Route of the Historical Villages of Portugal
Castles, camp battles, Arab and Christian kings, secret passages and enchanted mills. All the elements that populate the stories and legends that date back to the High Middle Ages are tangible on the route of the Historical Villages of Portugal.
Located in the border area between Portugal and Spain, crossing the Natural Parks of Serra da Estrela and Douro Internacional, and also the Natural Reserve of Serra da Malcata, these villages played a decisive role in maintaining Portuguese territorial independence, being that almost all of them are fortified.
Among the mountains of Beira Interior, in the center of the country, we can thus trace ancestral paths, meet medieval houses and altaneiras fortresses, delight in the incomparable local gastronomy and recharge. Here, the silence and the overwhelming natural beauty of the Raiana area prevails, where the offer of programs and activities in nature abounds.
Almeida is one of the best and best preserved specimens of fortification abaluartada in Portugal. Seen from above, Praça Forte de Almeida resembles a twelve-pointed star and is currently a candidate for UNESCO World Heritage.
Belonging to the Guarda district, its topnymic origin is Arabic and was the scene of epic battles, such as the "Cerco de Almeida," during the French Invasions. If you visit the municipality in August you can watch the recreation of the event.
It is the birthplace village of Pedro Álvares Cabral, the Portuguese navigator who discovered Brazil, and it was a place of refuge for Sephardic Jews. For centuries, the Jews of Belmonte kept their traditions intact, becoming an exceptional case of a crypto-Jewish community.
Currently, Belmonte, in the district of Castelo Branco, is part of the Portuguese Network of Jewish Quarters, having a synagogue, a Jewish court and a Jewish museum as their main heritage attractions. Seeing the sunset from the top of Belmonte Castle, with the Serra da Estrela on the horizon, is a magical and unmissable experience.
The eight towers that protected the citadel and the walled village may have been defeated by the great earthquake of 1755, but Castelo Mendo maintains its Romanesque-Gothic mystique. On Rua do Forno you can find Casas Manuelinas and, climbing the medieval sidewalk to the highest point, visit the ruins of the Church of Santa Maria and the old gates of the Castle.
D. Sancho I had to hold the first official festival in Portugal in Castelo Mendo and, even today, in April, this village of Guarda district organizes one of the best Medieval Fairs in the country.
Literally embedded in the natural amphitheater of Serra da Gardunha, whose name means refuge in Arabic, Castelo Novo is one of the most beautiful Beirã villages. The Mother Church, the Pelourinho Manuelino and the Chafariz da Bica, in Baroque style, are just some of the attractions of the village.
Don't forget to enjoy the river beaches of the region and pamper yourself with the delicious and fleshy Cherries from Cova da Beira.
To visit Castelo Rodrigo is to immerse yourself in a mystery. The ancient walls call us from afar to discover a village with a rich heritage. After visiting the interior of the old Castle, stroll quietly through the medieval alleys and discover the 12th-century Church and Convent of Santa Maria de Aguiar, the ruins of Moura's Cristóvão Palace and the beautiful manuelina windows in the facades of some of the local buildings.
Another attraction is the medieval Cistern-Well, which features two doors with distinct architectural styles: One in broken arch, Gothic style, and the other one with a horseshoe arch. Possibly, the second would have belonged to the cistern existing in the Jewish synagogue, which makes this construction a synthesis of Christian and Jewish construction.
This is possibly one of the oldest historical villages, founded by Rome in the 1st century BC. It was taken and inhabited by Suevi, Visigoths, Arabs and Christians, being donated by D. Dinis to the Order of Templars.
Take a dive of 2000 years and visit the Roman Walls, the Templar Tower, built on the Podium of Venus, the Pelourinho and the Lagar de Varas. The Cathedral of Idanha-a-Velha, which corresponds to the ancient basilica of Egitania (so-called by Suebi and Visigoths), began to be built in the year 585, it was converted to a mosque in the Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula and reconverted to a church with the Christian reconquest. It is currently a must-visit museum.
