Portugal: Bookmark these sights for a literary tour to remember

 Tuesday, January 25, 2022 


From the capital city to the distant archipelagos of Madeira and Azores, more and more people are visiting Europe’s most southwesterly nation.

Luís Araújo, President of Portugal Tourism and President of European Travel Commission (ETC) says that 2019 was their best year ever.

They had 27 million guests, they have increased their revenue by 60 per in just three years.

Now, as they head cautiously towards a post-pandemic world, Portugal is shifting its focus.

These two years were difficult, they brought some challenges. They tried to refocus and decided to do two things; focus on the sustainability of the sector but also contribute to a different approach in terms of tourism, continues Araújo.

While there will always be port and pastéis de nata, with such rich history and heritage, scratch the surface and there is so much more to discover on the Iberian Peninsula.

Literary tourism in Portugal

Wandering through the flame-coloured streets of Lisbon at sunset, past the ornate Basílica da Estrela, it’s not hard to understand why Portuguese writers like Fernando Pessoa and José Saramago were inspired by the country.

And with Portugal recently named the best all-round country to work remotely from by travel search engine Kayak, it’s clear that modern literary types tend to agree.

A 3.2km stroll to the east will bring you to the door of Casa dos Bicos, or ‘the house of spikes’, where the ashes of renowned writer José Saramago lie under an olive tree.

Inspired by Italian Renaissance architecture, the exterior of the 16th century building is covered in striking diamond-shaped stones. Inside is the José Saramago Foundation, an exhibition all about the Nobel Prize winning author and his own personal library.

Rewilding the Coa Valley

Of course, it wasn’t just the cities that inspired Portugal’s writers. Those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle, Portugal’s wild side has plenty to excite more adventurous travellers.

Relatively unknown to tourists, the Greater Côa Valley sits close to the border with Spain, between the Douro river and Malcata mountains.

Formerly an agricultural area, much of the land here has been long abandoned, which has given Rewilding Europe a chance to reshape it for nature.

The organisation is currently developing a 120,000 hectare wildlife corridor, which is heralding the return of wild horses, Iberian ibex and red deer.

The landscape here is rugged, with oak forests, rocky heaths and jagged gorges. Birdwatchers can spot golden eagles and Egyptian vultures, while history buffs can visit the Prehistoric Rock Art Site, which is UNESCO protected.

Coa is a wonderful example, a much more niche market for people who want to stay for longer periods and get to know different areas of the region.

The European Safari Company can help you arrange your holiday here, whether you want to trek the ​​200-kilometre Grande Route or sample some local food and wine from the neighbouring Douro Valley.

What are the travel restrictions in Portugal?

With a vaccination rate of 90 per cent, Portugal is well placed to protect its citizens and visitors. The country is connected to the EU Digital COVID Certificate (EUDCC) and all travellers must provide proof of full vaccination on arrival, as well as a negative COVID-19 test.

This can either be a Laboratorial Rapid Antigen test taken within 48 hours of departure or a PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure. All passengers will also need to fill in a Passenger Locator Form.

Similar rules have been adopted in the archipelago regions of Azores and Madeira.

Although some measures continue to be necessary, Araújo is keen to highlight that tourists are very welcome in the country.

But tourists are the least risky population in the world, so any system or measure that restrains mobility from tourists is not in anyone’s interests, because it destroys the economy.

It’s a matter of clear communication and transparency, but it’s also a matter of confidence in the country.

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