Most people think about Portugal as a land of sunny beaches and tourism. But there's só much more. The Portuguese inlands are unique in Europe, there are many rivers and lakes, green forests and fields and even the highest mountains of Portugal where you can go skiiing in the winter.
These cities have everything, from little boutiques to hospitals and universities. Coimbra is the largest of all, it has a rich history and a very old beautiful centre. Aveiro is close to the coast, Covilhã is on the eastern slopes of the Serra Estrelas (the highest mountains of Portugal) and Fátima is known all over the world for it's sanctuary where yearly pilgrims and millions of tourists go.
All around the Beiras are smaller regions with their own unique products like honey, lovely wine, chourizos (typically Portuguese sausages) and world famous cheeses. The Beira Baixa is the agricultural heart with products like cherries, almonds, corn and rye, cabbages, potatoes, tomatoes etc. The Beira Alta is known for it's beautiful sceneries, the highest mountains with many river beaches and products like cheeses that can differ from village to village. Beira litoral is probably the most urban province with universities and industry situated near the coast.
The Serra da Estrelas have a unique ecosystem like wild sheep, goats and wolves. The "Serra da Estrela dog" is a rare breed from this region well known for it's ability to heard a flock of sheep, they are big, like Saint Bernards. And the Serra da Estrela is known around the world for it's typical and prize-winning cheeses.
Almost all the smaller villages have at least a café and a grocery-store, lots of houses are build in a traditional way with very thick walls of granite and claystone, this keeps the warmth inside the house in the winter and the heat outside in the summer. In these villages you will also see many churches and sanctuaries and often all around you can buy products straight from the farms.
Close to the villages are thousands of farms (quintas) that vary from 1/2 of a hectare to 100´s of hectares. Ofcourse these quintas have mostly large houses or ruins, pieces of forest (oak, pines, eucalypt, chestnuts etc.). Every village has some very old people living very traditionally: fully selfsupporting, often without electricity and sometimes even difficult to reach, these people hardly ever leave their land. But they are always very friendly and if you manage to make some friends amongst them you will end up going home with all kinds of unique products like extra virgin olive oil, aguardente (a home-made very strong liquor), wine, cheese, bread and even home-made clothes or whatever they have for you, it's always a surprise. These people often live só desolate that they are pretty quickly overwhelmed with pleasure to see a stranger and no matter how poor they are: you have to sit at the table and start eating and drinking and eating and drinking until you drop.
All the people work very hard, from early in the morning till late in the evening and the café is the central spot where everybody meets, if you need something, whatever it is: go to the café.
As we said before, the Beiras have beautiful natural spots, many rivers and lakes, forests, caves and lots of old castles and Roman architecture. Whether you like camping, swimming, hiking, bycicling or even flying with delta-wings or skiing: in the Beiras you can do that all and all within reach too.
Next to the Serra da Estrela which we mentioned before you can visit the Serra da Malcata in the Beira Baixa, situated near the Spanish border east of the line: Penamacor - Sabugal, known as a home for the Syberian lynx. A bit more to the south, still in the Beira Beixa you will find the astonishing Parque Natural do Tejo (river Tagus natural park) alongside Portugals' largest river. Together with the Serra da Estrelas these three parks form a triangle with the lower Beira Baixa in between.
This website doesn't have enough space to mention all the Serras and nature parks in and around the Beiras and each one has it's own character and unique wildlife like the Serra da Gardunha, the Serra do Açor, the Serra da Lousã, the Serra do Caramulo and the Serra de Alvaiázere and this list can go on and on.
If you like swimming, in the Beiras you can go to one of the hundreds river beaches, like the Praia fluvial do Reconquinho near the rio Mondego, Praia fluvial de Louçainha, the Praia fluvial de Loriga in the Serra da Estrelas, the Praia fluvial do Pessegueiro and then there are the many lakes with beaches and spots alongside the banks where you can sit all day and never see a single other person. Some examples of these lakes are the Barragem Marechal Carmona (Barragem da Idanha) in the Beira Baixa, the Zona Balnear do Meimão, the Praia Fluvial Barragem do Caldeirão and the Barragem de Fagilde and again ofcourse many many more. And in the west there are the large white beaches alongside the Atlantic Ocean in the Beira Litoral.
City of cherries, wine, food and the good life
Oliveira do Hospital:
West of the beautiful Serra da Estrela: the highest mountains of Portugal
The largest border-crossing with Spain, where many nature-reservations are close by