Category Archive: Travel Tips

Levada walks, something you must do in Madeira

By: Elisa C. De Melo

What is a levada?

If you are not Portuguese, and have never been to Madeira, chances are you probably have never heard of a “levada walk”. Since you are probably wondering what is this “thing” that we are suggesting for you to do, please allow us to clarify first what is a “Levada”. “Levada” is a Portuguese word that comes from the word “levar” (which means to carry). To be more accurate, a levada is  a small canal that carries water.

Levada. Photo: Tour Azores

These mini canals were developed long time ago, they date back to the 16th century. Built as irrigation systems to distribute water from rainfall and wet regions to the drier regions of the Island. Still today, these narrow water canals continue to deliver water to vineyards, banana plantations, fruit and vegetable gardens and the hydro-electric power stations around Madeira. The irrigation system now comprises more than 200 levadas, with an impressive 1,864 miles of mini canals and 25 miles of tunnels.

Levada walks:

Now you can assume what a “levada walk” is. The famous “levada walks” are walking trails in narrow paths beside the Levadas. They are the perfect activity for the explorer and nature lover that wants to enjoy a peaceful and relaxing walk away from the city. Levadas are inaccessible by car. They allow you to disconnect and venture into the island, without being afraid of getting lost.

Levada dos Cedros

Levada dos Cedros. Photo Courtesy of: @franciscocorreiaphotos

If you want to learn more about the Islands fauna and flora, admire panoramic and breathtaking landscapes and reconnect with yourself, then levada walks are for you. They are definitely one of the most unique experiences that you can have while visiting the Island!

Bird in Madeira

Fauna in Madeira. Photo courtesy of @goroholicza

Keep in mind that Levada walks range in difficulty, so if you are not an experienced walker you can choose an easy one, and if you are experienced then you can venture in one that would be more challenging.

Levada do Rei

Levada do Rei. Photo: @thewanderlustwithin

What to bring?

We recommend to bring proper walking shoes, socks and clothes, camera or phone, binoculars, hat, a light rain jacket and a light backpack loaded with water, a mix trail, snacks and a sandwich. During your walk you will surely find a place to sit down, take a bite and relax. It could even be next to a waterfall!

Levada Fãja do Rodrigues

Levada Fãja do Rodrigues. Photo courtesy of: @josemata1818

As with any place that you visit, we would like to cordially ask to pick up your trash and carry it with you until you can dump it in a proper garbage can. We want to preserve the beauty and nature of these places so that they continue to be enjoyed by future generations.

Are you ready to discover the best of Madeira by foot? Then let’s go for a levada walk!

We have several tours to Madeira where you can add a levada walk tour:

Madeira and Azores Tour

Madeira and Lisbon Tour

New Years in Madeira 2019-2020

Levada 25 Fontes

Levada 25 Fontes. Photo courtesy of @philecureuil

 

 

 

Best “Tascas” in Lisbon

If you want to be authentic and eat like a local, you should definitely go to a “Tasca”. And what is this thing that all the Portuguese people love so much?

“Tascas” are known to be inexpensive, most of the times they are tiny spaces that serve home-style food in large portions at affordable prices. The only risk here is that you might feel so comfortable that it would seem like you’re at home. These traditional places are great to learn more about Portuguese culture because for us Portuguese, having a meal is an important part of our daily routine.

Here are some of the ones that I highly recommend:

 

This is the kind of place that feels like home, it is very typical and familiar. Even the paving (floor) is typical from Portugal, the Calçada Portuguesa, one of the oldest features of the city, it is one of Lisbon’s trademarks.

Contacts: Tv. do Sequeiro 38, 1200-259 Lisboa, Portugal. +351 21 347 9243.

 

This is the best place for “petiscos” (typical tasty delicacies similar to tapas) like moelas or pataniscas. This is the typical Tasca, where you have the traditional environment of a tavern, with the aluminum display case and the enormous jugs of wine.

Contacts: Rua dos Sapateiros, 230 Lisboa 1100-581.213425135. https://www.facebook.com/Merendinha-do-Arco-363697533735831/

 

This Tasca is very known for the Fado (popular Portuguese music genre), here you can eat traditional Portuguese food while enjoying traditional Fado music, normally accompanied by Portuguese guitar.

Contacts: R. do Diário de Notícias 39, 1200-141 Lisboa, Portugal. +351 961 339 696. http://www.tascadochico.com/

 

The best dish to eat here is the “bacalhau” (codfish), this restaurant, located in Mouraria has tasteful traditional Portuguese food.

Contacts: R. João do Outeiro 24, 1100-584 Lisboa, Portugal. +351 21 886 5436.

 

This place has all the traditional Portuguese food you can think of, the pleasant atmosphere allows you to taste some of the best wines of Portugal. It’s the perfect combination between a restaurant and a tavern.

Contacts: Rua dos Fanqueiros, 161, Lisboa. 218 870 290.

