If you are visiting Aveiro and you are done with its Passadiços, there is another great way to spend a day deep inside the nature. The ancient forest of Buçaco (also spelled Bussaco) is situated only 50 km away from Aveiro and it's kind of a road less travelled, as not many tourists end up here.
Although relatively small, Buçaco Forest is famous for its diversity of plant species. Around 400 native species of Portuguese Atlantic coast can be found within its area of 105 hectares, inside the walls built up by the Carmelites. Other 300 species belong to other climates. The most famous representative of Buçaco is its cedar. It's said that this cypress comes from Mexico and might have been the first exotic species to be planted in the forest by the monks in 1656.
The Carmelite monks were in charge of taking care of the forest from 1628, during which time they built their convent, and other landmarks of which some are still there. The most famous one is Coimbra Gate. If you pass through it, you will find an amazing view over the hills and a perfect place for meditation. If you pay attention to the gate you will notice two messages that Carmelitas left engraved on stone tablets affixed to the outer wall of the gate. The first one (dated 1622) says that women are prohibited from entering the forest and the second (dated 1643) threatened to excommunicate anyone found harming the trees. From the same period, there is a small chapel and the Via Sacra, recreation of Christ's journey from the Mount of Olives to Calvary.
At the end of the 19th century Portuguese royal family recognised the potential and the beauty of the forest and decided to build a luxury neo - Manueline palace there, and use it as one of their residences. At the time, it was one of the most luxurious royal retreats. However, after the coup d'état it was converted to a luxury hotel, the Buçaco Palace, that is still there. Hotel can't be visited inside, but the building itself is beautiful and worth a look.
Buçaco has inspired many different artists. Portuguese Nobel prize winner Jose Saramago said that "Buçaco forest demands a whole vocabulary which, once spoken, tells us that there's still everything left to say" He added:
You don't describe Buçaco forest. The best thing is to lose yourself in it.
Buçaco can be easily reached by public transport going to Mealhada or Luso.
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