There are many more reasons than 12 for visiting the Region of Leiria and Santarem, but we’ll give you these for now. You will find out the rest in loco! Don’t waste time, pack your bags!
In the winter of 2011, Nazare joined the route of giant wave surfers after Garrett McNamara surfed a wave the size of which impressed everyone: 98 feet, which is the equivalent to a ten-floor building. The greatest wave ever surfed attracts thousands of tourists and surfers every year.
The giant waves of Nazare’s North Beach are higher than any other on the Portuguese coast due to the Nazare Canyon – a tectonic submarine canyon, which is associated with the geological fault. Waves are able to achieve greater speed due to the geological fault, hence arriving on the coast without losing energy. This canyon is located 1640 feet away from the coast.
The Municipality of Ferreira do Zezere hides some unexpected surprises, such as the Second Greatest Artificial Lake in Portugal, which is one of the greatest in Europe. Tourists from all over the world head towards this location every year in order to practise water sports like wakeboarding.
For those seeking contact with nature in a peaceful environment, Ferreira do Zezere is the place for you. When visiting this municipality in Ribatejo, you cannot forget to pass through the colourful village of Dornes and the endless fluvial beaches (only some are supervised). While visiting, please turn off your phone, shut your eyes, and listen to the twittering of birds and the buzzing of bees.
It is the one place in Portugal with the most seagulls per square metre. The Berlenga Archipelago comprises three small islands: Farilhoes, Estelas, and Berlenga Grande. Berlenga is the largest and most visited.
The Berlengas Natural Reserve is considered as World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. Some birds nest in the Berlengas, which is the case of the guillemot, the shearwater, the European shag, and the seagulls.
The Berlenga is approximately six miles away from Cabo Carvoeiro and you need a boat in order to get there. This visit is worth it for the landscapes and discovery of a unique island.
These are one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Portugal and the greatest in the country. The entry to the caves is impressive: as you can see from the name, the Big Room is a large space with stalactites and stalagmites of all shapes and sizes.
Then you will go all the way down reaching a depth of 360 feet. During this visit you can also see limestone formations such as the Jellyfish, the Small Lakes, the Martian, the Boca do Inferno (Hell’s Mouth), and the Organ. The Black River winds along this cave and flows into the Great Lake. At the end of the visit, there is a show of light, sound, and water.
The Natural Heritage around Fatima is so diverse that it is hard to choose! Let us start with the oldest: 175 million years ago the sauropod dinosaurs passed through a village that is very close to Fatima. The proof is engraved in the limestone slabs.
If you enjoy geology and speleology, you will like to know that this region is filled with caves: Coin, Saint Anthony, Alvados, Mira D’Aire, Lapas, Avecasta, and the Pena Algar caves.
If you like exploring nature but you do not enjoy the underground, we suggest a visit to the Rio Maior Salt Mines, Lis River Waterfalls, Alviela River Waterfalls, Almonda River Waterfalls, Paul do Boquilobo, Buraco Roto, Fornea, or Ventas do Diabo (Devil’s Nostrils).
It is practically impossible to speak of the region and not speak of the Sanctuary of Fatima. It is one of the greatest Marian sanctuaries in the entire world and approximately six million people come here every year.
A place of pilgrimage, faith, and devotion, the most symbolic sites in the Sanctuary are the Chapel of the Apparitions – which was built where the Virgin Mary is sought to have appeared before the Little Shepherds; the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary – which holds the tombs of Saints Francisco and Jacinta Marto; the Basilica of the Holy Trinity; the Large Holm Oak; the block of the Berlin Wall; the Sanctuary’s Museum; and the Colonnade.
A region with strong religious traditions. In addition to the Sanctuary of Fatima, this region also comprises the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Ortiga (Fatima), the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Miracles (Leiria), and the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Nazare (Nazare).
