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If you’re looking to holiday in Portugal in 2019 / 2020 but want to avoid the bustling crowds of the main tourist resorts, take a look at Luso. This picturesque little town is situated to the north of Coimbra and is famous for its pure, top-quality mineral water. Although it has remained largely off most tourist’s radars, Luso is one of the key spa towns in Portugal, with thousands of bottles of Luso’s mineral water being drank daily throughout Portugal. Water is the key draw of Luso as the water here has hypotonic qualities that are said to cure a wide variety of ailments, rebalance the body and maintain good circulation. Luso also makes an ideal base for exploring the closeby towns of Fatima and Coimbra, while keeping you within easy reach of the coastline and all its beautiful features. The other big draw of Luso as a holiday resort is the nearby town of Bucaco and the stunningly beautiful forest of Bucaco. This peaceful town attracted Carmelite monks in the 17th century, leading to a monastery being founded in Bucaco with a sectioned-off area of the forest for monks to garden. Thanks to the dedication of the green-fingered monks, their efforts have resulted in the forest boasting a wide range of lush trees, shrubbery and floral displays, as well as rarer plants including the monkey puzzle tree.

Top attractions

Top attractions

The key attraction of Luso and its surrounding area is undoubtedly the Bucaco Forest Park. This stunning National Monument boasts 105 hectares of lush trees, shrubs and flowers and has a diameter of 5 kilometres. The park is widely acclaimed by horticulturalists and botanists from Europe and across the globe, thanks to its dense woodland and range of gigantic trees and exotic plants. While you’re visiting Bucaco, make a pitstop at the Santa Cruz do Bussaco, a church and National Monument comprising of the remains of a convent that the then-future Duke Wellington used to rest and recover following the Battle of Busaco in 1810. This beautiful attraction has a number of religious paintings, a distinctive walkway that leads around the chapel, an often-worshipped image of Our Lady of the Milk and several guns remaining from the historic battle. To the north of the wooded area is the quaint hillside town of Penacova, which offers scenic views of the Mondego River and a number of old stone windmills.

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Eating out

Eating out

The cuisine in Luso is largely representative of Portuguese cuisine, which is heavily influenced by wider Mediterranean cuisines. The defining feature of Portuguese cuisine is its delicious fresh seafood, which is often spiced heavily with a variety of contrasting herbs such as cinnamon, saffron, fiery chilli peppers and black pepper. Foodies will adore the layered tastes of Portuguese cuisine that unfold like a blossoming flower, with the heat being tempered by softer notes such as vanilla and bay leaf to remove any bitter edge. Breakfast in Luso often features bread, cheese, jams, hams and a strong tea or coffee. Espresso is a very popular drink in Luso and is served at a number of cafes in the village with sweet pastries. Lunch in Luso is traditionally long, lasting over an hour between either midday and 2pm or 1pm and 3pm. If you’ve got a big apetite, Luso cuisine is designed with you in mind as locals eat at least three main meals a day in the morning, at lunch and dinner, and often involving a side dish of soup. Some of the most famous dishes in Luso cuisine are the caldo verde, a kale and potato soup, chourico (Portuguese spicy sausage) and salted cod (bacalhau). Desserts often involve creamy arroz doce (cinnamon rice pudding with caramel custard) and Portugal is famous for its delicious produce such as azeitao cheese, pico cheese and alcoholic speciality drinks including Alicante bouschet (a smoky sweet wine) and Douro red (a full bodied, flavourful red that has an even larger flavour than cabernet).

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Families

Families

Luso is a wonderful choice of Portuguese holiday destination for families that prefer a more cultured holiday experience that engages their brains. In Luso itself the whole family can enjoy the thermal springs and learning about the heritage of this spa village. The area surrounding Luso is also rich in family-friendly attractions with great back stories, such as the ancient Busaco Forest. The forest is great for teaching children more about history as it was lived in by Benedictine monks in the 6th century and inhabited by Carmelite monks in the 1600s. The heritage of this park is as beautiful as its lush trees, as the monks built their monastery here and dedicated their lives to conserving and growing the forest, cultivating many rare types of tree and plant here. Aside from trekking through the park, you can take your family to visit the Cold Fountain, a natural fountain set in the forest, and visit the Palace Hotel do Busaco to learn more about the former summer residence and hunting camp of the Portuguese royal family.

