Top 10 things to do in Portugal while training

by André Garcez on Aug 15 2019
It’s not all about flying. Throughout your aviation career, there will be plenty of special moments, such as your first job, being promoted to Captain, or even a new type rating, but your training to become a pilot and the experience of getting to know a new location could also be amongst your most cherished moments. My name is André Garcez, I am part of the Global Marketing Team, based at the European Airline Academy in Ponte de Sor, and these are my top 10 things to do in Portugal while training.

1 - Get to know Portugal’s DNA

Founded in 868 and later proclaimed in 1139, Portugal is one of the oldest countries in the world, with much history to be discovered, and every local has a story to tell. Did you know, for example, that Portuguese is spoken by about 250 million people in every continent and is the 5th most spoken language in the world?

Grab a backpack and start exploring our heritage!

2 - Taste the local food

There’s no such thing as an empty stomach. We have a dish for every appetite, so you’re most definitely bound for a good meal!

Our fish is fresh and diverse, with grilled sardines being the favorite during the summer. We also have hundreds of recipes with dry cod (bacalhau) for which, we tend to say, ‘there’s one for each day of the year’. The typical meat recipes are made out of beef, pork, lamb, or chicken, and include cozido à portuguesa, feijoada, frango de churrasco, leitão, and francesinha, just to name a few. To top it off, we have the delicious pastel de nata or ovos moles for dessert, accompanied by the internationally acclaimed sweet port wine.

If all this food talk doesn’t get you hungry, then nothing will!

3 - The Capital

Lisbon is mainland Europe's westernmost capital city and the only one along the Atlantic coast, with about 3 million people living in its metropolitan area. Located about 1h30min away from the European Airline Academy, it’s definitely a must when you’re on a study break!

Baixa (old town) and Belém were at center stage during the Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries, as Portugal had established the first global empire . Aspects of these sites are still around to explore! UNESCO World Heritage Sites Jerónimos Monastery and the Tower of Belém are mandatory stops, as well as Praça do Comércio. Take a walk through the Alfama neighborhood all the way up to the castle and get to know Fado, Lisbon’s very own music genre, or cross the bridge over the Tejo river to find approximately 30 kilometres of contiguous beach at Costa da Caparica.

If you feel like driving, take a trip along the coast through Cascais, consistently ranked highly for its quality of life, all the way up to the fairy tale city of Sintra, where you’ll find the amazing Pena Palace and some of the best views in the region. Wrap the day with a drink at the bohemian neighborhood of Bairro Alto, the heart of Lisbon’s nightlife.

4 - Expand your aeronautical culture

In case you’re an avid aviation lover just like I am, then I’m sure that you’ll still want to be around airplanes during your free time.

First stop on your itinerary should be the Air Museum (Museu do Ar) located in Sintra, which houses about 50 aircraft and hundreds of items spanning 100 years of aviation, from the early 20th century vintage planes to fast jets and commercial airliners, with a D-Day DC-3 Dakota being the crown jewel of the exposition. Definitely a must!

Plane spotting is also most welcomed at any international airport and might be a source of inspiration for your future career, as well as taking part in one of our cadet tours at TAP Maintenance & Engineering, NAV Portugal, or one of the Portuguese Air Force’s bases. If you’re lucky, you might even be around for the annual Portugal Air Summit, the biggest aviation expo and airshow in the Iberian Peninsula, which takes place right at our home base of Ponte de Sor.

5 - Conquer the Atlantic

With 850 km (528 mi) of splendid beaches bathed by the Atlantic Ocean, and the inspiration of the explorers who pioneered maritime exploration with the discovery of the sea route to India and the european discovery of Brazil amongst the most prominent ones,  the sea is our second home.

Sailing and surfing are the most popular activities when it comes to getting your feet wet, with our shores offering excellent conditions to host famous events like The Ocean Race at Lisbon or the World Surf League at Peniche. If you want to be amazed, head over to Nazaré during the winter time and you’ll find the spot where professionals try to break the Guinness World Record every year for the largest wave ever surfed, which currently sits at around 30 m (98 ft). That’s taller than an Airbus A380!

