Pairing walking routes with traditional dishes in Portugal

Jack Montgomery, 29 November, 2019
For its size, Portugal is remarkably diverse when it comes to both natural and gastronomic attributes, as Buzz Trips' Jack Montgomery explains...

Different regions of this thin strip of a country have distinctive personalities in terms of appearance, cultural ambience and gastronomy. Restaurant menus tend to reflect and compliment the terrain on which we tread – hale, hearty and meaty inland with a contrasting fish, seafood and Mediterranean culinary vibe in coastal areas.

From the border with Spain in the north to the beaches of its southern coastline, here are suggested hiking and dining pairings to help walkers who relish sampling local specialities immerse themselves in Portugal's food scene as well as its natural one.
Coastal delights on the Algarve
The route: Hanging Valleys (Algarve's Coast and Hills)
The air at the saw-toothed coastline between Benagil and Albandeira is perfumed with the intoxicating scent of cistus. The path weaves along corn-coloured cliffs above dreamy golden beach after dreamy golden beach; sandy coves accessible only from the sea; artistic arches carved into the cliff-face by wind and waves; lone fishermen perched on surreal rock formations; and a dazzling aquamarine Atlantic.

The dish: There are fish restaurants at Benagil, perfect for a post-walk feast of the Algarve's signature dish, cataplana – a flavoursome stew, usually consisting of fish and seafood, cooked in the clam-shaped copper pot which gave the dish its name.
Deep rooted traditions in the Minho
The route: Facha to Ponte de Lima (Manor Houses of the Minho)
Minho is old Portugal, an elegant region of stately manor houses, arboured vineyards and rolling hills. If the Portuguese were to make their version of Downton Abbey I suspect they'd set it here. The route meanders along narrow, cobbled lanes to reach the hamlet of Passagem where corncob carpets dry in the sunshine. From here it follows the course of the River Lima, maybe passing an occasional heron or blink-and-you'll-miss-it kingfisher, to Portugal's oldest town, Ponte de Lima.

The dish: Sarrabulho is so popular there are sarrabulho cofradias (guilds) and festivals dedicated to it. It's a two part concoction that requires an appetite of ravenous proportions. One consists of a risotto-like combination of rice, blood sausage and cubes of meat. The other involves a mini mountain of pork, chicken, beef, sausage, blood sausage and potatoes.
Captivating Costa Vicentina
The route: The Fishermen's Trail (Along the Costa Vicentina & A Coast of Many Colours)
Alentejo's coast is the Algarve's more adventurous twin. It also boasts glorious beaches of Sahara Desert proportions and dramatically surreal rock formations. But it is a wilder landscape with more birds and butterflies than people; a coastline where storks nest on sea stacks and eagle-eyed walkers may spot otters or Mediterranean tree frogs amidst the low-lying, colourful wild flora. Whilst this isn't hilly terrain, walking on the Costa Vicentina's soft, sand paths soon builds up a healthy appetite.

The dish: Carne de porco à Alentejana. Portugal's surf and turf dish of clams with pork marinated in white wine, garlic and bay leaves was actually created in the Algarve. But the pork is from Alentejo and it's found on menus everywhere in the country's biggest and most underpopulated region.
Wild at heart Peneda-Gerês
The route: Peneda to Soajo (High Paths of Northern Portugal)
This is an exhilarating route across the high mountains of Portugal, leading from a religious sanctuary nestled in a ravine into Portugal's rural past. The journey involves climbing in and out of verdant valleys, passing through tiny villages, strolling alongside gurgling streams, and crossing grassy plateaus with panoramic views of Portugal's only National Park, ravishing and untamed Peneda-Geres. Finally, a delightful Medieval road descends to the homely mountain village of Soajo.

The dish: By the time you arrive in Soajo you're ready for a hearty meal, which is just as well as the 'must try' dish in Peneda-Gerês is a belly buster. Cachena (meat from the long-horn cattle which wander freely in the park) is generally served as oversized steaks accompanied by batatas a murro (punched potatoes).
Alluring Arrábida
The route: Azeitao to Portinho (From Cape to Castle)
Arrábida Natural Park is close to Lisbon, yet doesn't feel like it; we describe it as being rural but not remote. This land south of the Tagus, once favoured by some of Portugal's explorers, is still undiscovered walking country. As a result, mainly unmarked paths lead from Azeitão's neat vineyards through cork forest and stone pines to a secluded convent in a stunner of a setting. The route ends at a fishing hamlet where a brace of restaurants on stanchions jut out over the turquoise water.

The dish: Mention the Setúbal Peninsula to the Portuguese and the chances are their immediate reaction will include the words choco frito (fried cuttlefish). It is the dish of the area and locals can't get enough of it. It's a brave person who owns a restaurant there who doesn't include it on their menu.

Article in association with the Portuguese National Tourist Board.

Self-guided walking holidays in Portugal

Whatever your preference regarding scenery or cuisine, we have a walking holiday to suit – from rewarding hikes in the country's only National Park, just beneath the border with Spain, to gentler strolls in some of the Algarve's lesser-known beauty spots. We also offer a choice of walking holidays on Portugal's alluring Atlantic islands, Madeira and the Azores.
More about our self-guided walking holidays in Portugal >
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