Carregal do Sal
This is a small town, approx. 7 kilometres from Retiro no Rio, where you will find small bars, restaurants and a variety of shops and banks. There is also a well stocked supermarket. A motorway leads to this small town and there is a railway link to Coimbra.
Viseu used to be the capital city, which has a certain aristocratic character.
Piódão (1.5 hours)
No doubt this is one of the most interesting Portuguese villages. In 1978 it was classed a Monument of General Interest and is therefore a protected rural area. Because of its classification as an historic village of Portugal all houses with plastered walls and tiled roofs had to be converted to slated walls and roofs whereas also all new buildings had to maintain a slated exterior. Why all windows and doors of the houses in Piódão have this typical blue colour is still a mystery. The most plausible story is that one day a huge drum with blue paint arrived at this isolated village. All villagers used this paint, after which this colour became traditional.
Serra da Estrela (40 minutes)
This National Park with the highest mountain on mainland Portugal, the “Torre” (1993m) can best be reached via the small town of Seia. Early in the nineteenth century the then King had a 7 meter tower built on top of the mountain, thereby reaching a height of 2,000 meters. One feature of this mountain is its slopes strewn with gigantic boulders, in which all kinds of grotesque patterns/figures can be seen (e.g. Cabeça do Velho). This is where the river Mondego, which flows next to Retiro no Rio, rises. During the winter months there is the possibility to ski at the highest slopes. The ski resort is still limited, but is being extended regularly with new descents and ski lifts. You will find there are lots of trails, covering a large part of this area, which routes are signposted all along. Although there are shorter trails, some of them will take several days.When visiting Serra da Estrela it is definitely worth your while to visit Seia, Manteigas, Folgosinho, Linhares, Gouveia, Penhas Douradas and the reservoir Vale de Rossim.
Coimbra (45 minutes)
Situated on the shores of the Mondego, Coimbra is the Oxford of Portugal. Life in this city is dominated by one of the world’s oldest universities (established in the year 1290 and in the year 2007 counting with approx. 22,000 students). Quite often the male students will still walk around dressed in their long black capes. The Fado of Coimbra is a musical mixture. Students from all corners of the world would bring along their own ways of making music, which resulted in the Fado of Coimbra. The Fado of Coimbra, which, if possible, is even more melancholic, fatalistic and heartrending than the Fado of Lisbon, has not yet reached the same tourist attraction as the Fado in Lisbon.One of the main places of interest is of course the university, with all its campus buildings. The main buildings are based in a 16th century palace. Also the baroque university library is overwhelming. From that spot there is a magnificent view of the town and the Mondego River. Downtown there is a pleasant shopping centre with lots of narrow little roads, reminiscent of an oriental bazaar. Food and drinks at the bars and restaurants are very reasonable priced.
Conimbriga (75 minutes)
This place is the archaeological site of a Roman City.
Guarda (1 hour)
This is the highest city (altitude of 1,060m) of Portugal.
Buçaco National Park (1 hour)
In this partly tropical nature reserve quite near to Luso and northeast of Coimbra on the slopes of Serra do Buçaco, you will find approx. 300 exotic and 400 indigenous plants and trees: enormous cedars (some of which will reach 35m) from Lebanon, Mexico, Africa and India, next to cypress trees, ginkgos, palm trees, oak and pine, as well as mimosa, rhododendron, hydrangeas and magnolia. In spring the pear trees, plums and citrus trees are blooming. Those interested will find there are many kinds of birds and approx. 70 different kinds of butterflies. This park, of approx. 500 hectares is enclosed by a wall with a length of 5.7 kilometres with 9 entrances.
Figueira da Foz (1.5 hours)
This city lies at the Rio Mondego estuary (=foz). This is a much frequented resort which counts with a long stretch of beach, hundreds of meters wide.