Linhares da Beira
The imposing Castle of Linhares da Beira stands on the northeast side of Serra da Estrela. D. Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, granted him a charter in 1169, but Linhares will continue to have a strategic position in defense of the Mondego Basin until the 17th century.
In addition to being able to breathe the pure air of the mountain and practice para-gliding (Linhares even receives the International Festival of the modality), lose yourself in the granitic alleys and visit the Diving Fountain and the Medieval Forum, the Jewish House, the Main Church and the Old Chamber House and Jail.
The village of Marialva, in the Guarda district, was populated by the Aravos, Lusitanian people, long before the Roman Conquest. It is therefore a living scenario of Portuguese ancestry. In addition to the ancient citadel, in ruins, Marialva offers us patrimony such as the Church of St. Peter, the 500-hundred year Cistern, the ancient Town Hall and the Solar of the Marqueses of Marialva.
It is also the point of passage of the ancient Camino de Santiago, having a church devoted to the apostle Santiago Maior, which boasts an impressive altar in joanino baroque style.
Considered the most Portuguese village in Portugal, Monsanto, in Castelo Branco district, stands at more than 700 meters of altitude, perched on a granite escarpment. In this place there are traces of human presence from the Paleolithic. At the head of the village, next to the Castle built by the Templars, the view is 360 degrees and one of the most impressive in the country. The ruins of the Chapel of São Miguel, the Clock Tower, the corrals (ancient pigsty) and the iconic house by Penedos deserve an attentive visit.
The glorious resistance to the invaders (Romans or Arabs - precision has been lost over the centuries) is celebrated at the Feast of the Divine Holy Cross, in May, lying down from the walls of the Castle symbolic tower vases, taking, the women, to the top of towers, the traditional rag dolls - the marafonas.
Known as Aldeia Népio, Piódão is one of the most unfathomable Portuguese villages, located on an abrupt slope of Serra do Açor, already in the district of Coimbra. Its physiognomy is unmistakable, since it is composed of a black shale house, with slate roofs and doors and painted blue windows. Crosses can be observed in the door posts, invoking the protection of Santa Barbara against the weather.
A primitive stronghold of Lusitanian shepherds, Piódão has a great agricultural and grazing tradition. For that reason, be sure to visit its Museological Nucleus, as well as the Nossa Senhora da Conceição Church, worthy of appearing in the tales of enchantment. In the summer, enjoy refreshing yourself at the unreal River Beach of Foz D'Égua, a small paradise on Earth.
A huge and secular lodon tree, at the entrance of the Porta da Vila, welcomes those who venture to climb to the wall of Sortelha. Once up there, every effort was worth it. Located in the Guarda district, this is one of Portugal's best preserved Historical Villages. Inside the walled space, there are austere and extremely well-groomed houses, which will make you feel automatically in a historical movie. Mandatory stop, for contemplation, at the House of the Chamber and Jail, at the Arab House and at the Parish Church.
As you climb to the Tower of the old Castle, you will believe that you have reached the top of the world, due to the wide and extraordinary view of the rugged Beiran landscapes. Outside the walls, curiosities like two petrified lovers in an eternal kiss and anthropomorphic graves await you.
Located on a plateau more than 900 meters high, Trancoso grew around its Castle, founded in the 8th century, one of the oldest in Portugal. The possibility of monitoring a vast territory between the Serra da Estrela and the Douro Valley has given it a strategic importance, from the time of the Roman Empire to the Christian Reconquest.
In the walled historic center D. Dinis and Isabel of Aragon, the Holy Queen, got married and even today the streets have a medieval feature, adorned by the Town Hall and the Ducal Palace, as well as by the Churches of St. Peter and St. Mary. Discover Trancoso's strong Jewish heritage as well at Isaac Cardoso's Center for the Interpretation of Jewish Culture.