Silver Coast Outdoors
– a world of natural wonder
The Silver Coast is not just a place of sea and stunning beaches. Inland there is a landscape that provides numerous possibilities for a great day out in the countryside. This is our pick of the best.
The mountain of Montejunto is well worth spending a day on. Head for the village of Pragança on the north side of the mountain and follow the signs from there to the summit where there are the ruins of a monastery and an ancient church to explore.
Just below the summit is a picnic site and the remains of the royal ice factory, a fascinating reminder of how life was lived in the days before electricity and refrigerators. Part of the summit is a military installation and closed to visitors, but there is plenty of mountainside left to ramble or ride over on a network of signposted paths.
On the Silver Coast there are amazing things to be seen underground as well. Mira de Aire, a village near Porto de Mós, is the site of Portugal’s largest caves and certainly its most beautiful. The caves feature spectacular stalactites and rock formations as well as underground lakes and streams, all highlighted with a sound and light show. The are open daily from 9.30am. Closing times vary through the year, from 5.30pm in the winter to 7.30pm in the summer. www.grutasmiradaire.com
The nearby village of Alvados also has caves that are well worth visiting. The Grutas de Santo António cover an area of 6,000 square metres and caverns with soaring ceilings as high as 43 metres. Opening hours are 10am to 6.30pm in summer and 10am to 5pm in the winter. www.grutassantoantonio.com
Crystal clear waters
For a breath of fresh Atlantic air head for Peniche and board the ferry to the archipelago of Berlenga, ten kilometres offshore. This group of islands are a nature reserve and are home to thousands of seabirds including puffins, guillemots, gulls, and cormorants. The crystal clear waters around the islands are designated as a marine reserve and are teeming with fish and marine life, making them a spectacular site for diving.
There is no permanent population on the island but it is possible to stay the night in the impressive 17th century fort, Forte de Sao Joao Baptista, with is joined to the island by a causeway. Part of the fort has been converted into a hostel with can be booked at Peniche Tourist Information (Tel: 262 789 571; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org). Visitor numbers to the islands are strictly controlled, and the one hour crossing can be rough in bad weather. Ferry information www.viamar-berlenga.com.