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District of Leiria – beaches, architecture and mountain retreats

Leiria is one of Portugal’s provinces. It starts roughly 60km above the city of Lisbon and borders the province of Lisbon to the North, Santarem to the west and Coimbra to the south. Leiria is a district that excels itself in many aspects, it’s many beaches, it’s historical points of interest and architectural excellence of which 2 are Unesco world heritage sites and it’s extreme landscape ranging from it’s wild and beautiful sea shore to it’s large dunes and pine fields and the mountains of Serra d’Aire and Serra dos Candeeiros. Leiria city is it’s capital and home to the beautiful and unique Leiria castle, Batalha and Alcobaca it’s most important towns for architectural excellence, mainly due to it’s monasteries which are both Unesco world heritage. But it’s also home to the beautiful medieval town of Obidos.

Alcobaca

It’s most famous beach is without the beach of Nazare made famous by it’s high surfing waves (praia do Norde) and it’s lovely fishing village traditions but it has many beaches famous and less famous that each have their own characteristics and uniqueness.

Leiria is one of Portugal’s internationally lesser known districts to those already familiar with Portugal’s Algarve but it’s an interesting province that provides to much in the way of culture, gastronomy and leisure to cover one holiday.

It has mountainous landscape more inland and sandy dune areas closer to the coast and in older days it was used as the pine field of Portugal and you’ll still find a lot of very old pine trees dominating a large part of the landscape.

You can find specific points of interests, restaurants, accommodation, activities for the district of Leiria by following this link >>>

Obidos

Obidos

Our trip to Leiria starts in Obidos, Obidos is a beautiful medieval town and castle that architecturally have stayed well intact. Set on a hill it hasn’t been spoilt or overtaken by ‘new built high rise or shopping centres.

 

ObidosMost of Obidos will give you the feeling that you’ve been taken back to a different time.
You will find a lot of parked cars dominating the lower parts of the city but as you travel higher the street tend to get narrower sometimes only connected by steps that lead to the little squares that house the churches, government buildings, medieval jail and traditional commerce. The streets and paths are narrow and climbing, the buildings build against the mountain and the squares difficult to access if not on foot.

Walking through Obidos, if you can, is a breathtaking experience in the best sense of the word!

Lagoa Obidos

Lagoa do Obidos

Close to Obidos is the Lagoa do Obidos (Lagoon of Obidos) a nice large lagoon on which many sport activities are practised from kite surfing to wind surfing and catamaran, sailing and fishing the waters are not as wavy as the Atlantic water and slightly warmer.

The lagoon leads on one side to the famous Foz do arelho beach and other to Peniche. Foz de Arelho was always the beach of preference for the nobility of Portugal. It’s a large beach with many safer areas to swim as the bay leads inland.

Sao Martinho do porto is a beach set on a large bay surrounded by beach and mouthed narrowly between 2 mountains giving it a perfect situation for quiet waves which make it a paradise for families with kids and a favourite place to holiday. Even though it first struck me as a busy , tourist beach resort it has some lovely cultural spots and an exceptional range of very good fish restaurants. The dunes provide a lovely place to stroll at the beginning or end of hot days and the range of accommodation is impressive.

Salir do Porto

Salir do Porto

A place I really love is the close by town of Salir do Porto which is set above one of Portugal highest dunes (50 meters) It has a view of Sao Martinho do Porto but is closer to the mouth of the bay. The views are magnificent! other than that it’s lovely town and beach, not filled with tourism possibly because the walk to the beach is longer but people visit it also for it’s natural springs which are known to have therapeutic qualities. What the Portuguese will do is spent the afternoon on the beach and end the day they will cover themselves in the mud close to the spring, to wash it off in the spring, a perfectly relaxing way to perfect skin and a relaxing holiday!

Alcobaca monastery

Alcobaca

From Salir do Porto we travelled to Alcobaca. The monastery of Alcobaca has its own Romeo and Julliete type legend that has inspired many novels and movies, it is the story of Ines and Pedro, Ines de Castro was the true love of Dom Pedro who was to be  the future king Pedro the first of Portugal. However, due to her family background, Dom Pedro was forced to marry Constanza as a royal obligation. Constanza died shortly after the marriage and Pedro took his love Ines and ran away with her to Coimbra. Pedro’s father in return had Ines murdered in fear of her family as a threat to his kingdom. After the death of his father Dom Pedro admitted to having married Ines in a secret ceremony and revenged her killers in a gruesome manner that has marked history books. Both their tombs are housed in the monastery and they seal the drama of a dramatic Gothic building with subtle respect and cooperation. The building was consecrated in 1262 and is an impressive, awe inspiring example of Portuguese Gothic architecture.

Alcobaca monasteryAlcobaca by itself is a nice, little town with some nice streets, lovely restaurants and among other activities, a nice wine museum that is worth a visit. It’s a close drive to many great beaches and has some very nice gastronomy and accommodation.

Nazare

Nazare

From Alcobaca to Nazare is a short trip and Nazare was once just a small fishing known for it’s fishing traditions. Nazare is set on a large beach which provides easy access to the sea and this made it a famous place for fishing. The woman of Nazare have a unique tradition which has given it more fame and this is the tradition of the 7 petticoats. You will still meet them all over Nazare, specifically in the weekends when most ‘dress up’ but a lot of the older ones wear them everyday.

Nazare beachWhat has caused Nazare’s international fame has been it’s exceptionally high surfing waves on a beach North of Nazare called praia do Norde which has broken world records on more occasions than one. These waves are so high in the winter months that it will only entice a few to surf them! other than that Nazare is well protected beach with many lifeguards and a clear flagging system that provides safe swimming. The town is full of restaurants, bars and souvenir shops many that only open in the summer. There are some tourist traps close to the beach but generally we meet friendly people, good food. Currently were sorting the best places, so stay tuned….
What we have foud already in and around Nazare that deserves your attention, can be found here, Nazare points of interest >>

Other nice beaches are Sao pedro de moel and Praia do Vieira.

Batalha monastery

Batalha

– inland and a little North of Nazare you’ll find the wonderful town of Batalha most of it is centred around the Unesco monastery of Batalha a Gothic ‘monster’ that with it’s immense architectural beauty dominates the town with a historical majesty that refuses modern relevance.
The monastery can be viewed everyday and is free of charge on Sunday morning. The town around it has some nice interesting points and a nice range of restaurants, regional produce shops, hotels and bars. It’s not overrun by tourism and parking is free.
Check the nicest places we found by following this link. Batalha

in our next article serra d’aire in our next article on Leiria Caldas de Rainha – Pombal – Serra do Candeeiros – leiria food and traditons!

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