Just an hour away from Lisbon, one finds the most sacred place in Portugal - the Sanctuary of Fátima. Its extreme religious importance is due to the fact that, in 1917, three little sheperds witnessed the vision of Nossa Senhora de Fátima - the first in 13th May, day that is currently celebrated as Nossa Senhora’s official day.
Three Popes have visited the Sanctuary but it was in 1981, when John Paul II visited, that it became internationally notorious. This Pope had a tight relationship with this little sacred corner in Portugal as he attributed to the Virgin of Fatima the fact that he survived the terrorist attack in Rome. The targeted bullet fired by a Turk that struck the Pope in the abdomen is currently embedded in Nossa Senhora’s crown. John Paul II visited Fatima twice again, and the last visit was to sanctify the sheperds Francisco and Jacinta. The Sanctuary is visited each year by around 6 million pilgrims, and this year, for the celebration of its 100th anniversary, Fátima hosted the greatest crowd ever with the visit of Pope Francis.
After leaving the sanctuary we go by two emblematic monasteries - the Monastery of Batalha and the Monastery of Alcobaça. The latter one was built for the Monks of Cister in 1178, in land donated by D. Afonso Henriques after conquering Santarém. It is also known as the Monastery of Santa Maria and it represents the first Gothic tryout in Portugal. The Monastery of Batalha took over 150 years to be built but it was well worth the wait as it is considered as one of the most beautiful structures in Europe and the 3rd most visited in Portugal. It is the result of a promise from King D. João I, who was extremely grateful for the victory in Aljubarrota (1385), as it assured him the throne and guaranteed the independence of Portugal.
The morning route of this tour includes a stop in Nazaré. The picturesque region has progressed over the last century from being just a fishing village to become a destination increasingly dedicated to tourism. It is currently a reference destination for surfers since one of the most respected names of this sport, Garret McNamara, surfed here in November 2011, the largest wave ever with 30 meters in height. The lighthouse from which you can see the huge waves of Praia do Norte is a mandatory stop.
After lunch we’ll visit the village of Óbidos, known today for hosting huge thematic fairs, such as the chocolate fair or the medieval one, but which was once simply a wedding gift from King D. Dinis to his wife D. Isabel. Óbidos was then considered the House of Queens, thus most of the Portuguese queens passed through and settled here. The 1755 earthquake destroyed parts of the historic walls that surround the village but it is well worth it to walk on those which still stand and to visit the village’s monuments, such as the Castle, the Church of S. João Baptista or even the fantastic doorway.
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