Paradise for nature lovers and trampers
Quinta do Retiro lies in the green heart of Portugal where luckily there is still no sign of mass tourism. This is a gentle yet sometimes rugged and hilly area between the rivers Mondego and Alva. A half hour journey by car will bring you to the mountain region of the Serra da Estrela which forms part of the Serra da Estrela National Park. The park, which is a paradise for walkers and nature lover’s contains Mt Torre which at 2000m (6500ft) is the highest point on the Portuguese mainland. Impressive rocks and ravines and exceptional flora and fauna make this area a wonderful place to explore, either on foot or by car.
Picturesque villages in the area
In the Serra da Estrela can be found the village of Linhares where you will find beautiful old buildings including the medieval castle, now a partial ruin, though the Main Tower still presents a magnificient sight. It is set above a beautiful green valley and overlooks the River Zêzere. The landscape is dotted with many mountain huts and it is well worth a visit. A trip to the mountain ranges of the Serra do Caramulo and Serra do Açor is also well worth the experience. The diversity of this area is impressive, green forests alternating with bare granite and slate cliffs. We can also recommend a visit to the “slate” village of Piódão.
Traditional Portuguese markets
Should you wish to sample the atmosphere of the Portuguese countryside then we can recommend that you visit one of the many markets that can be found in the area, especially Tábua (about 10 km) and Arganil (20 km) away. Here you can find all the ingredients to make a superb Portuguese meal as well a the local handicrafts typical of the region. All this without the crush of tourists which you associate with the other, more commercial resort areas.
Coimbra, a lively university town
To the west of Covas lies Coimbra. This is a bustling student town and lies on the banks of the river Mondego. There are many historic building that are well worth a visit. The University of Coimbra with it’s world famous library and the cathedral Sé Velha are definitely places that you must see. In Conímbriga you will find one of the largest archaeological sites dating from the Roman period where you get a feeling of Roman life in the 1st century BC. For nature lovers Buçaco is well recommended. Here is to be found the famous Palace Hotel, built in the ornate neo-Manueline style where you will find the arboretum which has an outstanding collection of trees, ferns and plants gathered from around the world.
A daytrip to the coast
If you desire a change from culture and the inland areas, you can get into the car and take the scenic road to Mira on the Atlantic coast (90 km away). On the beaches with their boisterous waves you can swim and then relax in the sun. In the evening and as the day draws to a close you can visit one of the many restaurants that overlook the ocean and sample some of the many fish dishes for which the region is so well known.