The nature of how one travels changes from person to person. Some explore and discover adventure, while others relax and unwind. Most locales lend themselves to either one or the other, and optimally both. Today, we discuss Vila Real de Santo António (VRSA), an off-the-beaten-path spot for rest, relaxation, shopping and dining.
One of the things that makes VRSA incredibly relaxing is that it is impossible to get lost, as the town was built on a grid system by the Marquês de Pombal following the 1755 earthquake. Further, the town centre features a picturesque promenade and harbour, and is full of shops, restaurants and cultural opportunities. Taking a slow approach to life seems baked into the very nature of the town, as is typical of southern Portugal.
There are two protected areas within the region - the Ria Formosa Natural Park and the Natural Marsh Reserve of Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santa António, both popular with hikers, birdwatchers and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. The Castro Marim village nearby boasts a historically important castle, church and fortress, and even serves as a ‘mini’ day trip within a day trip! The nearby beaches of Manta Rota and Monte Gordo are worth visiting as well.
But half the fun of going to VRSA is bouncing between her and Ayamonte, a town lying just across the Guadiana River, which serves as a natural border between Portugal and Spain. The ease of access between the two towns (with a 1.90€/person ferry trip leaving several times daily) allows travellers the opportunity to pop over to Spain and pick up those fortified wines and various Spanish sundries one simply won’t find in Portugal. There are a wide number of dining options available as well. Ah, Spanish food!
Full disclosure: while researching possible retirement options, I heard whisper of VRSA and secretly embedded a visit there into our ‘research itinerary’. It’s a quiet town, but with enough tourists to keep it interesting. All in all, while I may not have convinced @hangrywifey of the perfect Portuguese retirement location, through our conversations, I could tell that VRSA has a stronger than 50% chance of making it onto the list! Fingers crossed?
Of course, we would be happy to include a visit to VRSA/Ayamonte as an enjoyable dining and shopping day trip for DaHungryCouple guests. Portugal AND Spain in the same day!