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The Beiras – Central Portugal

The Beiras – Central Portugal

by Tony Coelho

Coimbra city - Portugal

Coimbra city – Portugal

The Beiras regions (Beira Alta and Beria Baicha) of Portugal lie between the Douro river in the North, and the Tagus river in the South, and stretches as far as Spain to the East and to the Atlantic Ocean in the West. On its western coast, sandy beaches meet the Atlantic pine forests. Moving further inland, mountains and rocky plateaus rise up over the landscape. In fact, the Beiras regions are home to the tallest mountain range in continental Portugal: the Serra de Estrela, or Estrela Mountain Range. Historic towns and villages guarded by magnificent castles are sprinkled throughout the regions, as well as spa towns that have formed around the healing waters found in the area.

The regions’ extensive cultural heritage is preserved by museum collections in the larger towns. For example, the town of Coimbra hosts many historical sites including monasteries, museums, cathedrals, and more. Coimbra is also one of the oldest university towns in Europe. Coimbra is not the only town in the region to boast historical significance: the entire region is dotted with these cathedrals and churches. The traditional arts in the region vary by region as well: on the coast, ceramics and glass working dominate the artistic scene, while inland clay, copper, iron, and linen weaving are the more popular media.

Besides Coimbra, some of the most visited towns and villages are Aveiro, famous for its channels and referred as the Venice of Portugal, Belmonte, Bucaco surrounded by its majestic forest, Castelo Branco with its 13th century castle, Conimbriga with its impressive Roman ruins, Figueira da Foz, a summer favorite in the Mondego delta, Guarda, with its Jewish quarters, Monsanto with ancient Lusitanian settement and Viseu with its Grao do Vasco museum a “must not miss” visit.

While the South, Lisbon and Porto get the most recognition, the center of Portugal does not play second in its beauty and history. A visit to Portugal is no complete when not visiting its center.



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