 

This is definitely an affordable place that you don’t want to skip. The barbecue, especially the entrecosto (pork ribs) is great and served in big portions so that you can share it.

Contacts: Beco dos Surradores, 3, Lisboa. +351 218 869 641.

 

  • Rui do Barrote

The “picanha”, “maminha” and “bitoque” steak are a must try, this restaurant has great beef and well-grilled strips that you should not miss. It is in Marvila, a neighborhood that is becoming a hot spot.

Contacts: Rua Zofimo Pedroso 33, Lisbon 1950-290, Portugal. +351 21 868 9300.

 

Tascas are very simple, cheap and typical but the pleasant flavor is appreciated by everyone. The food is well served, looks homemade and the dishes are typical Portuguese foods. It’s a great way to know more about Portuguese Culture without breaking the bank!

 

Written by Ines Andrade e Sousa, Master in Tourism and Communication.

 

References:

AFAR: The Experiential Travel Guide (2019). Retrieved from https://www.afar.com/

New in Town (2019). Retrieved from https://nit.pt/

Time Out Lisboa https://www.timeout.pt/lisboa/pt

A tasca do Chico http://www.tascadochico.com/

Taberna da baixa https://www.tabernadabaixa.pt/

Thermal Baths and Spas in the Azores

The Azores archipelago is known not only for its natural beauty and landscapes, but also for the natural properties and health benefits its thermal waters provide. This list will provide you with the most updated and comprehensive information of Spas with thermal water pools and natural thermal baths located in the Islands of São Miguel and Graciosa.

São Miguel Island:

Spas with Thermal Baths

Furnas Boutique Hotel:

The 4 star boutique hotel is located in Furnas, site of the largest concentration of thermal waters in Europe. The hotel features contemporary rooms and suites in a tranquil environment, tasty traditional Azorean meals at its restaurant “À Terra”, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and a Spa and Wellness Center.

The hotel Spa Center has 10 treatment Rooms, floatbed, Shirodhara (massage with oils flow), Vichy Shower and Hydro Massage, Sauna, Hamam and a Fitness Center.

indoor pool

Photo: Furnas Boutique Hotel

Termas da Ferraria:

Located in Ponta da Ferraria, Termas da Ferraria is a contemporary oceanfront retreat featuring multiple geothermal pools, spa services and a restaurant.

Photo: Termas da Ferraria Spa

Pedras do Mar Resort and Spa:

The Resort Spa, “Pedras D’Alma” (Stones of the soul), features a beauty and well-being center, indoor pool with jacuzzi, sauna, turkish bath with chromotherapy and gym. Outside, you can enjoy the pool with sea view, play tennis and explore the Saint Peter walking trail and its natural pools.
Its restaurant, Meia Nau, serves food inspired in local gastronomy. Its bar, serves light meals and cocktails that can be enjoyed near the outdoor pool.

Photo: Pedras do Mar Resort and Spa

Terra Nostra Garden Hotel:

Located in the Furnas Valley, Terra Nostra Garden Hotel is surrounded by trees, calderas, mineral and thermal springs. Next to the Terra Nostra Botanical Park, it features indoor and outdoor thermal pools and is a short drive from volcanic beaches, forest areas, and two golf courses. The hotel’s restaurant serves local dishes, while the bar offers refreshing drinks.

Photo: Terra Nostra Garden Hotel

Thermal Baths:

Ponta da Ferraria:

Natural thermal-water pools along the ocean, reachable via a climb over basalt rocks and a ladder where you can enjoy the mix of hot thermal water and cold ocean water.

Ferraria’s natural pools are warmed by two springs of thermal waters of volcanic origin. They are considered a unique case in the world, due to the existence of thermal salt water with a very high sulfur content. It is said that the water, cures problems of rheumatism and are also used to treat diseases of other geneses.

Ponta da Ferraria São Miguel

Photo: www.ponta-delgada.com

Parque Terra Nostra:

With a temperature between 35º-40º Celsius (95º-104º F) , the thermal spring that supplies the pool is charged with essential minerals. Surrounded by vegetation and large trees, it is one of the best ways to restore one’s energy and experience the mystical natural surroundings characteristic of Terra Nostra Park and the Valley of Furnas.

thermal outdoor pool

Photo: Parque Terra Nostra

Poça da Dona Beija:

Offers 5 different natural thermal pools with a breathtaking tropical landscape, showers and a gift shop. A place where you can restore and revitalize the harmony between body, mind and nature. According to Dona Beija’s website, the high iron content of its water springs is said to combat anemia, allergies, acne in children and parasitic diseases. The clay and mud found in the pools are suitable for pelotheraphy.

Photo: Poça Da Dona Beija

Caldeira Velha:

Located on the north slope of the Fogo Volcano, Caldeira Velha is a waist-high pool of mineral water located under a warm waterfall. The magical atmosphere makes it the perfect place to end a busy or active day. Dive in the pool, relax and enjoy!

