South-westernmost Portugal denoting the meeting point of the European continent with the Atlantic has a plethora of places to divert your mind. Historical towns, paradisiacal beaches, the post-earthquake reconstructions, and the bona fide Portuguese traditions promise unmatched adventures. Nonetheless, if the best is yet to be discovered get ready to tick off the awe-inspiring Arrabida Natural Park on your itinerary. The protected area founded in 1976 and covering 108 km² is a far cry from fussy urban spaces giving its visitors the possibility to indulge in a fusion of lush mountains and turquoise waters. And then it’s all about wonderful beaches making the entire trip all the more worthwhile.
Standing high above the town of Palmela the namesake castle is one of the first points marking the outset of the Arrabida Natural Park. The complex comprises several constructions dating back to the 12-17th centuries among which are the Santiago Church, the Espacos Museum, and the Castle itself. Because of a hotel presence on the site today, the complex boasts special custody, and tourist flows year-round. Don’t miss out on the spectacular views from over there.
Setubal, a city that has long assumed a key role in Portugal’s fishing industry. The bay area promises some amiable vibes. However, to delve into the local life rhythm a visit to the famous Livramento Market is almost a must. Enjoying the status of the food and wine region, this market in Setubal has everything one can wish for. Fish and shellfish varieties come on top. Meat assortment and the local sweets follow. The joyful ambiance with multiple vendors is perfect for those interested in the Portuguese gastronomic delights.
Sightseeing over Arrabida Protected Area
Going deeper into the lush hills and mountains promises an unforgettable journey. The main goal here is to climb the Serra da Arrabida and the Serra do Risco comprising the highest peak in the area. The latter rises 380m high above the mainland coast and provides magnificent views over the Atlantic. Enjoy this marvelous escape!
Those who are visiting the Arrábida Natural Park certainly feel the curiosity sharpened by the set of small white houses with orange roofs embedded in the green slope of the mountain. The Convent of Arrábida was born in that place in 1542 and still prevails to tell the story of the Franciscan monks who passed through there.
For even more desolation head to Cape Espichel being the westernmost tip of the Arrabida Natural Park. Here the raging waters of the ocean hug the rocky cliffs and display nature at its best. Photographers and amateurs alike are going to take pleasure in the wonderful scenery. The only tangible legacy on the cape is presented by the hexagonal lighthouse dating to 1790 and standing proud still today while warning the approaching ships about the tantrums of nature. The latter has been one of the most pilgrim-loved spots since the 13th century.
The cultural heritage of the Arrabida area is equally enriched by the Sesimbra Castle. Overlooking the waterfront zone of the town, the castle offers the final Moorish construction before confessing the victory of the Christians in the 12th century. Upon climbing the height of 230 meters you are granted access to this extensive medieval complex. It comprises several towers serving as museums today and the Santa Maria Church. The latter stuns visitors with its azulejo decorations. Yet, the main challenge is the marvelous panoramic view making the entire complex part of the national treasures.
Portinho da Arrabida
Although Portugal abounds with wonderful beaches, Portinho da Arrabida still ranks among the most beautiful beaches throughout the country. Located close to Setubal, the preserved beach area of the tiny fishing village displays some very impressive landscapes with lush green mountains and sky blue waters. Those who are fond of diving and swimming might well find their paradise here. The local Museum of Oceanography instead will make you examine various marine species in exchange for prohibited fishing in the area.
Bacalhoa and Jose Maria da Fonseca Wineries
The extensive tour of the Arrabida reserved area is supposed to make you experience the mouthwatering wines of the region. Lucky you! The first stop is Bacalhoa winery in the small town of Azeitao. The winery is housed in the 15th-century castle once owned by the royal family and is ready to welcome you for getting in touch with the local wine-making traditions. They are based on grape varieties obtained in different regions since the 1920s. The wine storeroom, its adjacent museum, and beautiful gardens are a true delight. Plus, cabernet sauvignon rose and port wine tasting on the site is going to add up to an unforgettable experience.
A bit further is located another remarkable winery that is Jose Maria da Fonseca house-museum famous for its bottled wine – Periquita. Counting over 160 years, savoring Periquita made from Castelao grape is a must when visiting Arrabida.
Tortas de Azeitao
If you have a sweet tooth, Portugal will never quit satisfying your tastes. Indeed, you can hardly find a similar number of sweet stuff in any other place than in this blessed country. The local pastry with its many varieties is available in various towns including Azeitao that makes part of our Arrabida tour. Tortas de Azeitao is made of eggs, lemon and cinnamon flavors and promises a delicious treat just like the crunchy yet light almond tarts. After savoring them you can tick off on your list one of the main parts of the Portuguese cuisine.
Portugal is rich in history, culture, and tiles. Azulejos are found almost everywhere forming, perhaps, the main image of the local architecture and decorative arts. The Azeitao-based tile factory will enable you to immerse in this typical Portuguese handicraft encompassing the influences of the Moors, the Chinese, and other European countries. The local craftsmen will introduce you to the old tile making methods dating back to the 16th century. You might well become a participant in the color application process. Azulejos de Azeitao is a pledge of a truly memorable experience.