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Action & Adventure

Action & Adventure

While Luso is renowned as a relaxing spa destination and will not be top of the list for most active holidaymakers, it’s worth noting that it makes an excellent base from which to explore the locally beautiful surrounding area and enjoy the more active pursuits on offer close by. The stunning forest of Busaco offers dense forest trails that will immerse outdoor enthusiasts in the wonders of nature and take you up close to forest wildlife and a number of rarely seen species of tree and plant. The pleasant weather in this region makes this an ideal walk for holidaymakers looking for a moderate intensity trail to follow with a number of nearby attractions, including several outdoor tennis courts, fishing at the river and climbing. If you head north from the densely wooded area you’ll come across the quaint hillside town of Penacova which has a winding river named the Mondego. The Mondego river is one of the few rivers in Portugal that is suitable for kayaking all year-round, with an 18-kilometre stretch of water that takes around 3-4 hours to complete, offering a physical challenge for thrill-seeking holidaymakers.

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Beaches

Beaches

Luso’s main draws are the thermal springs and medicinal properties of the mineral water in the area. Luso water is said to have specific healing qualities that are good for those with impaired circulation and reduced blood flow caused by arteriosclerosis (narrowing and thickening of the blood vessels), making it an excellent choice of spa resort for those with these particular medical concerns and more mature holidaymakers. The thermal waters in Luso originate from a spring beneath the chapel of Sao Joao in the town centre, and are also said to help heal those with kidney problems and joint problems. At the nearby town of Bucaco you’ll find the famous Bucaco Forest, which features a stunning natural fountain. The water from a mountain spring flows downhill past 144 steps and out at Grottoes Gate, making for a scenic place of interest. If you’re looking for more of a traditional sun, sea and sand experience from your Luso holiday, make the 66 kilometre journey to Figueira da Foz’s huge sandy beach, the country’s largest. Figueira da Foz extends for more than 3 kilometres and is so wide it takes around five minutes to walk from the edge of the beach to the sea.

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Nightlife

Nightlife

As a traditional Portuguese spa town and place of rich culture and heritage, Luso itself has no real nightlife venues. Those seeking a vibrant night out in the area would be best off heading to nearby Coimbra, which has a diverse and bustling nightlife scene that has evolved to cater to both tourists and the student population. Some of the best nightlife venues in Coimbra include Praca 8 de Maio, which is known as a more upmarket nightlife venue for cultured types and is located in a converted centuries-old church. The Café Santa Cruz has a scenic outdoor seating area with views over the square and the beautiful Santa Cruz Church, while the Bar Quebra Costas is nestled between the new downtown area and the ancient old town, offering the perfect spot to enjoy a refreshing drink as you watch amusing scenes of people lumbering slowly up the steep cobblestoned hill.  

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Couples

Couples

Luso is a great place to visit for couples looking to unwind and leave feeling completely physically and mentally restored and invigorated. Luso is one of the foremost producers of high quality water mineral water in Portugal and is known throughout Europe for the medicinal, healing qualities of the water. A visit to the thermal springs is both romantic and restoring for couples that have been burning the candle at both ends in their busy everyday lives and are looking to spend peaceful time together away from the hustle and bustle. Luso’s spa area including thermal baths and a range of spa treatments aimed at rebalancing body, mind and soul, leaving you feeling reconnected with your body and in peak condition. The area surrounding Luso is rich in natural beauty, with Busaco Forest within easy reach. The forest itself is a great attraction for couples looking to enjoy a peaceful trek through the picturesque greenery and feel at one with nature, as well as enjoying the nearby attractions such as the walled area of the Busaco hills. Another romantic attraction in this area is the Palace Hotel, so-named owing to its history as a hunting lodge and summer home of the Portuguese royal family. The Manueline design elements call to mind a romantic castle with turrets, and there are a number of fun activities to enjoy as a couple nearby including fishing at the river and pairs’ tennis.

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Culture

Culture

Luso stands as an embodiment of the major role of the outdoor environment in Portuguese culture and is a fascinating example of a Portuguese spa town. Luso is one of the country’s most important spa towns, having been hailed for centuries for its healing waters and close proximity to a number of areas of incredible natural beauty. The neighbouring town Busaco has a rich and beautiful heritage, as the forest of Busaco was formerly inhabited by both Benedictine and Carmelite monks. Carmelite monks loved this part of the country so much they built a monastery here in Busaco and dedicated huge amounts of time to lovingly cultivating trees and plants in the forest. Busaco is an area of deep significance whether you are religious or not, thanks to its peaceful and contemplative atmosphere and secluded location. Other culturally-significant attractions around Luso include the Palace Hotel, which was formerly used as both a hunting lodge and summertime residence by the Portuguese royal family, and the old stone windmills at the town of Penacova. Other educational days out include the Museu Militar do Busaco, the Sao Joao Fountain and the Convento de Santa Cruz do Busaco.  

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