Hotel Reviews - Europe

Explore Portugal away from the Algarve with a relaxing stay at Caracara

Caroline explores what Central Portugal has to offer…

It seems that most Brits holidaying in Portugal head to the Algarve. That’s a real shame because Central Portugal is a gem just waiting to be discovered and it’s only an hour and a quarter from Lisbon Airport. Of course it doesn’t have the beaches of the Algarve (although there are plenty of riverside beaches popular with the locals) but this is made up for by the fact that there are so many interesting places of cultural significance within easy driving distance on deserted roads.

An excellent place in which to base yourself is the area around the small town of Tomar and it was with this in mind that we decided to rent a beautiful apartment in the village of Quinta da Falcao, only ten minutes drive from Tomar.

The local town of Tomar

The local town of Tomar

The apartment is on the ground floor of Caracara, a gorgeous villa owned by a British couple who have lived in Portugal since 2007. They have a wealth of knowledge of the local region and are able to point their visitors in the direction of many lesser known attractions. They are also fluent Portuguese speakers which is in itself reassuring in case of emergency in an area where many of the local people only have a smattering of English.

Caracara

Caracara

The property runs down to the River Nabao in a series of terraced gardens and there is an obliging willow tree just begging you to bring your book and take shelter under its boughs on a hot afternoon. Being in Central Iberia the temperatures in the summer can be uncomfortably high: upper 30s on most of the days we were there! The pool (exclusively yours when you rent the apartment) and gazebo also provide relief from the sun.

The river at Caracara

The river at Caracara

The brutal heat had the advantage of making us get up early in order to do our sight seeing before it became impossibly hot and our days soon became an excellent mixture of culture and relaxation. We enjoyed some great trips to Ourem, Fatima, Obidos, Alcabaca, Batalha and Coimbra, as well as enjoying frequent forays into Tomar for the odd meal, a drink in the square, a wander by the river, a spot of shopping and of course a visit to the superb UNESCO listed Convento do Cristo towering above the town.

The monastery of Alcabaca

The monastery of Alcabaca

Coimbra

Coimbra

No matter how absorbing the monasteries, abbeys, hilltop villages and churches were, we were always pleased to pull up at Caracara, pour ourselves a glass of vinho Verde and sit with our books until it was cool enough to barbecue at the side of the pool. The surrounding countryside was extremely peaceful, despite being convenient for the motorway. The only sounds to be heard were the church bells striking the hour, the cicadas, a few sheep, the odd pheasant and some very vocal frogs.

Had we been unlucky with the weather, Caracara was as appealing indoors as out. It sleeps four comfortably, has a shower room as well as full en-suite bathroom, a cosy open plan sitting area with satellite TV and iPod docking station, a large dining area and well equipped kitchen with breakfast bar. It is also well stocked with books, games, badminton for the garden and a darts board by the barbecue.

Inside Caracara

Inside Caracara

Caracara is only available to rent for eight weeks of the year and it’s such a beautiful place I’m not surprised the owners want to keep it to themselves most of the time! If you fancy a change from a beach holiday and want to explore what Central Portugal has to offer, you couldn’t find a better base than Caracara.

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