more recently – for people from all around the world.

Beautiful beaches, mild weather, untouched nature, great food and cheap prices are the main attractions.

However, this means that the most famous cities will be packed, making it incredibly difficult to simply walk around or to find a place to enjoy a glass of wine with a view.

So, I’ve put together a list of the best five places in Portugal to enjoy the summer quietly, and far away from the crowds.

The Castle of Marvão

No. 5 Marvão 

A magical walled village with a lot of history. Marvão is only 10 kilometers away from the Spanish border, so it is easy to understand the historical relevance of this place. It was a key spot to defend the Portuguese territory. The most beautiful attraction is the 13th century castle standing on the top of a hill which guarantees an amazing view that you can enjoy for only  1.50 euros.

Since the connections are not too good, renting a car to get there would be a good option. Although, if you prefer to take a bus, they depart from Portalegre station and the trip is only 35 minutes. 

Guimarães, Praça da Oliveira

No. 4 Guimarães

Guimarães is a medieval city located in the north of Portugal. It is known as the place where Portugal was born because the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, was born there, and because Guimarães became the capital city after the fight for Portugal’s independence. The main attractions are the Gothic monastery, the castle from the 10th century, and the palace from the 15th century.

But honestly, the whole city is a piece of art.

You will find beautiful buildings in every corner. To go there, you can take a train from Porto which will take around 70 minutes but if you go by car, it’s only a 40- minute trip. 

Comporta

No. 3 Comporta

Comporta belongs to the Alentejo area and is only one hour away from Lisbon. If you are looking for a slow, natural, calm getaway, this is your place to go.

The nicest way to get there is taking a ferry from Setubal. It is fast, cheap and maybe you will be lucky and see some dolphins on the way.

This city is known for its rice fields, dunes, pine forests and white-sand beaches. There’s an area called Carrasqueira which is famous for its stilt houses and the most beautiful spots to watch the sunset. Comporta is an untouched natural place so don’t expect tons of bars, night clubs or restaurants. Instead, you will find several family-owned cafés where you can enjoy a traditional meal. 

No. 2 Caldas da Rainha

Located between Peniche and Nazare, which are very touristic, and only one hour away from Lisbon there is a breath-taking city called Caldas da Rainha. There is a story about this place that says that Queen Leonor of Portugal was passing by and saw people bathing in the mineral springs which were known as having curative properties. She also started bathing there as she was ill and got cured. And so the year after, 1485, she decided to create a hospital there. This hospital is the oldest thermal hospital in the world and it is still working nowadays.

Although the hospital is the main attraction, make sure to get some fresh fruits and vegetables in the Praça da Republica where every morning there is a local market that has been there since the XIX century. 

Praia da Ilha de Tavira

No. 1 Tavira

This city is in the Algarve region which is very known among tourists. However, Tavira is one of the most forgotten citiesthere and it is definitely one of the most beautiful.

To go to the beach, you have to take a 10-minute trip by ferry from the center of the city because the beach is on an island. The city is divided by the river Gilão and there is a bridge considered to be a cultural heritage of this city. It has been standing there since the 17th century, but some historians suggest that the bridge dates back to the Middle Ages.

Going to Tavira will take around 4 hours if you take a train from Lisbon, or 2 hours and a half if you want to go by car.

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Read more about Portugal here in Dispatches’ archives.

Read more from Mónica here.

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Mónica da Silva is half-Venezuelan, half Portuguese and has lived in Venezuela, Portugal, Spain and Germany. She has studies linguistics and has a Bachelor’s Degree in European Studies. Besides contributing to Dispatches, she works remotely as an English teacher, which allows her to be on the move as often as she wants. 

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