A half marathon sounds like a flippin' long way, but if you’re strolling along a flat wooden boardwalk hugging Portugal’s northern coastline, it’s really not so bad.
The walk from Leça da Palmeira to Vila do Conde is around 23 kilometres and is a wonderful way to spend the day (well, five or six hours, depending how fast you go and whether you cave to caffeine along the way).
Starting from Porto's coastal area of Matosinhos it's a short stroll to the Leça da Palmeira lighthouse. Up ahead, the obelisk of Memória pops into view and the industrial area of Porto begins to fade from your rear vision.
As you walk you’ll see vivid green quintas (small Portuguese farms/country villas) and tumbledown farmhouses to your right, as well as a few prospective beachside reno projects.
The walk also takes you through a number of small fishing villages including the cute and colourful Angeiras, where tangles of rope are strewn across beached fishing boats and seagulls circle overhead. Further on you’ll pass neat rows of colourful huts and can follow your nose to fresh seafood being cooked on footpath barbecues. Stop in for a local Super Bock beer or espresso if you need a pit stop.
You can see women hanging washing from balconies as you wander the cobbled lanes of blink-and-you'll-miss-them towns along the way before the main thoroughfare sets you off again into the sparse coastal landscape, which includes small streams, seaside veggie patches and rolling sand dunes.
Points of interest, such as Roman tanks used for fish salting, are highlighted along the way on information boards.
While there are stretches of beach where an adaptation of ‘Clean Up Australia Day’ might be a worthy undertaking, all in all, the scenery is stunning and there is a sturdy boardwalk almost the entire way.
The endpoint, Vila do Conde, is a charming town on the Ave River and there’s a row of cafes overlooking the park where you can rest and refuel. In the town you’ll also find remnants of the second-longest aqueduct in Portugal, which once had 999 arches over four kilometres and was built to supply water to the Monastery of Santa Clara.
From Vila do Conde you can catch the metro back to Porto.
Then deal with the leg ache tomorrow.
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If I stumble upon anything I think is worth checking out in Portugal you'll find it here. I've also included links to articles I've written about Portugal for national and international publications.