Top 10 places to visit in Portugal collected by the getaway van, gets rid of what the tour guides say and asks those who have chosen to live here, what are the must see places in Portugal, some hidden gems and surprises, there is something for everyone. 

"Tomar Castle is an amazing place to visit. Walking through the gates was a real Wow! moment"

Darren Smith

Loulé Market

"I love Loule market on a Saturday morning in The Algarve - wandering around the cobbled streets in the old town by the castle and having lunch in one of the restaurants around the market. "

Darren Smith

Cachopo - Tavira

"This is my favourite place to visit. Hidden gem of Cachopo. Beautiful mountains above Tavira. Hidden little village, with a couple of great restaurants/bars, and a Fonte Férrea with an open air pool, bbq area and bar."

Sarah Brittan

Baleal Island

"We used to live on the Silver Coast and the only place I miss visiting there is Baleal Island."

Jane Callaghan

Alentejo coastline

"All the Alentejo coastline is great! One of the Top 10 places in Portugal for me, for sure!"

Ana Molarinho

Ponte do Lima

"In Minho, Ponte de Lima is beautiful, the oldest village in Portugal."

Maria Belford

"Buddha Eden Park near Bombarral needs a mention here!"

Päivi Louvel

Passadiços de Sistelo

"Known as the Portuguese Tibet"

Maria Belford

Santarem

"Santarem with its gothic churches"

Stephen Ainslie

"Sintra has many beautiful places but especially Quinta da Regaleira is a must see."

Stephen Ainslie

Summer Lovin' happened so fast

It’s been an odd year! 

But the Getaway Van and The North of Portugal are ready to show you the magic of autumn.

Some see the season of autumn as depressing, with the nights drawing in and the cold starting to take its toll in countries such as the UK, Germany, Northern France and others. Portugal however has an almost magical quality about it. We here at the Getaway Van know that safety is of the utmost importance and that is why we have complied a list of the best autumn activities in the north of Portugal, where you can safely use your individual van, clean and sanitised prior to every use and enjoy this magic gorgeous season. 

 

 

As a family business we also like to take the vans out and about with the kids and celebrate birthdays, special occasions and enjoy parts of Portugal that we don’t get to see in the usual work / school routine. 

Especially after lockdown, I and my family know the importance of having freedom to go places and see new things. What is great about the use of the Getaway Van is that you have the security that it has been sanitised fully and that no one else will have access to your van whilst it 

With this in mind lets explore the stunning Autumn beauty that Portugal has to offer. 

Stunning Autumn in The Douro Valley

 

A UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site, the Douro valley is beautiful and stunning on its own but it is even more spectacular during the Autumn months. The Douro Valley is a major wine region where autumn casts its spell and turns its hills into rows of red, orange and yellow terraced vineyards.

      

 

Start your journey with us picking up your van in Porto and pre-booking some activities to do in the Douro before driving yourselves at your own speed. After arriving at the Douro, you could visit one of our partners Quinta De Santa Cristina, with pre-booking you are able to do many things such as have guided vineyard tours with tastings, visit wine workshops, plant your own vines and attend harvest programmes where you can stomp on grapes in traditional stone tanks!

Watch a Fado show

‘Saudade’

A word that sums up Fado music, a word, a feeling that you cannot translate into another language. A mixture of sadness, longing for someone who is no longer in your presence. It is a powerful and emotional word, which is reflected in the music. Pre-booking is necessary for these events, where you can enjoy dinner and music as the nights close in, autumn is just a perfect time for this.  

Fado is so popular, that even in the Netherlands, a national talent show was won by two Dutch singers singing Portuguese Fado. This music touches all languages like no no other. 

Check out our partners at CALEM Port Wine, where you can enjoy tasting Port wine, dinner and a show.

Visit the city parks

It is not a secret that is always a lovely idea to visit Portugal and this period of the year is not different. There are so many beautiful places to see, everything is so much more romantic, everything gets new colours, and tranquillity is served with long and peaceful rivers and streams. In autumn there are fewer people walking in the streets and it’s a great opportunity to take advantage of what Portugal has to offer.

For my kids, one of their favourite things to do it to jump in the fallen leaves, I like to watch them as we stroll through the cities parks and discover the hundreds of colours and sights autumn has to offer. So here are our favourite parks to visit in autumn.

Parque da Cidade do Porto

Cannot ignore the city park, its a place me and the kids go regularly and you can see why, we’ve visited in every season but just look at that autumn light.

