Take a Tagus river cruise at Escaroupim, Portugal, and you will feel some days are forever.
Not too far from Lisbon, driving around 45 minutes north, you will find a tiny village called Escaroupim. It sits at the left bank of the river Tagus, Tejo in Portuguese.
Escaroupim is one of the several “aldeias avieiras” along the river.
I guess you don’t know what an “aldeia avieira” is, but I will explain in another article.
At this traditional village, you can take a boat, for a Tagus river cruise and it will drive you through the several river canals where most of the birds go for their late afternoon bug meal … an amazing scenario.
On top of all, we get to know more about the local birds with entertaining explanations.
It doesn’t matter if the day is cold or hot because the boats have covers to be used if needed.
What matters though is the time of the day when you do the tour and sunset is king.
Get your camera ready because you never know when a bird or a horse will appear in front of you.
Yes, a horse.
I saw some horses with their feet in the water feeding on some grass, and they just appeared from nowhere after a turn.
Now you know: camera ready.
One of those experiences you can have far from crowded areas, and you can also visit some small villages by the river called “aldeias avieiras”.
To complement your trip, why not reserving some time to taste some of the local dishes in a restaurant by the river? You won’t be walking too far, there is one right there near the pear where you will find the boats.
Tram 28 is the most popular tram route for tourists in Lisbon.
Probably it is the only one promoted by tour operators, brochures, travel books, and other tourist information sources about Lisbon.
Note: tram 28, as it is known, is, in fact, 28E … it can seem like a minor detail but will be vital if you are waiting for it at a bus stop. Nonetheless, here I will call it 28.
Related to the 28, a few points I would like to share here, and those are:
– An introduction to the history of trams in Lisbon and the 28 in particular.
– Why is this route so promoted by tour operators?
– Is it worthwhile, or not, to take tram 28?
Naturally, on the above-listed topics, there will be a lot to say. However, I will not go into too much here, the juicy details I leave them to be shared during my guided tours.
An introduction to the history of trams in Lisbon and the 28 in particular
The history of tram 28 is part of Lisbon‘s tramways’ history, so let’s start from the beginning.
On August 31, 1901, the company “Companhia de Carris de Ferro de Lisboa” inaugurated the circulation of trams in Lisbon.
The company mentioned above had sixteen vehicles running on a route connecting Cais do Sodré square to Ribamar, in the Algés area, along the River Tagus as an inauguration circuit.
The starting of the trams circulating in Lisbon was not without controversy.
There were those outraged by the immense speed these trams were running through the streets, reaching up to 12 km/h (7,5mi/h) … go figure.
They were also saying the trams represented a great danger to passersby and made an infernal and unhealthy noise.
Of course, all of this seems ridiculous today. Still, people were only used to animal pulled cars at the time, so those arguments seemed to make sense to many people.
What is certain is that, after a short time, the tram’s entered the city’s daily life as they had always belonged there.
In 1906 the first section of the 28 tram route was set up. Until the 1930s, the route was progressively extended until it reached the way it has today, from Campo de Ourique to Martim Moniz, two Lisbon districts.
However, after the 1960s, with the proliferation of buses, trams’ popularity began to fall. At the end of that decade, plans began to emerge to remove trams from circulation altogether.
In the early 1970s, many rails had already been removed from the public road, and many routes had been suspended.
Nevertheless, in 1974, many of the country’s structural investments were stopped, following the consequences of the Carnation Revolution. One of those investment plans that were eliminated, was the expansion of the bus fleet in Lisbon.
Anyway, the population was still growing as it was a demand for more public transportation.
Not having an available investment as a resource solution, it was necessary to recover some of the old trams. So, once again, they became useful to society.
and, because running on rails they couldn’t avoid constant obstacles on the busy streets,
all contributed to their decline.
Even today, modern trams, of the kind one could and still can find in large European cities, were put into circulation. They are few and focused on longer routes, such as between Praça da Figueira and Algés.
Why is this route so promoted by tour operators?
When one knows Lisbon, it is easy to understand why this route is so popular.
It is a very scenic route and goes through typical Lisbon districts, with very narrow and winding streets, squeaking at low speed on the old steel rails. It also allows you to appreciate Lisbon’s traditional landscape.
Is it worthwhile, or not, to take tram 28?
The great Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa said that “everything is worthwhile if the soul is not small”.
I can’t say if it’s worth it or not for you, but I can list some of the pros and cons of this trip.
+ the old trams, such as the 28, are part of the city’s image;
+ the 28 takes a very scenic, typical, and useful route to get to know the city of Lisbon;
+ it’s enjoyable to ride these old trams.
– there are often long queues/lines to get these trams, which can result in a significant waste of time, a commodity you may not have in abundance if you are spending only a couple of days in Lisbon;
– because it is trendy, it is often full of people, and having a ride in a crowded tram may not be enjoyable;
– many pickpockets take advantage of the confusion usually happening in tram 28 to get other people’s wallets and other valuables.
Before I finish, I want to thank the artist Inna Korneeva for the illustrations you can find in this article.
Inna Korneeva is a Russian artist who lived in Portugal for a while and fell in love with our country and culture.
The featured illustration is about tram 28, and the one right above is of route 15.
Route 15 is the most similar to the one made during the inauguration of Lisbon‘s trams in 1901.
The illustrations are perfect for this article, and the artist honors the trams in representing them in her work.
The scenery of the train sliding on the tracks, the river still waters with the traditional wooden boats carrying people to various locations are iconic pictures you may want to experience.
Please don’t expect a new train but it is not a very old one either. I can say it is old enough to have an individual patina.
However, if you are spending some days at Porto to enjoy this little dream by yourself, only using public transportation, you might face some challenges.
To better explain myself, I need you to bear in mind the sequence of the train stations, but only those will that will be required during this explanation: Porto São Bento (…) Régua (…) Pinhão (…) Pocinho.
The most exciting area of the Douro Valley where to enjoy this train ride is in between Pinhão and Pocinho, the last third of the 3h20m train ride.
Only four or five trains are running per day each way.
Conclusion: you can take the 9:10 or 12:55 train at Porto São Bento, go all the way to Pocinho, and you will be back to Porto again at 18:50 or 20:55, respectively.
The above-mentioned means you will need one whole day to fulfill this little project.
Does it worth it? Difficult to say, it is a personal assessment.
Naturally, during the Iberactive tours, we do not face this problem because we have our logistic support, and we have our way of doing things.
We will be happy to have you on our tour, however, if you can’t or don’t want to join us, please check the following.
Let me give you two different possibilities, always considering you are at Porto:
1. Take a boat tour from Porto to Régua and return from Régua to Porto by train. The downfall of this solution is you will not visit the most interesting part of the Douro Valey, from Pinhão to Pocinho.
2. Take a train from Porto to Pinhão, have a traditional wooden boat ride, and return to Porto
09:10 / 11:37 – train ride Porto São Bento / Pinhão
12:00 / 14:00 – Rabelo boat ride (the wooden traditional riverboats)
14:00 / 16:07 – free time to lunch and/or go on a wine cellar visit
16:07 / 18:50 – train ride Pinhão / Porto São Bento