Medieval magic: A trip to the picturesque towns of Obidos and Salir do Porto, Portugal

Step into the enchanting world of Obidos, a picturesque Portuguese town with a rich history that unfolds like a captivating tale. Derived from the Latin term Oppidum, signifying the primary settlement in ancient Roman administrative areas, Obidos nestles in the heart of the central region of Portugal, just 88 km from the vibrant city of Lisbon.

Perched atop a commanding hill, Obidos offers breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside, its castle and city walls echoing the strategic significance it held in days of yore. This historic location has witnessed the footsteps of Celts, Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, and Muslims, each leaving their mark on this hilltop.

During the five centuries of Muslim reign, around the 8th century, the Moors transformed this outpost into a city, fortifying the Roman settlement with a formidable wall that eventually evolved into a grand castle. Enter the scene, Afonso Henriques, Portugal’s first king, who conquered Obidos in 1148, integrating it into the kingdom. As the centuries unfolded, the town became a cherished dowry for Portuguese queens, evolving into the Vila das Rainhas or “Town of Queens.” 

Amidst the medieval allure, Queen Leonor, a woman of poise and influence, made a significant choice during this period of Obidos’s evolution. Following the tragic loss of her son, Infante D. Afonso, Queen Leonor found solace in Obidos. The settlement, with its newfound vibrancy, and the castle itself became her chosen residence, a retreat from the tumultuous winds of life. In the 15th century, the charming town of Obidos witnessed the birth of a settlement, gracefully unfolding to the west and southern confines of the castle walls.

Step into the world of medieval times as you wander among the interwoven cobbled white streets. Each corner reveals small houses of various shapes, blue and yellow window edges, red-tiled roofs and vibrant flowers on the walls. Obidos is a fairy-tale land, a photographer’s paradise, beckoning you to time travel to the Middle Ages.

Walk around Rua Direita, the main street adorned with shops offering arts and crafts, local handicrafts, and souvenirs. Here, you’ll also discover the town’s signature Ginjinha or Ginja, a sour cherry liquor. Ginjinha is one of the most famous drinks of Portugal, you can find a lot of Ginja varieties around Lisbon, but the Ginja of Obidos is a never-miss. The real highlight lies at the end of Rua Direita – the magnificent Castle of Obidos. Recognised as one of “The Seven Wonders of Portugal”, this Moorish castle and its 13-meter-high walls stretch to an incredible 1.6 km. Climb to the top for unparalleled views of the countryside and vineyards, especially during the enchanting sunset.

Climbing the walls of Obidos is the most exciting (and scary) part of the trip, you could choose to commute around town by just walking around the walls. From here one could witness magnificent views of the lush green countryside. These walls are very narrow at certain places, so one should be extra careful while treading through these stone fortifications.

Despite its modest size, Obidos boasts an impressive array of 14 churches (Igreja). Dive into the historical and artistic richness of Santa Maria Church, renowned for its stunning interior adorned with Azulejos blue tiles. Senhor Jesus da Pedra Church, with its baroque architecture and unique hexagonal shape, stands out prominently against the town walls. Don’t miss the iconic Porta da Vila, known as the town gate, and marvel at the beautiful Azulejo tiles that grace its second story. Straight ahead is the Sao Tiago Church, which, once used for ecclesiastical purposes, now breathes new life as a beautiful bookstore, adding a special charm to the place.

Obidos, where you will feel as if you got back in time, offers a unique combination of history, architecture, and fairy-tale streets. Take a chance and immerse yourself in this “Queen’s Town” to feel the magic.

How to reach Obidos from Lisbon:

Bus: The most convenient and cost-effective way is to take a bus. There are mainly three bus services – FlixBus, Rede Expressos or Rodoviária do Oeste. (Cost €10 / Rs. 906)

From Lisbon – Campo Grande or Oriente bus stations – Arrive at Rua da Praça, Obidos.

You could also take the bus to Caldas da Rainha, a beautiful neighbouring town and take a train to Obidos, it’s just a 5 min travel (Cost €2.5 / Rs. 230)

Car: If you’re driving, take the A8 highway from Lisbon to Obidos. The distance between Lisbon and Obidos is approximately 85.2 km.

Estimated cost for fuel and tolls: (€15 to €21 / Rs. 1360 to Rs. 1,900)

Taxi: You can opt for a taxi if you don’t prefer long waiting or sightseeing. The drive covers the same distance as the car route (around 85.2 km).