If you just want to kick back and relax at the beach, then Algarve, Portugal’s biggest tourist region, the Alentejo and Vicentina Coasts are the right destinations for you.

6 - Discover paradise

Psst! Don't tell anyone, but there are two paradise archipelagos waiting to be discovered in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean: Madeira and the Azores.

Known as the Atlantic Pearl, the name Madeira might ring a bell to AvGeeks thanks to the very challenging approach and runway architecture of Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport. And no, it’s not a typo. The famous footballer was born and raised on this island and the airport has been named after him!

The Peak of Arieiro and the Curral das Freiras are amongst the most popular views on the Pearl and will most certainly open your appetite to explore the delicious local cuisine, abundant in fish of various kinds, just like in the Azores, where nine major volcanic islands are waiting to be discovered. There’s not enough space to write about one of my favourite destinations but I would highlight Mount Pico, on the island of Pico, the highest point in our country, at 2,351 m (7,713 ft), and the island of São Miguel, known for its wonderful lagoons, like the Sete Cidades.

Two things that you can’t miss out on both archipelagos are taking a hike through wonderful trekking paths to discover hidden beauties and whale watching. It’s quite an unforgettable sight to have a pod of dolphins jumping in front of your boat or a sperm whale diving into the deep blue with its tail sticking out of the water for a brief moment.

7 - Cruise the Douro

The Douro is one of the major rivers of the Iberian Peninsula, flowing a total of 897 km (557 mi) from its source across northern-central Spain and Portugal to its outlet at Porto.

The best way to make the most out of this region is to hop on a cruise with your soulmate and admire the natural beauty over 213km (132 mi) of navigable Portuguese waters while tasting the vast offering of high quality wines that are produced on the steep hills. As the river meets the ocean, don’t forget to explore Portugal’s second largest city, Porto, which could deserve a fitting chapter of its own in this article.

8 - Go back in time

A country is nothing without its history and Portugal is full of it. Most villages and cities have roots in the medieval times, with some still preserved just as they were centuries ago, taking you on a trip back in time. Óbidos, Évora, Sintra, Monsaraz, Almeida, Monsanto and Piódão are just a few. Discovering all of them will take you on a lifetime of adventure!

9 - Be one with nature

You will find scattered around the country places of preserved beauty, inhabited by a wide diversity of flora and fauna, where people and nature live in perfect harmony. The Peneda-Gerês National Park is one of those places and it is located in the northwest of Portugal, with stunning landscapes between mountains and waterfalls, making it the ultimate weekend retreat. Over to the Southeast, the Alqueva constitutes as one of the largest dams and artificial lakes in Western Europe, with 250 square kilometres (97 sq mi) of peacefulness. And if you’re traveling between both locations, stop by the Arouca Geopark and the Paiva Walkways, a course of eight kilometers of nature in its pure state.

Oh… have I mentioned the Azores already?

10 - Explore the surroundings

Although not very well known, the region where our Academy is located, Upper Alentejo, has several hidden gems that are well worth a trip.

Less than 10min away from the Academy you’ll find Montargil Lake and its nautical club, where a vast array of aquatic sports and equipment is at your disposal. You may also choose to bring your family and friends over and visit the Hotel Lago Montargil & Villas 5*, which offers a relaxing spa and a very photogenic set of swimming pools to make the most out of the portuguse climate, with more than 300 days of sun.

A bit further to the East, in Alter do Chão, you’ll find the 18th century Coudelaria Real, breeding ground of the Alter-Real horse, a strain of the Portuguese pure blood Lusitano. Well worth a visit is you love equestrian activities such as horse riding, or a guided tour into the research and development clinic.

Curious fact: the typical tree in this region is the cork oak (quercus suber) and Portugal is responsible for about 50% of the cork harvested annually worldwide. This material is extracted when the tree is around 25-30 years old and then every nine years onwards, being used for example to produce wine corks.

Keep heading East and you’ll find magical Marvão perched on a quartzite crag of São Mamede’s mountain, home of the International Music Festival. Watching a classical music performance surrounded by the castle’s walls or inside its cistern is something quite special!

I hope these tips were helpful. If you are training at the European Airline Academy, in Ponte de Sor, make sure say hi. See you soon!

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