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8. Center of Portugal
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Portugal may be a small country, but it’s big in its diversity. Take the Central region, which stretches from the beach to the Serra da Estrela. It has mountains and rivers, picturesque villages and rich gastronomy. Perhaps it doesn’t seem like the most obvious destination, but only those who don’t know it can underestimate it. There is much to explore and programs to suit any desire and budget. Adventure tourism? You’re in the right place. Ecotourism? Look no further. Thermal tourism? That’s available too. Beach tourism? Only when it’s warm. Gastronomic tourism? The difficult part is choosing. Wine tourism? Same. Religious tourism? There’s no shortage of itineraries. And we could go on. s. The secret is to plan, knowing that there are mandatory stops. Starting with the Serra da Estrela Natural Park, the largest protected area in the country. The highest point, Torre, is at an altitude of 1993 meters, making this mountain the highest in mainland Portugal, second only to Mount Pico in the Azores, which is 2351 meters high. There are 300 kilometers of trails to explore, with different difficulties, but all with stunning landscapes, between glacial valleys and the sources of the largest Portuguese rivers. In winter, the Serra da Estrela is very popular because it is one of the few places in the country where snow always appears. Regardless of plans (and the season), it is mandatory to taste the Serra da Estrela cheese, which you will easily find anywhere: with some luck, you may even end up meeting a producer and getting your hands on the cheese-making proces In the central region, in fact, there are several schist villages throughout the territory, all worthy of a visit. Of the 27, almost half are in the Serra da Lousã: Aigra Nova, Aigra Velha, Candal, Casal de São Simão, Casal Novo, Cerdeira, Chiqueiro, Comareira, Ferraria de São João, Gondramaz, Pena and Talasnal. In practically all of them, it is possible to spend the night; in some, there are restaurants that are almost a secret, but where you are welcomed as if you were in a family home. And then there are those places whose fame lasts over time (and rightfully so), such as O Burgo, a restaurant where you can try the best traditional food in the area, such as a stew served in a cornbread. It is located on top of the Senhora da Piedade River Beach, with a view of the Lousã Castle, also known as the Arouce Castle. In this area, there is no shortage of river beaches, some more discreet than others, served by bars, picnic areas, and various activities. Take a road trip but don’t forget to stop in Coimbra, a university city rich in history, classified since 2013 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (not just the university, one of the oldest in the world, but many of the buildings connected to it, from the Alta to the Baixa of the city). Not far away is Conímbriga, where you can visit the largest set of Roman ruins in Portugal.

Turning towards the coast, there is a string of undiscovered beaches in settings that form authentic postcards, for example, in Costa Nova, whose colorful striped houses run around the world. And it’s not much different from Aveiro to Santa Cruz, they don’t have the fame of the Algarve, Alentejo, or Costa da Caparica, but these beaches are not behind them in any way.