Hidden in the forest of Serra do Buçaco...the forest of the MONKS

avatar of @vindiesel1980
3 min read

It's not a spelling's really the forest of the monks, and not full of monkeys. For years I take several routes from the Serra de Estrela to Peniche in Central Portugal. Someone recommended me to take a different route and drive a few kilometers extra. Every time Portugal surprises me with new treats. A nice area to hike and the former palace is an absolute beauty.

Mata Nacional do Buçaco The forest itself is an ancient, walled arboretum. The wall has several gates and it was once forbidden for women to enter. The area cover around 105 hectares. More than 250 tree and other species grow in the forest, including huge centenarians and exotics introduced by Portuguese mariners during the Age of Discovery. A cyclone destroyed a large amount of ancient trees in 2013. Since then the reforestation started. When I visited this place, there was a lot of reforestation going on. It was actually hard to imagine that this once was the most diverse and beautiful forest of Portugal.

The fountain and cascading stairway in the forest

Easy trails

The Palace surrounded by forest

The Palace The area around the Buçaco Palace was part of a Discalced Carmelite convent established in the 16th century. The monks of the Convento de Santa Cruz do Buçaco not only built a convent but also created a luxurious garden with many species of trees. Later in that century there were plans to turn the ancient convent into a royal residence. However, political circumstances led to the decision to turn the palace into a hotel. The Palace Hotel of Buçaco was built between 1888 and 1907. The Buçaco Palace is inspired in iconic Manueline buildings like the Jerónimos Monastery and the Belém Tower, both located in Lisbon. At the moment of writing it is still a hotel with a restaurant. It is so different compared to the architecture in the area around this place. It was not easy to see from outside the forest. You can chose to park at a free spot at one of the gates higher in the forest. Or pas 6 euro's to park in front of the palace or next to the stairs.

Perfect spot for breakfast

Just a few shots of the decorations on the palace

I like to play with perspective and diagonal lines

3 sides of the hotel are a 'must see'

Chapels and routes through the forest Small chapels representing the Stations of the Cross were built along the Via Sacra. A steep, winding path that leads from the convent to the forest's highest point, Cruz Alta. Most of the chapels have damages representations, but they are still impressive to see. I took the pictures of this, just by putting my smartphone lenses directly on the window. Otherwise the reflection in the glass would destroy the images.

If you a believer or not, it's still an impressive piece of work what they have done in all the chapels around the forest

Reforestation all around the forest, this is one of the trails

Black & white image of the forest

All the pictures were made by myself during a visit to the forest. The images are made with a Samsung S23 Ultra, using the automatic settings.