Dear readers! I am glad to take you on an amazing journey to wonderful Portugal. So far, I had heard about this country mainly through stories about surfing and beautiful beaches. However, thanks to my recent trip, I have seen a very different side of this country, which inspired me and opened up a world that I had not expected. Not only did the culinary specialties surprise me, but also the cultural highlights around the city of Porto, Douro valley and Serra da Estrela.
From Porto to the historic villages of Belmonte, Linhares da Beira and Sortelha
Porto has definitely enchanted me with its romantic charm. The colorful facades, partly decorated with tiles, remind me of actual postcard motives. From here, our journey took off through the summer landscape of Portugal, heading towards the backcountry along the river Douro.
Check out Elena’s post about “her love affair of a kind”, talking about the beauty and charm of the city of Porto! I will now, however, take you on a journey into the hinterland of Porto. As part of the project “Douro & Estrela“, I was invited to explore the beautiful area between Porto and the Spanish border in the west of Portugal together with a group of international wine and tourism experts.
The first stop takes us to picturesque Belmonte southeast of Porto, where we get to spend the night in a former convent.
Imagine sitting on this terrace in the warm evening sun together. We overlook snow-capped Serra da Estrela, the highest mountain in Portugal. The local musicians play some classic music tunes … It is a beautiful evening to celebrate the beginning of our trip! For dinner, we have our first go at sampling the local delicacies: Chourizo, cheese, wine and of course “Bacalao” (cod), the national dish of the Portuguese.
The next day, we are off to explore pretty Belmonte. The small town has a lot to offer. There are five museums around here, out of which we visited two: the Jewish and the “Museu de Descubrimientos” – the Explorers’ Museum. Portuguese people are proud of their nautic skills and heritage, with the likes of Magellan, Vasco da Gama and other explorers still very present.
Afterwards, we head east to visit the “Granite City” Sortelha. Apart from Belmonte, it is the second of the so-called “Aldeias Historicas” (“historic villages”) that we visit. The “Aldeias Historicas” are twelve villages in Portugal which have taken special care to preserve their medieval town center. Sortelha is still very reminiscent of times gone by. The small picturesque village forms a ring around the old castle, which gives it a pretty look.
After nibbling sweet cherries from the trees in Sortelha, we move on to have lunch in “Thermas do Cro“. Here, wonderful delicacies and wines from the region are served to us.
About the cheese: Our journey now takes us on to the farm “4Quintas“. Here, I am learning more about my favorite cheese: from the lamb to the finished product, we learn all there is to know about sheep farming & cheese production in the backcountry of Portugal!
After our visit to the sheep farm, our trip takes us a little further west into the village of Linhares da Beira, another beautiful “Aldeia Historica”. Here, we also get to stay in a historic accommodation venue. The hotel Inatel promises to be a luxurious country accommodation, majestically overlooking the surrounding countryside.
The food at the Cova da Loba is the crowning glory of the first part of our food & winelover trip around northern & Central Portugal. Gorgeous! Our journey then takes us on to the district of Almeida, an area that I am going to talk about more in my next travel article.
Disclaimer: We have been invited by “Douro e Estrela” to join their trip through Douro and Serra da Estrela in Portugal. All opinions are my own.