Many of us call the Centro - the heart of Portugal – let me tell you why. First, there is Fatima, one of the most interesting religious sites in the world- known for the miracle that happen there 100 years ago. With its Basilica and it pilgrims this is a place that moves the visitor — and speaks to, not simply to faith, but the role of the spiritual on our everyday live.
Were the Centro simply Fatima, it would be enough to want to go, bit let me take a few minutes to share some favorite Centro destinations.
On the coast, you have some amazing places, washed by the Atlantic Ocean – Nazare, with its beaches, colorful fish boats, and high cliffs is delightful any day of the year, but is also offers the biggest wave\s and the most intense surfing. Up the coast you have beach resorts like Figueira da Foz and Mira. And the city of Aveiro, with is canals and bright boats is a must visit, as is its sandy coastline-with saltpans and some of the freshest fish anywhere.
Inland the choices are too many – Coimbra, home to Portugal’s oldest university, with its bustling downtown, wonderful museums perched over the River Mondego. Just inland, Bussaco has Portugal’s oldest Natural Park, built around a royal palace and an ancient monastery. I can’t skip the walled towns of Trancoso, Monsanto, Almeida, and Linhares, or the pretty market cities of Guarda, Castelo Branco and Leiria. There are the high and mystic mountains of the Serra da Esrtrela, the pottery towns of Condeixa and Poaires, or the horse towns of Golega, Chamusca and Santarem. And, how could I skip the City of the Knight’s Templar - Tomar –with is fascinating 12th century castle, or the castle of Almourol that dominates an island in the River Tejo.
My point is you could spend days, or weeks, exploring the Centro, and from its wine country in the Dao River Valley to ancient borderlands, you would fall in love with Portugal – and come home with great adventures and tales to tell…