Jardins do Palácio de Cristal

Take your Getaway Van and then head to Palacio de Cristal. They have some of the most beautiful views of the city, in all seasons. 

Serralves

Serralves has a very good museum, beautiful gardens and an amazing new Tree Top Walk which my children and I visited this summer, it is great and the kids loved it as you can see and I bet you will too. 

Roasted Chestnuts and St. Martins Day!

Oh I just couln’t resist adding chestnuts into this blog. They scream autumn in Porto and Portugal at this time of the year. St. Martin’s day is not until November 11th but just as the cold comes in, St. Martin’s day brings warmth to our bellies. Chestnuts are the fruit of autumn, the schools here are full of chestnut poems and art works showing off the Portuguese love affair with them, and for me and for you it is only just beginning. Did you know the chestnut tree has existed in Portugal for more than 9000 years and  before potatoes were introduced to Europe so chestnuts were an essential food for people here, they are not just food but a big part of their culture. 

So come and visit us, explore Porto and the North with the Getaway Van, let us keep you safe with your hotel on wheels able to explore all the beauty of Autumn in the North, including pulling up to a pile of leaves and jumping in it like a kid.

On the very Western edge of Europe lies a still remote beauty, complete with mountains, castles, waterfalls and rich wildlife. There is a part of the North of Portugal you might not know about. Did you know that the Northern part of Portugal, from the Rio Douro, has genetic and cultural ties with Celtic nations like Ireland, Galicia, Asturias, and even the Basque Country. So, yes, the Portuguese are Celts, in a certain sense. 

Where to see Celtic Portugal: The best examples of the Celtic settlements (called “Castros”) are found in the northern Minho province, notably Citania de Briteiros close to the city of Guimarães. Here are well-preserved ruins and several buildings (stone dwelling huts that were built in circular or elliptical shapes) that have been restored.

Portugal is also a country where the Celtic tradition lives on. In normal years the North of Portugal is alive throughout the year with amazing traditions, sights and sounds of medieval experiences.

Closeby is the region of Terras de Basto, where there are statues believed to represent Celtic warriors. Another site is Sanfins de Ferreira, close to the city of Porto, where there are traces of a triple ring of defensive walls around 100 huts and a small museum.

Portugal is also a country where the Celtic tradition lives on

In normal years the North of Portugal is alive throughout the year with amazing traditions, sights and sounds of medieval experiences.   

There’s more!

If history and Celtic history are your thing you can explore the 16th century convent Museu Convento dos Lóios with artefacts retrieved from a Celtic citadel.

Celtic musical tradition along with bag pipes

In Miranda do Douro, a monumental town perched on the Douro River, festivals are staged to showcase traditional bagpipers who play instruments called “gaita-de-foles transmontana”. Which to my untrained eye looked like a Scottish bag-pipe. 

The pipers might be accompanying singers who have mastered the Celtic musical tradition, whose songs may be in the Mirandês language, now recognized along with Portuguese as an official language for this region.

Portugal is also a country where the Celtic tradition lives on

You may have seen in other tour guides that they use a type of stick dancing performed in the Trás-os-Montes region, called Dança dos Pauliteiros. This dance probably has Celtic origins related to fertility rites. It is reminiscent of the English Morris Dance, with male dancers dressed in white linen kilts, black waistcoats, and bright scarves, dancing while clacking short, wooden sticks. 

The town of Duas Igrejas is known for its stick dancing festival each August. And, Miranda do Douro even holds international stick dancing competitions.

Dotted with tiny, medieval towns, the countryside of the Trás -os-Montes region is wild and marked by the Montesinho Natural Park, home to the wild boar and other wildlife. The wild boar was worshiped by the ancient inhabitants of these wild lands, and they still thrive in the numerous valleys that dot the mountainscapes. Ancient granite pig statues are found in many towns, including the main city of the region, Bragança. Set inside the ancient castle, the pig stands not far from the oldest town hall in the nation, dating to the 12th century, where the council of good men met to decide the affairs of the city.

There is so much history and so many beautiful places still to show you all. When governments permit travel and exploration I will show you all first hand the amazing sights you can visit. We cannot wait to see you. Check out the video below of our celtic nation and some amazing scenery. 

Let us know your thoughts, where is the best place in Portugal to visit? 

Is there a region you want to see or know more about. Is there somewhere even better than the North? 

