Portugal’s Diverse Screen Locations
Most of us know Portugal as a tourist destination: summer holidays spent laying on the beaches of Algarve, or maybe a city break to Lisbon or Porto. But when it comes to film locations, Portugal has much more to offer than what may first spring to mind says Hayley Sercombe, Executive Producer / Founder at Film Portugal and Bruno Pinhal, Portuguese Film Director. TLG invited the pair to take us on a tour of Portugal's unexpected locations.
Magical and Ancient
Enchanted forests, sacred ruins, windy hilltops and ancient temples; Portugal’s pre-Roman history is one of tribes. The landscape across the country is scattered with their remnants: rock carvings, megalithic stones, cave paintings, dolmens and secret temples. You just have to search them out as many are hidden and remote.
The region of Aveiro and Coimbra, to the south of Porto is where you will find magical, forested landscapes, full of ancient and sacred markings. There is even a forest named 'Dark Thorns' (Silva Escura). Rivers run through hidden woodland and explode into secret waterfalls at Cascata da Cabreira and Casata Quiaios.
Popular for wild swimming, this region is rich with pine and eucalyptus trees. Ancient and sacred monuments can be found at Pedra Moura, a 5,000 year old megalithic dolmen and Necropole Megalitica do Chao: 5,000 year old funerary monuments deep within the Talhadas hills, to which the entry passage is long and only accessible on hands and knees.
Probably the most magical place in this region is the Mata Nacional do Buçaco: a beautiful woodland with hidden chapels, mossy relics and secret trails created by monks, to symbolise an earthly paradise. Aveiro can be reached by car from Porto and takes around one hour. From Lisbon it is around two and a half hours.
A two hour flight from Lisbon, in the blue immensity of the Atlantic Ocean, Mother Nature has created a land full of natural beauty just ready to be explored: the Açores Archipelago of nine volcanic islands. The landscape here is marked by the ferocity of the explosions which created it: wild and colourful flowers, deep green vegetation, sulphuric steam rising from volcanic vents, black rock, steep cliffs, aqua blue lagoons and waterfalls all come together to create this European paradise, also known as Europe’s Hawaii.
The energy on these islands has an incredible force. You can almost hear the earth’s breath travelling across the ancient lands. Some claim that Açores is the lost island of Atlantis! And there any many more myths than this one. Even the food here resembles bubbling volcanoes, such as the alcatra stew and the cozido stew.
Madeira Island is another Atlantic island with spectacular landscapes. Only a ninety minute flight from Lisbon, Madeira Island is also formed of volcanic rock, with dramatic rock formations creating great valleys and mountains. The waters are beautiful, blue tones and an intense fresh green. In fact, the green colour is so exceptional that part of the native vegetation, known as the Laurissilva Forest, was declared a Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999.
Madeira Island is a small paradise that for decades has enchanted travellers from all over the world in search of intense contact with nature.
Rolling Plains & Starry Skies
Two hours from Lisbon by car and you are in the heart of Alentejo. The plains begin to unfold north along the Tagus River and here the landscapes rhythm is one of vibrant greenery. Further south the landscape combines with the sun and the heat to give more yellow hues. You could say Alentejo is the Portuguese Sicily.
In the north, Lusitano horses graze on the flatland. In the vast south, the immense plains and blond cornflower wave in the wind. Along the coast, you have wild beaches and a wild beauty which is still vastly undiscovered, The amplitude of the landscape here is occasionally interrupted by ancient olive trees that have resisted time. Here and there, walled villages like Marvão or Monsaraz, rise towards the skies on windy hilltops.
Across the landscape, single-storey white and blue farmhouses are dotted here and there and you may also spot some ruins of Moorish castles. Perhaps this is why culture and spirituality here have a particular character.
In Campo Branco de Castro Verde you experience a full nature reserve with bird watching and wild swimming in stunning lakes, such as Alqueva. Experience the serenity of the waters and the contemplation of the immense skies by day or night and be surrounded by a mantle of stars. In fact, Alentejo has the least light pollution in the whole of Europe, so is well known for its stargazing.
Portugal has a varied and rich architectural history and modern Portugal offers a blend of both the old and the new. There exudes a brave, stylish and ambitious architecture in the splendidly futuristic Portuguese architectural designs you will find across the country.
The Lisbon district of Parque Das Nacoes is where you can experience many notable, modern architectural structures. The area looks ultra modern, in comparison to the classic architecture of old Lisbon nearby. Originally an industrial area, it became a modern urban project for EXPO’ 98. As well as the modern locations there is now a long boardwalk with cables cars travelling overhead along the river, modern restaurants and riverside bars.
The Portuguese National Pavillion by Alvaro Siza exudes both elegance and simplicity, with a draped, swooping concrete. Then there is the Vasco de Gama Tower; the tallest building in the capital and a striking one at that, which is now a hotel. Oriente Station, designed by Santiago Calatrava, has an angular, futuristic design and the Sao Gabriel and Sao Raphael Towers could be straight out of Dubai. They were designed to represent the hull of a boat, so maintaining the nautical history of Portugal.
In Porto you will find the Casa de Musica concert hall, by Rem Koolhaas and OMA Architects. With the use of tiles in such a modern building the design is still tied to Portuguese history. Serralves Contemporary Art Museum is a fantastic example of pure contemporary architecture. Then the unique Tea House (Casa de Cha de Boa Nova) in nearby Leça da Palmeira is way more than just a restaurant. An impressive space with intense views to the horizon, it literally rises out of the rocky landscape, with a geometric rigor incorporating much light.
As you can see, Portugal has such a diversity when it comes to locations! You only need to scratch below the surface to be immediately surprised. There is so much potential here to uncover the hidden, the interesting and the astonishing. Should you be looking for some undiscovered locations for your next project you will surely find them here…with a little help from us.
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