Easily accessible from both Lisbon and Porto, the Central region of Portugal is one of the most interesting regions of the Iberian peninsula, with its UNESCO World Heritage sites, old towns and villages and attractive inland area.
Located just off the A1 motorway half way between Lisbon and Porto, Coimbra is one of the great historic university towns of Europe. Its university is one of the 10 oldest in Europe, and the old university buildings (photo top) are classed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
In the north of the region, a short distance from the Douro wine area, lies the valley of the Côa, a tributary of the Douro, whose Paleolithic and Iron Age engravings make it the most significant outdoor Paleolithic rock art site in the world.
Closer to Lisbon, and within 25 km of each other are two UNESCO listed monasteries, the 12th-13th century Cistercian Alcobaça Monastery, and the fifteenth century late gothic monastery at Batalha. The Alcobaça monastery is the largest church in Portugal, and has one of the largest medieval gothic cloisters in Europe. Forty minutes' drive to the west lies the small town of Tomar, with a third UNESCO World Heritage site. This is the Convent of Christ, an extensive and fortified complex that was once the headquarters of the Knights Templar in Portugal. Built between the 12th and 17th centuries, the Convent is a remarkable architectural ensemble; the charola, or round church, now renevoted to all its former splendour, is one of the finest decorated churches in Europe.
Between Tomar and Batalha, some visitors may want to stop off at Fatima, one of the great Marian pilgrimage centres of Europe
Other worthwhile places to visit include Piódão, the walled town of Óbidos, Viseu, Guarda, or the historical centre of Trancoso. For those in search of Portugal's great outdoors, the Central Region includes the Serra da Estrela range, the highest point in continental Portugal,,,, and a winter sports resort. In the far northwest of the region, not far from Porto, hikers will enjoy the walkways of Passadiços do Paiva - Paiva walkways - 516 Arouca Bridge, the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in Europe. 516 metres long, this modern attraction is suspended 175 m (574 ft) above the Paiva River, and is not for the faint-hearted.
The coast of the Central region offers miles of largely unspoiled beaches, such as Nazaré or Peniche which, like those further south, offer great opportunities for surfing.
The mountains of the Serra da Estrela, the highest point in Continental Portugal
Map from OpenStreetMap