Taxi fare typically ranges from (€100 to €200 / Rs. 9,056 to Rs. 18,200).

Exploring the charms of Salir do Porto

From the boundless blue of the sky to the mesmerising emerald green sea, Salir do Porto opens a sensory marvel that supersedes the ordinary. Visualise the enchanting music of birds singing with the rhythmic lapping of water waves on the beach, children oozing down the dunes, and the subtle aroma of seaweed and salt carried by the sea breeze and a refreshing aroma of pine trees hovering over hills. Welcome one of the mesmerising hamlets of Portugal’s Silver Coast – Salir do Porto.

In this harmonious haven located on the south bank of São Martinho do Porto’s shell-shaped bay, nature unveils its simplest pleasures. Salir do Porto is a marriage of countryside and sea, inviting you to let your imagination roam freely. Once a bustling port, now a serene village with a relatively secluded beach, it wears the remnants of its historical significance like a badge of honour.

Salir do Porto’s rich history traces back even further, with evidence of Roman presence in the region predating the founding of the nation. Along the coastline, stories of faith and courage echo through time, shared by the village elders. The remnants of the 16th-century Salir Customs House, perched between the beach and the bar’s tip, offer a glimpse into the village’s maritime past. A narrow yet beautiful path leads to the ruins, providing a panoramic view of the bay. The ruins of the old customs house stand as silent witnesses to Salir do Porto’s maritime heyday. Among these ancient stones, caravels crafted from the Leiria pine forest once sailed into the annals of exploration. 

Portugal-towns

What makes Salir do Porto even more interesting is the legendary “Nau São Gabriel”, one of Vasco da Gama’s four fleets to India and a contributor to the exploration of Brazil. Nearby, the ruins of the Castle, steeped in legends of tunnels, pirates, and hidden treasures, add to the allure of this coastal gem.

As summer whispers on the horizon, the sun-kissed spring days beckon you to escape the hustle of Lisbon and explore Salir do Porto’s natural treasures. You can see the largest dune in Portugal, where Salir Beach, touched by the Tornada River, reveals a pristine river beach and a dune that reaches a towering 50 meters in height.

Continue your journey along the coast, where the Pocinhas de Salir, a freshwater spring with medicinal properties, awaits. The waters, rich in minerals, have been sought after for centuries, not only for drinking but also for therapeutic skin treatments in the freshwater pools formed during low tide.

Salir do Porto is also known for its traditional Portuguese culinary exploration. The village’s connection to both land and sea offers a taste of the local heritage and culinary traditions dating back to the Middle Ages. When in Salir, never forget to try the Grelhadas Mistas, a mix of grilled meats, often featuring a variety of cuts and sometimes served with piri-piri sauce for a spicy kick. Given its coastal location, Salir do Porto offers an abundance of fresh seafood, including dishes like Bacalhau grelhado, seafood stew, seafood and lobster rice, cod fish and ham, octopus and prawns with beans and so on.

Venture further to the northern tip of Salir do Porto, where the Capela de Santa Ana stands as a testament to the locals’ unwavering faith. Dating back to the 12th century, this chapel has witnessed prayers, blessings for fishermen, and the launching of boats into the vast sea. The viewpoint from this sacred site, especially during sunsets, provides an awe-inspiring panorama of the Atlantic on one side and the bay and village of São Martinho do Porto on the other.

Whether you choose to stroll along the dirt path or drive through nature’s embrace, the journey to the Capela de Santa Ana is an unforgettable experience. As you stand atop the hill, with the vast Atlantic stretching before you, and the picturesque bay at your back, Salir do Porto reveals itself as a hidden gem, waiting to be explored.

How to reach Salir do Porto from Lisbon:

Train: Depart from Lisboa – Sete Rios station to Caldas Da Rainha station.

From Caldas Da Rainha, you can then take a bus (line 5111) to reach Salir do Porto. Tickets cost around (€7 to €11 / Rs. 635 to Rs. 1,000).

Taxi: If you prefer a personalised ride, you could take a taxi from Lisbon. The distance from Lisbon to Salir do Porto is approximately 100 km. 

Taxi fare typically ranges from (€110 to €150 / Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 13,600).

Driving: If you have access to a car, you can drive from Lisbon to Salir do Porto. The drive covers around 97 km.

Estimated cost for fuel and tolls: (€16 to €25 / Rs. 1,450 to Rs. 2,300).