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Visiting Castelo De Almourol is a great activity for families

Almost a millennia old, Portugal as a Kingdom and nation has a history that stretches to the dawn of European civilization with eyes set firmly on the future. Portugal is the oldest country in Europe with original borders. It also holds the title of the warmest climate in Europe. With the warm temperatures, you also get beautiful beaches along the western coast and the urban buzz of Lisbon centred in the south-eastern corner of the country. Portugal is home to many popular tourist destinations, but it’s the secret spots that only locals are privy to that are the true gems of the country.

Evora, Alentejo

This beautiful medieval-walled town takes a step back into history right in the heart of wine country. Evora in Alentejo is a beautiful place to relax and become educated on those that gave birth to this minimalist region. You may want to embark on a tour of the city centre shadowed by monuments from various eras, including a Roman Temple. Another exciting sight is the Agua de Prata Aqueduct, an aqueduct built in the 16th century to supply water to the city.

The city is also home to many historical religious dwellings such as the Cathedral of Evora, built in the 13th century, the S. Bras Chapel built in the 15th century, and the Saint Francis Church built in the 15th and 16th centuries. This is a popular visit for art and architecture fanatics. Not to be missed, is the Chapel of Bones house in the Saint Francis Church, decorated in Baroque style and totally covered in actual human bones.

Cascais

Just over an hour from Lisbon by train, sits the relatively unknown coastal town of Cascais. With the harbour, this is a mecca for windsurfing and wonderful foods. You will also find many of the best wines from Portugal here that aren’t exported, making it a truly unique experience that you can’t find outside of the country.

For those looking for more activities, you can find one of the largest casinos in Europe, the Estoril Casino. Cascais is also becoming a popular golfing destination with over 10 courses. This could be a welcoming event for those that love to spend a day relaxing on the green.

While relaxing along the beaches, you may also want to venture to the Boca de Inferno. This unique rock formation can give quite a dramatic performance when the sea is rough, allowing the waves to crash through a small hole and burst through the other side. You will get your own personal movie-like experience with the literal roar of the waves crashing into the formation.

Castelo de Almourol

Sitting on an island in the middle of the Tejo River is a small Knights Templar Castle only accessible by boat. This hidden gem would be a great activity for kids. The whole family can climb through the towers and battlements that have remained remarkably intact. The boat will give you an hour or so to explore, so this would be a perfect spot to enjoy a lunch and the outward-looking views.

Medeira

Though this resort town is no longer much of a secret, it is still one of the best local gems you can find in Portugal. This beautiful seaside escape is a part of the Portuguese archipelago located in the Atlantic Ocean. It is said to have been one of the first territorial finds in the Portuguese Age of Discovery.

There is much to do in this area devoted mostly to tourism. You can explore the Levadas, a system of aqueducts built between the 15th and 20th centuries to bring water to the farmland. There’s also the world’s highest ocean cliffs, the Cabo Girao and the Sao Vicente Caves, volcanic caves where you can visit lava tubes. One of the most exciting times to visit, though, may be for New Years. Madeira hosts the largest fireworks show in the world. You can head to the tip of the marina of Funchal or take a cruise ship to take in the fireworks display seaside.

Another great way to find hidden gems of Portugal is to simply ask the locals in Portugal. Find out the secret spots that tourists don’t usually venture to. Depending on who you ask, you may get a whole weeks’ worth of exploring from only two or three locals. To keep to schedule, it may be necessary to have a GPS handy as many of Portugal’s rural roads are unmarked and it can be easy for your trip time to double if you aren’t perfectly certain of where you are going.

If you haven’t already, consider buying travel insurance before leaving for Portugal as you will have a backup plan in the off chance something goes wrong during your holiday. If you find yourself wanting to extend your holiday after talking with the locals, but don’t want to stay if you aren’t covered by travel insurance, then reach out to our experts at Cover-More to tack on additional time to your existing travel insurance policy.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Rul Ornelas