The 4 elements

Forte de Peniche
Photo: Shutterstock / JPF
Photo: Shutterstock / JPF

Sense the power of Nature’s four elements in a 3-day itinerary across landscapes that have been preserved for many millennia. Water of the open sea and rivers, Air of startling purity, Fire whose power was manifested when the planet was first formed and Earth - a mixture of fertile ground and hard stone, that provides nourishment to mankind.

Our starting point is the peninsula of Peniche - once an island, that over time was joined to the mainland. Nearby, the picturesque village of Baleal, perched on a rocky outcrop, becomes an island at high tide when the sea submerges the sand banks - the only land connection to the village. Visit Cape Carvoeiro and appreciate the strength of the sea in the form of the rocks sculpted by erosion. In the distance, you can glimpse the Berlengas islands. Add a day to your itinerary and book a boat trip to the small archipelago - a nature reserve, where you’ll discover a unique eco system. Walk along the trails that will lead you to grottoes, or beaches with crystalline waters and spectacular views.

Salinas da Fonte da Bica, Rio Maior ©Região de Turismo do Oeste

Journey inland towards the Serras de Aire e Candeeiros Natural Park and be prepared to be amazed by the salt pans in the middle of the peaks, supplied by rock salt mines located in the mountain depths. The Salt Pans of Fonte da Bica, only 3 kms from Rio Maior, cover the ground with a white blanket of geometric shapes. Near to Alcanede, visit the Grotto of Algar do Pena, the largest subterranean chamber ever discovered in Portugal, and spend some time in the Interpretation Centre in order to discover how the water has moulded the complex formations of stalactites and stalagmites.

On the next day, travel to Alcobertas and see a dolmen that has been transformed into a chapel, one of the most important megalithic monuments of its kind in Europe. Continue to Vestiaria and appreciate the notable Manueline doorway of the Church of Nossa Senhora da Ajuda. In Valado dos Frades, discover the Roman villa of Parreitas whose foundation dates back to the Iron Age. Far older is the Jurassic belvedere in Alqueidão da Serra - an excellent spot to observe the entire region, including the silhouettes of the castle of Porto de Mós and the monastery of Batalha!

Grutas de Mira d'Aire©Luís Afonso

Mira de Aire, Santo António and Alvados are names of grottoes that may be visited in the Serras de Aire e Candeeiros Natural Park. If you have time visit them all, or choose one - but don’t miss this opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the interior of the Earth, in this huge chalk massif. Above ground, another surprise awaits you. Near to Fátima, in the Galinha quarry, discover the footprints of dinosaurs who lived here around 175 million years ago. This is the longest sauropod trail ever discovered in the world.

For the third day we suggest some lush green landscapes. In the Paul do Boquilobo Nature Reserve, between lagoons, brooks and streams, follow the nature trails and observe the largest colony of white herons in the Iberian peninsular, amongst a total of around 200 different bird species to be found here. Continue to the Castelo de Bode Dam, one of the largest artificial lakes in Europe. Take a cruise and prepare to be amazed by the beauty of the many hidden recesses of this reservoir, as you fill your lungs with fresh air from the pine groves. Or if you prefer an adrenalin rush, practise some water sports and complete this itinerary with renewed spirits - as a result of this privileged contact with nature.

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