Portugal by night light
Travel the nightlife of Portugal, beyond the typical nightlife, when natural resources and monuments are lit from north to south from dawn to dusk.
In a country with over 900 years of history, with a diversity of landscapes and monuments, including 25 sites classified as World Heritage by UNESCO, creativity and modernity come together. All in search of new concepts and audiences, under a sky with a unique hue, under the shelter of rich traditions and festivities.
Under the stars
Do you dream of a sky of stars, deep black? In the heart of the Alentejo, Alqueva was the first tourist destination in the world for sky watching, a certification obtained by Dark Sky. But if you're curious about authentic villages, there's nothing like a night tour of the Aldeias do Xisto in central Portugal. In Porto and North, the Vale do Tua Natural Park was the first protected area to receive such a certificate; under a well-reputed sky there are many activities, such as observation with the naked eye or through a telescope, photographic excursions, night canoeing and yoga under the stars.
© Miguel Claro
And because monuments and heritage can also be seen at the end of the day, why not pay a night visit to the engravings of the Vale do Côa (Côa Valley)? The Penascosa site is even more impressive at dawn, in the best possible setting to enjoy Palaeolithic rock art.
The illuminated shows and popular and religious traditions merge throughout the country, whether it's the candlelight procession at the Shrine of Fátima, on the 12th to 13th May, or the celebrations of the Popular Saints throughout the country during June - such as Saint John, with the bonfires and spectacular balloons in Porto, or the marches of Saint Anthony in Lisbon, with festivities every night in his honour. In the region of Porto and the North, during Holy Week in Braga, the Easter Vigil and the Ecce Homo procession stand out - where the emblematic Farricocos, figures dressed in black, are present.
© Santuário de Fátima
Visual artists are also often invited to produce works or intervene in the landscape using light, such as the Aura Festival in Sintra and Lumina in Cascais. Video projection shows dot the façades of monuments from north to south in order to promote history and culture. Christmas lights are a must-see in many cities from November onwards.
Festivities and traditions
And if Portugal has so often been considered "the country of festivals", it's for good reason. The Atlantic Festival, for example, integrates various arts and marks the beginning of summer on the island of Madeira. The island is certainly known for its New Year's Eve fireworks. The spectacle in the first moments of 1st January has already been recognised by the Guinness Book of Records; currently, it amounts to eight minutes of animation and amazement.
© Turismo da Madeira
Night-time traditions are part of the heritage, especially the summer festivals and pilgrimages, high points of celebration and local life. They sprinkle the continent and islands with excitement and joy from July to October, particularly in mid-August, as can be experienced in Viana do Castelo during the Senhora da Agonia Festivities. But in Portugal, the long summer is the trademark. Medieval fairs also include night-time shows in their entertainment programmes, such as fire, reenactments and duels - mention the ones in Santa Maria da Feira, Óbidos, Silves and Castro Marim.
In Lisbon, it is possible to visit the popular neighbourhoods all year round on night guided tours; these pass by casas de Fado (Fado houses) - which is Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity - and usually culminate with the opportunity to taste traditional gastronomy, such as a good bowl of caldo verde. In Coimbra, during the Academic Week, in May, there is the Serenata Monumental da Queima das Fitas, in which students gather to celebrate student life, next to the Sé Velha cathedral; however, in all the academic cities of the country, during the academic period, it is possible to find in certain events and central squares a tuna in activity.
© Paulo Magalhães
Tours and cruises
In the mood to leave land, how about a river cruise? During and after sunset, you can dine in a romantic setting, at the mouth of the Tagus River, in Lisbon, or the Douro River, in Porto. Romanticism also has its nocturnal place in viewpoints, the most obvious in both cities; by the hills and high points overlooking the urban landscape, enriched by being by the river.
Those looking for dynamism will have no lack of night tours; the routes are accompanied by a guide, who presents places such as the centre of Lisbon and the town of Sintra after nightfall, making known the secret and dark history of more and less emblematic routes, in an atmosphere that awakens the mystery.
If you are interested in wine tourism, from north to south you can make night visits to the vineyards. Combine the discovery of wine with activities that put the body to the test and find fullness in our landscapes, whether running, walking, or trekking. Experiences for life happen in Portugal. One of them is the climb to Pico, in the Azores; you can start at dawn or late at night and stay on top of the mountain after watching the sunset. When you wake up and the sun rises again, you'll be dazzled in the typical Portuguese way: above the clouds.
© Turismo dos Açores / Veraçor