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Birdwatching festival – Sagres, Algarve

Although at first glance, Sagres may seem too dry, its biodiversity is immense and it is actually a fantastic place to observe bird migration.

This festival, which happens in mid-October, focuses on birdwatching but there are other activities, like dolphin watching, butterfly identification, talks and field excursions on amphibians, reptiles, lynx and marine biodiversity.

You might want to save some time for other things, from photography, yoga, meditation, stand up paddle, surf lessons and kayak tours to the possibility of touring a couple of local attractions.

Most activities are free and held in both Portuguese and English. There’s also a free festival bracelet that grants special discounts in accommodation, restaurants and in tourism related companies during the time of the festival.

Find a place to stay in Sagres or nearby using my Algarve accommodation guide 

Festival Internacional de Marionetas do Porto (Porto Puppet Festival)

If you think puppets are just for kids, you might want to think again – all the while attending Porto’s International Puppet Festival, that is.

Around mid-October the city welcomes dozens of puppet shows (some of them are meant for children, yes) from different countries in eight different venues in the city. The festival features national and international premières with presentations centered around an unconventional approach to puppets and focusing on contemporary themes.

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Information on workshops and shows can be found on the official website Fimp21.

Find a place to stay in Porto

Coruche International Ballooning Festival, Ribatejo region

Hot air balloon festival in Portugal
Hot air balloon festival in Portugal

From late October to early November you can expect 6 days of skies filled with hot air balloons from 30 teams representing several countries.

This one of a kind experience happens in Coruche, also known for its strong connection to cork production. No need to spend all the time looking to the skies, though, as the festival also includes local gastronomy, a book fair, a handicraft fair, street food, activities for kids, street performances and, as if this wasn’t enough, a mini and a half-marathon.

Information can be found on this Facebook page.

Chestnut and mushroom related events

Miscaros mushroom festival in Central Portugal
Miscaros mushroom festival in Central Portugal

Autumn in Portugal is synonymous with falling leaves and sweater weather (at least by Portuguese standards) but it also means chestnuts and mushrooms galore.

Not only will there be roast chestnut vendors on the streets of most Portuguese cities, there’s a whole day traditionally dedicated to chestnuts. November 11th  is St. Martin’s Day, when you’ll find friends and families gathering around the table, or a bonfire, to share roasted and/or boiled chestnuts, with sweet potatoes also making an appearance in many places.

Also traditional at this time is drinking jeropiga, which is sweeter than wine but also has a higher alcohol content. Trust me, it goes very well with chestnuts.

If you’re in the north of the country you might want to consider checking out the Rural Castanea fair in Vinhais: it’s a 3-day event at the end of October dedicated to all things chestnut-related, but where you’ll also be able to taste and buy other local products, from wines and liqueurs to cheese and olive oil.

Lousã in Central Portugal combines its celebration of chestnuts with honey in the Feira de Mel e Castanha, usually spanning the middle weekend of November.

If mushrooms are more your kind of thing, you might want to check one of two events happening in November. Feira do Cogumelo e do Medronho (Mushroom and Medronho Fair) takes place in Almodôvar in the Alentejo region and focuses not only on mushrooms but also on potent local spirit called medronho, so that’s actually a two-for-the price-of-one kind of event.

Míscaros – Festival do Cogumelo happens in the village of Alcaide, in Central Portugal, and is a two-day festival that includes mushroom walks in the beautiful hills of Serra da Gardunha. Both events include workshops, show cooking and street performances.

Horse Fair (Feira da Golegã) – Ribatejo

The town of Golegã in Central Portugal is home to one of the oldest and most famous annual festivals in Portugal. What started as a normal fair in 1571 has changed throughout the centuries and is now an event dedicated to horses, with a special emphasis on the Lusitanian breed, which is native to Portugal.Feira da Golegã horse fair takes place in early November, ending on St Martin’s Day (November 11th), and it attracts crowds of visitors from all over Europe and further afield. This festival includes equestrian competitions and shows, painting exhibitions, the Open Golegã tennis tournament and the Horseball Iberian Cup (yes, that’s a sport!).

Information can be found on this Facebook page.

It’s not far from Lisbon but if you want to stay overnight in Golegã during the horse fair, book ahead!

Search Golegã accommodations

Practicalities for attending Portuguese festivals

As I mentioned at the beginning of this guide, it can be difficult to get information about festivals in Portugal ahead of time, especially for smaller, local events.

Major events are usually listed on the Visit Portugal website and similarly, if you visit the regional tourist board websites, they should have an agenda or events listing, e.g. Algarve Eventos. If you can’t find a specific, official website for a particular event, the local council is probably the best place to look for information but most of these sites are only in Portuguese. Search for Camara Municipal and the name of the town.

If you’re happy to be spontaneous, ask at the local tourist information centre whenever you arrive in a new city to see if there’s anything on during your stay.

Sometimes online information doesn’t mention if an event is free or not, but as a rule all festivals and fairs with a religious base are free. Medieval, wine and chocolate festivals often involve a small fee, as do many music festivals.

To get a good viewing spot at Portuguese festivals that involve parades requires patience and a bit of forward planning. Locals bring their own stools and stake their claim on prime spots along the roadside at least a couple of hours in advance of the scheduled event.

Source: https://juliedawnfox.com/

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By Lala