Portugal

Portugal is not commonly associated with a holiday destination for hikers, except Madeira and the Azores of course.

Two new long-distance trails in the Alentejo, the Historical Path and Fishermen's Trail might change this. The two paths were developed with European support. We went there to have a look what is being done European taxpayers' money. In this case we are really excited! This project is a great contribution to the development of one of the poorer regions in Portugal. The beautiful coast is one of the biggest selling points. For now, it is still unspoilt by mass tourism. Let us hope it stays like this and Alentejo does not follow the Algarve, where much of the natural beauty succumbed to the real estate projects.

The Rota Vincentina is also the first section of the GR11 - E9, the European Coastal Route that connects Cabo de Sao Vicente in Portugal with Narva-Jöesuu in Esland, over a distance of more than 5000 kilometer.

Our website focuses on the long distance trails, but to complete your visit to Portugal, we also provide information on other cities and areas that you should not wish. Wherever you go in Portugal, the coast is never far away !

  • Lissabon, at the estuary of the Tagus River, was almost the centre of the world in the Middle Ages, when explorers set out from Lisbon to discover the coasts of Africa, in their search for a way to reach India via the sea.
  • Sintra and Cascais are located in a beautiful natural park in the vicinity of Lisbon and provide opportunities for walking, as well as for a cultural visit.
  • A few cities not too far from Lisbon are certainly worth a visit : Evora, Obidos en Batalha

As far as we are concerned, the North of Portugal is yet undiscovered, although the region of Porto is certainly worthwile to feature on our site. We'll keep it in mind for a next time we go south !

Els & Frank

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For a visit to Portugal (and especially Lisbon), some historical facts can be useful.

Some history

Portugal was reigned by kings, from the 12th Century till the beginning of the 20th Century.

  • The first king, Alphonso I, originated from Burgundy
  • in 1385, John I won the battle with Castilia - see Batalha. This was the beginning of the golden age of Portugal, with Johan Emanuel II and I as highlights.
  • Between 1580 and 1640 Portugal was reigned by the Spanish King, Filips II
  • Between 1640 and 1853 the Bragança dynasty reigned the country.
  • In 1853 the crown went over to the House of Saksen-Coburg-Bragança until 1910, when the Republic was formed.
  • The main figure of the republic was Salazar, who ruled the country as a despot until the Carnation Revolution in 1974.

The great explorers

It may be surprising but, in the Middle Ages, Portugal was one of the most powerful maritime nations and under the rule of the Portuguese kings a large part of the world, that was still unknown, was discovered. Obviously, economic reasons were the expansive policy, as the expeditions brought a series of hitherto unknown products: pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cloves from India, silk from China, tobacco, cocoa, ...

  • John I set the tone in the early 15th century and headed south with 200 ships, with the conquest of Ceuta as a highlight. The control of the Strait of Gibraltar and the supply of cheap products from Africa were his main objective.
  • His son, infant Henry, never became a king, but he continued the expeditions, leading to the discovery of Madeira in 1419 and of the Azores in 1427.
  • The further exploration of the African Coast brought the Portuguese further south. In 1488 Diaz rounded the Cape of Good Hope, but it lasted till 1497 when a fleet, led by Vasca da Gama finally reached India.
  • 2 years later, in 1500, Cabral discovered Brasil (which explains why Portuguese is the national language of Brasil, contrary to the other countries that were discovered by the Spanish).

The Portuguese missed a few opportunities in these days :

  • Columbus, an Italian born in Genova, was married with a Portuguese. He offered his services to the Portuguese king, but his plans to reach India by sailing West, were rejected. Finally, the Spanish king financed the expedition that led to the discovery of America.
  • Also Fernando de Magelhaes, who was Portuguese, was financed by the Spanish Kings in his successful attempt to reach India by sailing West (although he was killed on the way).

 

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