Of the beaten track halfway between Lisbon and Coimbra is Parque Natural Das Serras De Aire e Candeeiros, a sparsely populated area within Central Portugal. This chalk area is popular with speleologists who love to discover the caves of the area which have been formed and sculpted by the underground rivers. Many of the caves are now open to the public, including Mira de Aire, Portugal's largest cave system. The nature reserve is fantastic for cycling, hiking or just driving through it. Hundreds of stone walls mark the many field bounderies, cork trees being almost the only plant which survives on these dry soils.
This area is the real Portugal, the small villages haven't been touched by tourism, the locals are glad to have a chat about everday life, the small bars & restaurants have the authentic Portuguese dishes on offer,.... Goats roam freely in the barren landscape, just lifting their heads whenever the odd car passes by their remote grazing spot.
The day we visited this remote nature reserve was one where the weather couldn't make up it's mind. From showers to sunshine, it created a dramatic display of colours and beauty. this area, although mostly undiscovered by the main flow of tourists is a must visit area if you love nature, authenticity or just quietness.