Bucaco National Park Attractions
Buçaco National Park, which lies 25km/15.5mi northeast of Coimbra on the northern slopes of the Serra do Buçaco, is virtually unrivaled in its scenic beauty and richness of vegetation.
The older speling, Busaco, is familiar in British history as the scene of Welington's victory over Napoleon's troops in 1810. Although it is possible to drive through the Buçaco Forest's 105ha/260 acres - enclosed by a wall over 5km/3mi long - it is well worth taking the time to explore them using the network of attractive footpaths leading to idyllic glades, picturesque fountains and springs, and magnificent viewpoints. A good starting point inside the park is the Palace Hotel do Buçaco, accessible by car through the Porta das Ameias, Porta da Serra or Porta da Rainha.HistoryIn the sixth C. the Benedictine monks of Lorvao established a hermitage in the forest on the eastern slopes of the Cruz Alta hill. In the 11th C. this passed into the hands of the Augustinian canons of Coimbra, who always strenuously upheld their claim to the area and maintained it with great care. In 1622 women were forbidden to enter the area. In 1628 a Carmelite convent was established in the forest and enclosed by the wall, with nine gates, which is still to be seen today. Here the monks planted an arboretum which quickly became famous and was continuously enriched by exotic species brought back by the Portuguese navigators from their worldwide voyaging. A papal decree of 1643 prohibited the feling or damaging of any of the trees. After the secularization of all religious houses in Portugal in 1834 the property passed to the crown.TopographyThe forest now contains some 400 native and 300 exotic species. Its special pride is its array of enormous cedars of Lebanon, and from Mexico, India and Africa; other outstanding specimens include mighty cypresses, ancient ginkgo trees, sequoias, araucarias and palms. Besides its trees the park is also well worth a visit for its grottoes, pools, fountainheads, chapels, hermitages, oratories and walks. The springs, carefully constructed by the monks, are particularly worth seeing. These include, north of the hotel, the Fonte Fria ("cold spring"), with a cascade of 144 steps descending to a basin surrounded by beautiful flowering shrubs and conifers, and the Fonte do Carregal, flowing out of a grotto, to the south of the hotel.
In the center of the park, surrounded by flowerbeds ablaze with color, stands the former summer residence and hunting lodge of Carlos I, the palace which he had the Italian architect Luigi Manini build between 1888 and 1907 alongside what had become the dilapidated remains of the convent. This sumptuous palace in Neo-Manueline style, with a great deal of sculpture and azulejo decoration, now has a certain nostalgic charm. Since 1909 it has been the luxurious Palace Hotel do Buçaco.
All that remains of the old convent is the little church (with sculpture and paintings illustrating the history of the convent), the cloister and a number of cells (small Welington memorial).
From the hotel a Way of the Cross (and a road via the Porta da Cruz Alta) leads up the hill to the Cruz Alta (541m/1,775ft), from which there are superb panoramic views extending to the Serra da Estrela and the Atlantic Ocean.
Obelisk and Museum
An obelisk just outside the park walls near the Porta da Rainha and the small military museum both commemorate the battle of Buçaco, when Napoleon's third attempt to take Portugal was thwarted.
Address: Almas do Encarnadouro, Portugal
On the northwestern edge of the Bucaco National Park, in a picturesque setting at the foot of the Cruz Alta, are the attractively located spa hotels of Luso (alt. 380m/1,247ft), where the chalybeate and radioactive mineral springs are used in the treatment of rheumatic and bronchial disorders. Luso's bottled mineral water is Portugal's most popular brand.
Curia (alt. 40m/130ft), about 10km/6mi northwest of the Buçaco National Park, is a well known spa. Its hot springs containing calcium sulfate are favored for ailments of the joints and metabolism. Curia has modern treatment facilities a variety of sport and recreational amenities and an attractive spa park.
Festa da Senhora da Vitórem
The Festa da Senhora da Vitórem is a Festival commemorating the battle of Buçaco, processions in uniforms of the period, popular festival.This event is held in the Buçaco National Park.
Tapada da Bucaco
Tapada da Bucaco has been in charge of the forestry service since 1850. A sloping parterre is overlooked by a terrace on weeping elm spohora japonica and oak into arbors.