Photo: Gregor Samsa (Flickr)

Graciosa Island:

Carapacho Thermal Spa:

The spa offers a breathtaking landscape, it has an indoor swimming pool with salt water at 37º Celsius (95º-104º F), and it is very affordable (about 1 euro per person).

Photo: Visit Azores

Termas do Carapacho

The Carapacho springs are located by the sea, in the southeast of the island of Graciosa, among black basalt rocks that contrast with the blue of the sea. Its thermal stations are equipped with 16 individual immersion cabins and a medical office. The thermal water comes from a water spring situated within the thermal stations’ building. It is said that this water has been used since 1750 in the treatment of rheumatism, colitis and skin diseases. Water temperature varies from 35º- 40º Celsius (98.6º F).

Photo: Pinterest

The most wonderful time of the year, Christmas in Lisbon

Lisbon is one of the most charismatic and vibrant cities of Western Europe. Its amazing weather and affordability make it the perfect holiday destination. If you will be spending the most wonderful time of the year in the city of light, this list might be of good use to you.

Places that you must see during Christmas in Lisbon:

  1. Have a walk at Praça de D. Pedro IV, also known as Rossio. Decorated with Christmas lights, is a very nice area to walk around and enjoy traditional Portuguese pastries. Here you will find Lisbon’s oldest pastry shops, Confeitaria National and Pastelaria Suíça.

    Lisbon Confeitaria National.

    Photo: Confeitaria National

  2. Head to Praça do Comércio, once home of the Royal Family. This square is decorated every year, just like the Rossio Square, and it’s only a 10-minute walk away from it. Last year, its Christmas tree was the largest in Europe (more than 230 feet tall). Source here.

    Christmas Tree at Praça do Comércio in Lisbon.

    Photo: g.viegas

  3. Visit Estrela Basilica, Mártires Basilica, Lisbon Cathedral, the National Museum of Ancient Art and the National Tile Museum to admire the impressive 17th and 18th century nativity scenes made for the aristocracy.

    Lisbon Presépio

    Presépio de Machado de Castro Basílica da Estrela, Lisboa. Photo: www.barry4kids.net

  4. Attend a concert. This is the best time to attend classical music concerts and events, which take place in churches and theaters. Check out Lisbon’s cultural agenda for more information.

    Christmas Concert in Lisbon

    Teatro Nacional de São Carlos. Photo: Alfredo Rocha

  5. Have fun at Wonderland Lisboa, a Christmas fair where you’ll find: music, fair rides, food and drink, ice rink, a cave and other seasonal entertainment. More information here.

    Wonderland Lisbon

    Photo: www.evasoes.pt

  6. Go shopping. If you are in the mood for Christmas shopping, check out Avenida da Liberdade, Centro Colombo, Amoreiras Shopping Center and Armazéns do Chiado. For alternative boutiques and traditional Portuguese products head to Bairro Alto.

    Lisbon Avenida da Liberdade.

    Avenida da Liberdade. Photo: @diogo.santosremax

  7. Eat traditional food. Find a place to enjoy a “bolo-rei”, one of the traditional Christmas desserts!
Lisbon Bolo Rei.

Bolo Rei. Photo: @vincechierchia

We hope you enjoy yourself in Lisbon, if you are already there and have seen other places of interest please do let us know! Happy Holidays!

New Year’s in Madeira

The New Year’s celebration in Madeira is centered in Funchal, where the fireworks display takes place along the city’s natural amphitheater, filling the sky with colorful lights and rumbling noises that excites spectators of all ages.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records in 2006-2007, the fireworks display in the Island of Madeira was classified as the “Greatest Fireworks Show in the World”. The Island held this title until 2012.  Macedo’s Pirotecnia strategically set up the 37 staggering firing stations, with an estimated cost over 1 million Euros for an 8-10 minute show.  Just to give you an idea of how magnificent the show is, 17 tons of fireworks with more than 660 discharges at a rate of more than 8,000 discharges per minute.

Every year, numerous cruise ships and boats fill the harbor to witness the incredible spectacle that draws people from all over the world. There are many viewpoints to watch the fireworks show. You can watch it from your hotel balcony (if it faces the bay and is well positioned in the hillsides), join the fun crowds in the streets, or rent a boat/catamaran and watch it from the sea. Madeira is without doubt an incredible place to celebrate the  New Year, an experience that you won’t see or feel anywhere else.

This is a video of last year’s display, created by Hey Productions.

Obtaining Euros in the Azores (Part 1)- ATM’s

One of the most asked questions that we get is how do we obtain euros to spend on our vacation?

In this video, Ed explains one of the methods in acquiring euros when you are in the Azores.

Continue Reading

Calling home from the Azores

One of the more frequently asked questions that we get from our clients is about calling home from the Azores or mainland Portugal.

We came up with the following list of the best options, ordered by cost, to call home from the Azores and Portugal:

Continue Reading