My Rough Guide: If you need a guaranteed hangover cure, try surfing

MY ROUGH GUIDE

Best discovery

In recent years, the most extensive collection of Palaeolithic art in Europe was discovered along the remote River Coa valley in the north-east of Portugal. The planned construction of a dam would have submerged the drawings and carvings for good but an extraordinary campaign saved the site, now designated the Parque Arqueolgico do Vale de Coa. You can book to see the engravings of horses, deer and other beasties in the nearby village of Vila Nova de Foz Coa.

Best guided tour

Campo Maior forms part of a necklace of historic fortified towns that runs along the Portuguese border. The town's skyline ripples with a sea of terracotta roof-tiles, jutting church spires, TV aerials and the remains of a castle. I am usually averse to guides, but at the castle gates I could not resist the group of six children whose alternative tour revealed a well full of snake skeletons, a tunnel that goes "all the way to Spain", and the spot where one of them had found a used condom.

Most romantic story

The great Cistercian monastery of Alcobaca - whose monks had a stream channelled through the kitchen to supply them with fresh fish - houses the tombs of the ghoulishly romantic Dom Pedro and his lover Ines de Castro. When the pair married in secret, Pedro's father, Afonso IV, had Ines killed, fearing her Spanish ancestry could lead to Spain's interference with the Portuguese throne. In 1357, Pedro became king and exacted his revenge. He had his lover exhumed and forced his court to recognise her by making them kiss the "queen's" decomposed hand.

Most romantic town

Dom Pedro was not the first romantic Portuguese monarch. In 1282, Dom Dinis gave the town of Obidos to his bride, Dona Isabel as a wedding present, and the "Wedding City" became the traditional gift of kings of Portugal to their queens. Obidos is still smoulderingly romantic, a perfectly preserved walled town of whitewashed houses with neat yellow window frames and geranium-filled doorways. You can even stay in the town's castle, now the luxurious Pousada do Castelo - providing it has not been block-booked by Americans.

Liveliest resort

The Algarve has plenty of lively resorts, but for somewhere typically Portuguese, Ericeira is the place to head for. Just an hour's drive north of Lisbon, this attractive cliff-top town, clustered round sandy bays, attracts the capital's nightclub set at weekends and throughout the summer when there is a party atmosphere till the small hours. And if you need a guaranteed hangover cure, try surfing at Praia da Ribeira d'Ilhas, venue of the World Championships.

Best walking country

Most Portuguese beauty spots attract extended-family picnickers with so much food that they rarely venture far from their cars. So it requires

little effort to find stunning deserted countryside, even in the popular national parks. My own favourite is Serra da Estrela, especially the superb footpaths snaking through pine forests around the village of Manteigas. The park is also home to Torre, Portugal's highest mountain. Trekkers without a picnic will be relieved to find the 2,000-metre summit is crowned with a small shopping centre and restaurant.

Best export

Portugal's days as a great trading nation have bequeathed us with some great comestibles such as marmalade, port and even vindaloo. More recent exports are custard pies and milky coffee in a glass, the 'in' thing in many London cafes. For the real thing, head for the Lisbon suburb of Belem, where the Antiga Confeitaria de Belem serves fresh pasteis de nata in a cool, cavernous cafe a stone's throw from the famous Jeronimos monastery.

fact file

Places to visit

Guided tours of the Palaeolithic art at Foz Coa can be arranged by the park authorities at Avenida Gago Coutinho 19, Vila Nova de Foz Coa (079 764317), but you will need to take a taxi to the reception centres at Castelo Melhor or Muxagata.

In summer, the monastery in Alcobaca is open daily from 9am-7pm. Entry costs Esc400.

Transport

Campo Maior in the Alentejo, is approximately five hours by bus from Lisbon.

Ericeira is 90 minutes from Lisbon by a regular bus service. The World Surfing Championships take place in September.

The number 15 tram from Praca da Figueira in Lisbon stops just beyond the Antiga Confeitaria de Belem in Rua de Belem.

Accommodation

A double room at the Pousada do Castelo in Obidos (062 959105) costs from Esc29,600 in high season.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager

    £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager required for ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator

    £25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator A...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones