You know Lisbon, the Algarve coast and you might have heard of Porto before? Not bad for a start, but there is much more off the beaten track! Discover the most unbelievable secrets and attractions Portugal has to offer.
The Bone Chapel of Evora
The both fascinating and horrifying chapel of Evora welcomes visitors with the saying “We, the bones that lie here are waiting for you”. All the walls, pillars and parts of the ceiling in this building are decorated with human bones, taken from nearby cemeteries which had reached their capacatiy limits.
More than 5,000 bones were used for the chapel, most of this macabre human remains date from the 16th century. The idea of building a bone chapel in Evora arose from a necessity. The inhabitants wanted to give the deceased a dignified resting place.
The Astonishing Village Of Rocks
About 15 miles from the Spanish border lies Monsanto, a village often referred to as the “village of rocks”. Huge granite rocks serve as house walls, on some buildings a single block of rock forms the roof. That is why people say these houses have only one roof tile. The whole place seems unreal, like from another time. The rock village is definitely worth a visit.
The Haunted Sanatório de Valongo
Sanatório de Valongo, a former clinic for patients suffering from tuberculosis, is located in the middle of the Santa Junta forest. Only real adventurers have the courage to visit this abandoned place because the strongly weathered walls and corridors of the hospital are haunted. Satanists like to hold black masses and bizarre rituals here. The place is also often visited by drug addicts.
Despite all this, tourists also come here at least during the day. Different organizers offer paranormal tours and paintball games for thrill-seekers. If you’ve always wanted to know what the world looks like after a zombie apocalypse, you’ve come to the right place.
The Radioactive Hotel Serra de Pena
The abandoned Hotel Serra da Pena, also known as Hotel Aguas de Radium, sits majestically on a rock and is often confused with a castle. According to a legend, the Spanish Count Don Rodrigo was able to cure his daughter, who suffered from a rare skin disease, with water from a spring that bubbled up in this place.
Later the hotel and a thermal bath were built, where many people tried to free themselves from their diseases. Many years later it was discovered that the supposed healing power of the water was caused by radium, a highly radioactive substance. The hotel owners began to sell bottled radioactive water and implemented other crazy treatment methods like radioactive electric compresses. As long as the patients believed that radioactivity could cure their diseases, the hotel did good business.
The winning streak ended as the harmful effects of radioactivity became known. Customers began to avoid the hotel, patients who got cancer sued the owners. A little later the hotel was bankrupt.
In 1985 the hotel and thermal spa were bought by an investor who wanted to turn the ruins into a brand-new 5-star hotel. The plan was quickly put on ice, as the area is still considered radioactively contaminated.
The Templar Castle from “Circle of Blood”
Do you remember the computer game “Circle of Blood”, in which the hero travels to Portugal, follows in Tomar the footsteps of the Knights Templar and in the end faces the evil demon Baphomet? All this really exists, even the demon.
The Grand Master of the Templars, Gualdim Pais, began building a castle above Tomar in 1160 to protect the members of the Order from the Arabs. Until the prohibition of the Order of the Templars by Pope Clement V in 1312, the castle served as their headquarter in Portugal. After the beginning of the persecution of the Templars in France at the beginning of the 14th century, many French Templars took refuge here and escaped their execution.
The center of the monastery complex, which today consists of several churches and 8 cloisters, is the old Templar church, which has the same basic dimensions as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Adventure-seekers venture into the labyrinth under the castle complex. The legendary treasure of the Templars is said to be hidden there. In a cloister on the ceiling one also finds the image of a three-headed idol. It is said to be the only existing image of the demon Baphomet, who was worshiped by the Templars.
The Pet Cemetery at Lisbon Zoo
Another creepy attraction that reminds me of a story by Stephen King is in the northern part of Lisbon Zoo: the pet cemetery.
There are many tombstones here, mainly white marble. Some date back to the 1940s. There are also graves covered in traditional Portuguese tile. Many plots are decorated with flowers or photos. The pet cemetery is located in a part of the zoo that is called the enchanted forest. It is not known whether animal owners meet their long deceased friends there from time to time.
Signs of a devastating earthquake
In the center of Lisbon, on the border between Chiado and Bairro Alto, there is the imposing ruin of the Carmo Convent, where the traces of the devastating earthquake that destroyed Lisbon in 1755 can still be seen today. Especially impressive at this place is the uncanny silence. Although there hasn’t been a roof on the building since the earthquake, you almost can’t hear the sounds of the city.
In the Archaeological Museum, housed in the sacred building, you can discover all kinds of things about a large part of Portuguese history, from the early Roman period to the 18th century. In the five rooms at the back you can find a sarcophagus from Egypt and Portuguese azulejos that are more than 200 years old.
The Doll Hospital of Lisbon
In Lisbon, people have been going to the doctor in the doll hospital (Hospital de Bonecas) for generations. It may sound a bit strange, but for the inhabitants of Lisbon, recovering their dolls is a serious matter.
When a doll is brought to the hospital, a diagnosis is first made on the basis of the complaints. The doll is then assigned a bed and a treatment plan is drawn up. From €5 upwards a doll can be cured. The fact that a treatment costs so little is because the body parts and other materials are donated by friends of the doll hospital.
The doll hospital does not only offer repairs. You can also buy wigs, new doll clothes, shoes and other accessories. There is also a museum at the doll hospital. Here you can find dolls of all ages and made of different materials. For example, antique toys and porcelain dolls are exhibited.
The fairy tale hotel at Bussaco National Park
The Palace Hotel do Bussaco is located in the heart of the Buçaco National Park, like a fairy tale castle surrounded by large gardens. The unique and world-famous Neo-Manueline Palace, built by Portuguese kings at the end of the 19th century, is one of the European masterpieces and a hotel with a unique ambiance.
Built and based on the main theme of Portuguese discoveries, it is preciously decorated with tile paintings / azulejos from the Portuguese historical past: magnificent arched arches, marble staircases, precious carpets, fine paintings and works of art and antiques.
Imagine yourself in a fabulous spot for walking or cycling, where you can have the pleasure of waking up early to jog, and a perfect place to spend the afternoon reading a book or even having a memorable dinner in the fairy tale Palace Hotel do Bussaco.
The beach with a church on it
The beach of Miramar has a wide sandy area, good access by wooden footbridges, a beach bar and – it is hard to believe – a church. The small chapel from the 17th century is built on a rock in the middle of the beach, surrounded by foaming waves, and at the same time seems absurdly out of place and just as if the place had been created just for it.
During the day the chapel is very crowded. Also many local people visit it all the time. Photographers should visit the chapel early in the morning or just before sunset. At this time the best photo light prevails and the church is surrounded perfectly by the waves. But be careful when you photograph the building from the water. The Atlantic can be very wild sometimes. You have to be very careful not to get caught by the waves.