Hello Getaway family, here in Portugal things are starting to slowly change, and we know that before people choose to go on holiday/vacation to visit our beautiful country they need to know that it is safe to do so.  

We at Getaway have always prided ourselves on the cleanliness not only of our vans which are extensively and thoroughly cleaned before each and every use of the vans, but also on our country and the safety of it.

 

 It seems we are not the only ones who think so.  

Here we have a list published by the Associação de Turismo do Porto E Norte (The Tourism Association of Porto and the North) compiled by Insurly a renowned French insurance company. We are in the top ten of the safest places to travel to in 2020 out of 180 countries. 

Portugal is in 8th place in the list of these countries to travel in 2020 and with a score of 85.4 out of 100. – Leaving far behind countries like the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Netherlands and many other well known destinations.

The report analyzed 180 countries and assessed them on several factors such as crime rates, road safety, violence, terrorism, natural disasters and the quality of medical care, in addition to air quality, sanitation and risks of exposure to epidemics, including the latest Covid-19 pandemic. Here is the list.

It seems we are not the only ones who think so.  

Here we have a list published by the Associação de Turismo do Porto E Norte (The Tourism Association of Porto and the North) compiled by Insurly a renowned French insurance company. We are in the top ten of the safest places to travel to in 2020 out of 180 countries. 

Portugal is in 8th place in the list of these countries to travel in 2020 and with a score of 85.4 out of 100. – Leaving far behind countries like the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Netherlands and many other well known destinations.

The report analyzed 180 countries and assessed them on several factors such as crime rates, road safety, violence, terrorism, natural disasters and the quality of medical care, in addition to air quality, sanitation and risks of exposure to epidemics, including the latest Covid-19 pandemic.  

Top 10

  • 1 - Switzerland
  • 2 - Singapore
  • 3 - Norway
  • 4 - Luxembourg
  • 5 - Cyprus
  • 6 - Iceland
  • 7 - Denmark
  • 8 - Portugal
  • 9 - Finland
  • 10 - Japan

 

So whilst at the moment we remain listening and following government advice to avoid travel right now there are reasons to be cheerful, we are taking advanced bookings for 2020 and 2021 and beyond so click on the link below to get a quote and book your safe and clean Getaway with us.

 

Blog post by Stephen Fleay…former BBC / CBS journalist correspondent

My early “on the road” travel experiences were quite similar to today’s Camper Van adventures, except I pulled a Caravan around the outback of Australia…and that was over half a century  ago.

I now live in retirement in mid Portugal. It is quite similar to Australia as there are lots of Eucalyptus Trees…the Koalas are here too, but in Zoos in Porto and Lisbon.

So why Mid Portugal for Campervans?

First of all the roads…they are excellent. And you can find great delights” just getting to destination.”  Even the back roads are well former and of course all are sealed. There are tolls on the Motorways (Known as the Autostrada in Portugal. You’ll find international roads signs and European distances in Kilometers.

But it is always extra nice to travel to your destination (wherever that may be) on a so called back road. “Do what the locals do” especially to avoid the road tolls on the modern motorways. You’ll have the extra bonus of beautiful views with ample places to pull over for a cuppa and a browse of the scenery. And that nice clean , clear air!

Mimosa / Wattle Trees near Coimbra Portugal…hand phone photo Stephen Fleay.

I must mention that all my photos posted here are taken on a Samsung Galaxy Note hand phone camera. Mid Portugal is very photogenic.

If you find yourself parked with the campervan somewhere in the great outdoors for a night stop-over, then the skies of mid Portugal will offer an extra bonus. There will be great views to be had of the stars at night. And there are soothing sounds of the night insects and a few other bush critters….but nothing dangerous lurking in the woodlands. A friendly fox may even come and cadge some snacks as you sit outside and have your dinner under the stars.

Coimbra central Portugal is the third largest city in the country. It is very old. Goes back hundreds of years .  There are ample parking places for your campervan on the far side of the Mondego River, and then you can walk around the main part of the city and take in some history. A good place to watch the passing parade is in them idst of what is known here as The Baixa. (pronounced Byshah). It is actually the main  square of Coimbra. Up there at the top of the hill is the Coimbra University. Said to be one of the oldest  Universities anywhere. It goes back to the 1200’s and before that the top of the hill site was occupied by the Romans. If you feel like an uphill walk you can go and have a look around at this long time place of higher learning. The Library is well worth visiting. They use bats to take care of any intruding rats and mice!     Fear not, you will not be subject to any type of Dracular attack.