Connection to nature – particularly agriculture – is well anchored in the region, in Santarem. On Easter Monday, the vessels are blessed in Constancia. A unique pilgrimage where hundreds of boats fill the Tagus and Zezere rivers with colour.
Later on, in June, the National Fair of Agriculture shows the best Portugal has to offer in terms of agriculture, gastronomy, livestock raising, handicraft, and machinery. During the fair, visitors may take part in the traditional Largadas de Toiros (bulls set loose) and watch the cowboys parade and perform.
While in November, around St. Martin’s day, Golega shows why it is known as the ‘Horse Riding Capital’. For many days, horse breeders come from all over the world to witness in person the fame of the Portuguese horses.
This is the only one of all the Portuguese castles that is built on the central stretch of a river. The origins of the Castle of Almourol are unknown and enigmatic. Some defend that it was built by the pre-Romans, while others defend that it were the Lusitanian. One thing is certain, the project instigators made the Tagus River even more beautiful by devising the Castle of Almourol on that small island.
The region of Leiria and Santarem was particularly important in the 12th century during the Christian Reconquest. The many castles watching over the landscape – from Pombal to Abrantes and from Ourem to Obidos – are proof of that. The Convent of Christ and the Monastery of Alcobaça are also a result of the time of reconquest and re-population.
But there is more, this region holds one of the most brilliant treasures in the History of Portugal: the Monastery of Batalha. This Portuguese Gothic work of art took almost two centuries to be built and is currently the most visited monument outside of Lisbon.
Still in the area, we find symbolic monuments, such as the Synagogue of Tomar, the Fort of Peniche, and the Practical School of Cavalry, in Santarem. In the latter, you will also find many impressive churches justifying the awarded title of ‘Gothic Capital’ to the city of Santarem.
When you observe the pictures you took from this region, you will see that they all look like authentic postcards. It is hard to pick the most beautiful area!
From the Atlantic to the fluvial beaches; from the green areas of Serra D'Aire to the D. Dinis pine grove; from the typical village of Dornes to the fishing villages; from the caves to the breathless belvederes.
Many of these landscapes will conquer your heart and will stay forever in your memory!
We invite you to travel without leaving your table. We suggest Alpiarça’s Melon and Ribatejo's Ham for your entrée. You should also taste some of the region's flavours, such as the traditional Rice Black Pudding or the Chorizo.
For soup, we have Almeirim’s Sopa da Pedra or Fish Soup from the River. Then we suggest two main dishes, one meat dish and a fish dish. Let us start with the fish: try the codfish and chick-pea, which is traditionally from Alvaiazere, or fish from the river, like the Mullet or the Eel, which are traditionally from around the Tagus. For the meat dish, we suggest the Seasoned Bull Steak which is traditionally from Santarem, or the Tachadeu (fried pork served in a clay pot) traditionally from Leiria.
For dessert, you should finish with confectionery products like the Pampilho (Santarem), Breezes of Lis (Leiria), Cornucopia, Castanha de Ovos – Egg Chestnuts (Alcobaça), or the Tigelada (Ferreira do Zezere). If you prefer fruit, then we recommend Alcobaça’s Apples or Rocha Pears, Pafarrao’s oranges, or the Melon that is traditionally from Ribatejo.
We suggest Tagus’ wines to go with your meal, from the sub-regions of Cartaxo, Santarem, Almeirim, Coruche, Tomar, or Chamusca. These sub-regions comprise red and white wine made with native grapes, such as Arinto, Fernao Pires, and Rabo-de-Ovelha Vital (white) as well as Baga, Trincadeira, and Castelao, which are associated with foreign grape varieties like the Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and white Chardonnay.
Fatima is in the centre of the country, one hour away from Lisbon, and less than two hours away from Oporto. Your journey from here to anywhere in Portugal will not take more than five hours.
This area is filled with culture, heritage, gastronomy, landscapes, beaches, and many ‘excuses’ to stay longer in the heart of Portugal.