Caramel - Portugal

Basking in crisp air and affording the most breathtaking vistas, the charming town of Caramulo is the centrepiece of a region renowned for its health and wellness benefits set against a backdrop of mimosa and heather-laden mountains.

Located at an altitude of more than 800 metres (2,625 feet), this picture-book place of well-kept parks and gardens is idyllically set on the schist and granite of the Serra do Caramulo which boasts some of the purest mountain breezes in the whole of Portugal.

Surrounded by wild-flower pastures and spectacular mountain views, Caramulo was blessed with no less than eighteen sanatoriums during its heyday as a pioneering spa resort back in the 1930s, mostly catering for lung disease sufferers.

Today it is a popular stopover for travellers touring central Portugal, offering a very good range of hotels, restaurants and first-class cultural attractions, some of which are very unique.

The excellent Caramulo Museum features a wonderful collection of fine art and vintage cars (over seventy in total and all in good working order), including an 1899 Peugeot, an immaculate 1911 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, some classic Bugattis (one of which – the 35B – broke the 200-kph speed record in 1931) and a 1938 armoured Mercedes-Benz 770 Grosser ordered for Portugal’s repressive dictator, António de Oliveira Salazar, who was born at Vimieiro, a picturesque town on the Dão River south of Caramulo.

Other museum highlights include works by Picasso (a stunning still life), Dalí (one of his later works) and some fine Portuguese primitives, the generic name for the paintings that coincided with the time of the great Portuguese discoveries. Amongst this number is a precious St Jerome painted by Frei Carlos and a St John the Baptist by Vasco Fernandes (the famous Grão Vasco). The five early 16th-century Brussels tapestries depicting the Portuguese in India are also very worthy of note.

Protecting large swathes of Portugal’s inland Beiras region from the Atlantic coast, the enchanting Serra do Caramulo begins to the west of Viseu, rising to a peak of 1,075 metres (3,527 feet) at Caramulinho, the central point of a desert-like landscape strewn with glistening granite boulders – the perfect spot for a relaxing picnic on a warm summer’s day.

Where to go in central Portugal

Visitors can also take advantage of a spectacular viewpoint over the Serra da Lapa in the north-east, the Serra da Estrela in the south-east and the Serra da Lousã and Serra do Buçaco to the south. Another accessible highland is the nearby Cabeça da Neve just 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) from Caramulo where the views encompass a series of picturesque mountain villages stretching out towards the city of Viseu far in the distance.

A land of inviting river beaches, photogenic waterfalls and breathtaking panoramic vistas, the Serra do Caramulo is a must for hikers, bird-watchers, photographers and lovers of nature in all its amazing forms. It also borders the Dão wine region, a demarcated area of lush vineyards producing increasing quantities of some of the country’s best table wines, right in the heart of central Portugal.

There’s much to see and enjoy within quick and easy reach of Caramulo (indicated on the Google map below), such as the village of Vouzela which features an exquisite church built in the 13th century with a detached bell tower. Equally appealing is a visit to the Cambarinho (Loendros) Botanical Reserve (about a 30 minute drive to the north of Caramulo), an absolute delight for its abundance of rhododendrons (a riot of colour from the end of April until mid-June) and well-maintained walkways extending more than 2 kilometres through one of Portugal’s most impressive plantations.

Caramulo is also the perfect base from which to enjoy some of central Portugal’s other key attractions, most notably the city of Viseu (approximately an hour’s drive north-east of the town) and beautiful Buçaco Forest (located some 45 kilometres to the south-west) which was lovingly tended by Benedictine monks for more than a thousand years.

Need more sightseeing ideas for your next visit? Listen to the Portugal Travel Show, the podcast for people planning a trip to sunny Portugal…