Then sit and take in the views at the main square of Coimbra with a nice cup of local coffee and Portuguese sweet treats. Most buildings here go back hundreds of years. There are hotels, banks, souvenir shops, and at the other end another Square with a very old Church.

Your campervan over the other side of the Mondego river will be quite safe while you enjoy this historic city.

My very favourite building in the Coimbra Baixa area is the Grand Hotel Astoria.

The main lobby of the Astoria was remodeled into Art Deco some years ago while the outside appears Art Noveau from over a 100 years ago.

The main accommodation Tower has the extra bonus of good views of the city of Coimbra

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Grocery Shopping…..i strongly suggest the Continente which is close to the centre of Coimbra. A large parking area. You will find familiar products here.

The tap water in Coimbra is very good.

To be continued….other places to see in and around Coimbra.

 

Stephen Fleay
former: BBC / CBS correspondent.
Official promotional video produced by the city of Coimbra.

Now we know that we cannot travel this Easter break  as we usually would at this uncertain time, but here at the Getaway Van we love to open the world to you all. So if we can’t do it literally, we will do it virtually. One of the best things about the Getaway Van is its ability to give you the ultimate freedom. You are able to drive from Portugal to Italy, Italy to Poland, Poland to France and even hop over the channel to the UK. The possibilities are endless, after this situation is all over you probably will still want to travel but also want to keep some distance from overcrowded hotels. So take a look at our Easter ideas, with your chosen van, sit back, relax and scroll through the best Easter and religious festivities that Portugal can offer that are easily and safely accessible by the Getaway campervans.

Portugal - Braga

Visit Braga during Easter, go up to the Santuário do Bom Jesus do Monte, a magnificent place where the works of nature and of man are brought together, and come to the Holy Week celebrations, which have taken place in the Portuguese Rome since the Middle Ages. During the festive period, the city is transformed, attracting thousands of visitors. All over the city, there are decorations based on Easter themes and pretty street altars, adorned with flowers and lights.

The city is decorated with Easter themes and the “Passos” – street altars, are filled with flowers and lights. Come to the Ecce Homo procession or burial, on Easter Friday, led by the coffin-bearers. Barefoot and with their heads covered, these men process wearing purple tunics and with torches in their hands. They are some of the most curious figures of our religious tradition and are reminiscent of the public penitent reconciliation rituals, carried out until the 17th Century.

It is said by many that Braga is the religious centre of Portugal, but it has many other Easter highlights. Treats and landscape that will take your breath away. 

Portugal - Trás-os-Montes

During the week before Easter, villages and towns from Trás-os-Montes revive Christian and pagan traditions that date back to medieval times, since the procession of the “seven steps”, the sacras, the burning of Judas or the burial of cod. 

Throughout the year this area is known for its wine production which is delicious and stunning in equal measure. 

Most common in Trás-os-Montes are, the acts of passion, as representations of popular theatre, which narrate the last days of Christ, and involve dozens of extra actors who they represent, for example, Christ, Judas, Caiphaz, Pilate, Pharisee or the Devil.

Portugal - Fatima

The story of a famous miracle in Fátima, Portugal, began in May 1917, when three children (ages 7, 9, and 10) claimed to have encountered the Virgin Mary on their way home from tending a flock of sheep. It is for this reason that for many one Easter tradition in Portugal, as a majority catholic country, is to visit Fátima. A lot of Catholics from all over the world take a day or two to visit one of the most symbolic places of the modern Christianity.  The aura behind it will make it a special moment of your life, even if you are not catholic or religious at all. Just feel the atmosphere around especially at Easter time. This was true in 1917 as it is today.

Play Video

Easter is a time for reflection and appreciating the things you love, and things you have and we are grateful here at the Getaway Van to be able to share these things with you in your home. There will be many opportunities to see these things and many more to come.

We hope to see you soon 

The Getaway Gang.

I know that the current situation is far from perfect right now. You’re stuck at home (or about to be) with the kids and the partner getting under your feet, home-schooling, video-calling, dinner-making, laundry-doing and online shopping-queuing and a family getaway is not on todays priority list. 

However… this too shall pass

It is one of those phrases that us as parents, especially mums like me will have seen whilst trawling the internet on raising children and problems they cause from sleeping to eating. 

