Hi all! This post will start a series of posts about my “goodbye” to Portugal before I go to the US. As I write this post, I should be taking off from Lisbon in 1 week from now in order to head towards my new life in the US. I know I have a few things in delay but life has been crazy! But one thing that I committed myself to do when I wrote my new year’s resolutions here on the blog was to make one last trip in Portugal before I left. Since we wanted a low cost trip, we decided to buy an Intra Rail Xcape pass. This pass includes unlimited travels in the Portuguese National train company, Comboios de Portugal – CP for three days and two nights at any Pousada de Juventude (Hostelling International) managed by Movijovem. The pass covers for nights in dorms but you can stay in a double/twin room upon paying the difference. For European Youth Card holders, like I am, the pass costs 58€. If you are not, the pass is 64€, so there’s not much of a difference.
This product has a good intention (there’s also a pass for 7 days/6nights), but there are some issues that make it less used than it could. Many of the youth hostels are kind of away from train lines. Also, the number of train lines in Portugal has been decreasing and, outside Lisbon and Porto regions, the number of daily trains is quite reduced and some train stations can even be 4Kms away from the city centres, which is a lot of walking. Nevermind, for me there’s no problem! We got a cold Winter weekend (cold for Portugal, there were even temperatures quite close to 0ºC), but it was super sunny, so there’s no problem walking apart from carrying the backpacks.
After carefully checking the offer, we decided to visit a part of Portugal we have never been to, the Beira Baixa region, and follow the railway all the way up from Lisbon to Covilhã (technically, the Beira Baixa railway only starts in Abrantes, but we needed to get there), with the two cities approximately 280 Kms apart, and chose to sleep one night at the Abrantes Youth Hostel and another at the Castelo Branco Youth Hostel.
We had the following stops along the way. This post will focus more on the train ride and Intra Rail experience itself. The railway is filled with beautiful train stations, full of tiles and a vintage feel, so that alone makes the trip very interesting too.
- Vila Franca de Xira
- Vila Velha de Ródão
- Castelo Branco
Sometimes it was hard to take pictures from the train because of the sunlight and reflex, but I wil break down the railway into the several stages with whatever I managed. This report will start in Vila Franca de Xira since the train ride from Lisbon was so short and I was too distracted. Shame on me!
Vila Franca de Xira – Abrantes
This segment is very peaceful in the beginning, surrounding the “lezírias” (fertile land fields) and the Tagus river, filled with green and shallow landscapes. No good pictures of that unfortunately. We had to exchange trains in Entroncamento, the town and train station known by being a railway hub since the 19th century. There is even a Railway Museum there, but there was no time to check it out since we had like 5 minutes before the next train departed.
The real deal with this trip was yet to start. We changed into the smallest train ever from the Alto Alentejo line, heading towards the city of Portalegre. It stops in Abrantes before it heads southeast.
This segment until Abrantes is almost always right by the Tagus river and the first noticeable point is passing right through Castelo de Almourol, a castle in a small isle in the river! You can get to the castle by going out in either Tancos or Almourol and from there catching a boat to the castle. The schedules of the trains are quite crazy though and not very compatible with the opening times of the castle.
Another thing I loved was the red bridge crossing the Tagus. And the ever present tiled train stations.
The closer we get to Abrantes, the taller the trees get, with such wintery colors of brown, yellow and red.
Abrantes – Vila Velha de Ródão
We woke up early in a really cold and foggy day to catch the train to Vila Velha de Ródão. We continued right by the Tagus to get closer and closer to Spain and I hoped to take stunning pictures. It was quite hard because of the sun being so low and the fog, but the river was kind of smokey, it looked like a hot thermal river in activity! It was so curious. I assume that small parts of the river frosted during the night and it was sublimating (that is, going from ice into steam directly) in a really weird way. Anyway I have no idea if this is correct by any means, seems too farfetched!
We also passed through Belver. We had hoped to spend some time there, visit the Castle, the Soap Museum, and do a small hike along the river, but the train timetable was not so convenient. Anyway, when the train stopped there, the fog lifted and I got a nice picture from the Castle. It’s on my watch list when I come back definitely!
On the way to Ródão, the landscape turns into a more rough one, which reminds me of the Douro Valley railway (still have to write about that, the ULTIMATE railway ride you should do in Portugal!). Before getting to Ródão, we also passed through Barragem de Fratel, a dam that caused the increase of water levels and caused several pre-historical paintings to drown.
Right before arriving to Vila Velha de Ródão, we passed through the Natural Monument of Portas de Ródão, resulting from erosion of the Tagus river into a rocky complex, opening a “gate” for the river to pass many millions of years ago. We later hiked a trail to see it in all its glory. The photo from the train is not good, stay tuned for the blogpost!
Vila Velha de Ródão – Castelo Branco
In this train line you leave the Tagus river to the south and start going up towards the mountains. Most of the time, however, the landscape is very plane and the warm colors and olive trees dominate the sights. It kind of looks like Alentejo! I took very few pictures but here they come.
Castelo Branco – Covilhã
Going further north, we will get closer to two large mountains (for Portuguese standards, of course!): Serra da Gardunha and Serra da Estrela. Being of the foot of these mountains will dominate the landscape for the photos I’m showing you. It’s so dreamy!
That’s it! Plenty of photos as you can notice and it’s incredible how the landscapes change in less than 300 Kms! If you’re into train travel as much as me, I totally recommend doing this railway, even if for a day trip from Lisbon. I think this was the perfect goodbye to travel in Portugal, but made me feel down because you know, this girl wants to travel the world, but I’m feeling an immense need to reconnect with my roots. I know this will pass. But this will come in another post.
Are you going to ride the Beira Baixa railway? Hope so! If you did already, share your experience with us!
Liked it? Pin it!