So knowing that this current isolating situation will not last forever let me tempt you to keep your travelling dreams alive, and think of a brighter, less static way of having a holiday. After being cooped up for who knows how long, your children and yourselves are going to want freedom and lots of it. My own children, 3 and 6 are energy hunting explorers. They love anything new and exciting. 

Which is where the Getaway Van comes in for your post lockdown family getaway .

The Getaway Van is a family run business, with Graca and Abilio at the helm they are experienced in both family life and tourism in Portugal. Located in the north of Portugal it is where your journey can or should I say will begin :)..

Adventure campervan

First off, whenever my kids see one of the six getaway vans they get ridiculously excited, the colours, the size and the unique feeling of excitement that we are going somewhere new, somewhere different.

My son first went on one of the vans when he was 9 months old. We needed to take a trip to Lisbon from the North of Portugal. It was my first and his first experience of the van and also of Lisbon. We didn’t have much time to prepare for the trip but that is one of the beauties of the Getaway van. You don’t need to book hotels, cars, bring car seats, book train tickets etc etc…

Wifi and Gps available to see here, demonstrated by baby.

We were able to use the free 4G portable wifi internet in the van as well as the free to use GPS you can see in the picture of my son ‘driving’ and ‘using’. Using these we were able to search the nearest and best campsites to where we were going. Using getaway we also saved money, getting a discount on the campsite as getaway has many campsite partners

I am not, if I am honest, the best camper when it comes to tents, however, this was not your normal camping experience. The baby and I had plenty of room on our bed and dad had all the room he wanted on his bed. We slept really well and were nice and cosy in our van in our sleeping bags. The next morning we cooked up some food on the portable cooker at the campsite

The second thing I want to highlight is not only can you stay in far-flung places at the drop of a hat you also have loads of things for kids and families in the North. With the van you can explore all over the north of Portugal and park up anywhere that is a legal place to rock up. 

Here are my and the in Porto and North areas.

1 - Beaches.

I cannot miss beaches off my list. Being from the UK, the beaches here in Portugal are gorgeous, so smooth and soft on feet, with great sand castle building sand if you dig a bit. What is so great about them is nearly all beaches have a cafe to grab an ice cream or snack and easy access to the path. Another great thing about the beaches is if it is not sunbathing/playing in the sand weather there are miles of walkways to enjoy along the coast. Great for a morning or late afternoon stroll with the kids and/or the dog.  

My favorite ice cream beach getaway in the north is a place called Povoa de Varzim. It has everything the kids want, beaches, playgrounds and best of all the most delicious ice cream in cafes (Kinder bueno ice cream? Yes , please)

 

2 - Surfing

Kids really need to burn off that excess energy, then look no further than surf schools in Portugal. 

Those beaches are not just for looks there are some great waves out there too. There are lots of surf schools and Getaway is partnered with some of the best all over the country so take a look here.

3 - History and culture

Porto and the north are full of culture. When it comes to it, the kids will have been off of school for ages and a holiday can combine some learning as well as some fun. The city of Porto is teeming with culture and depending on the ages of the kids you can visit the many amazing tiled churches that are dotted around Porto, the cheese castle (don’t try and eat it, it’s not real cheese guys!) aka Fort of São Francisco do Queijo, as well as an interactive theme park ride where you learn about Portuguese history – on a boat!.

 

 

4 - A visit to Geres

Why go here?

  • Natural landscape
  • Biodiversity, there are wolves, eagles, horses, cows and many more to be discovered
  • Birdwatching
  • Traditional Architecture
  • Walking trails and hikes
  • Gorgeous waterfalls
  • Adventure sports
  • Canyoning

5 - Port Wine and Fado

Obviously I can’t exclude Port Wine and you may have never heard of Fado.

 Parents, singles, partners, surfers, adventurers all need a little down time to learn about the origins and details about one of the most famous exports of Porto. Along the spectacular river douro there are many different port wine cellars and getaway has some partners where you can get some discounts at certain cellars.

Often these cellars combine tours of the cellars with port tasting and sometimes have live Fado music. If you want to hear some traditional emotive portuguese music then I highly recommend a visit to a Fado show.

So if you have made it this far without the kids, work, mother in law/father in law calling for your attention, well done! Keep the Getaway Van in mind for your next trip. Avoid the hotels, the car hire charges and gain the best thing… a perfect family getaway.

Why go here?