The Aldeias Históricas are a handful of medieval fortified villages in central Portugal, and one of the country's best-kept secrets. Here you will discover the real Portugal, a world of traditions, legends and... granite.
During your experience trip, you will cross picturesque ancient villages, mountain plateaus and glacial valleys. You will be overwhelmed by natural splendour and giant granite boulders, breathing in the "purest air in Portugal". Enjoy impressive ruins, breathtaking views and priceless collections of prehistoric finds.
Day 1 : Departure to Porto - Viseu
Pick up your rental car and head towards Viseu, where the famous Dão wine is produced. Viseu is a pleasant town that has been a strategic location for centuries: a crossroad of transit routes halfway between the Serra da Estrela and the Douro Valley. Gourmets are definitely in for a treat here with regional specialities such as 'cabrito assado' (grilled lamb) and local sweet treats.
Day 2: Viseu
You will explore the sights in Viseu on foot, all of which are within walking distance: the Igreja de São Francisco with beautiful azulejos, the town hall and courthouse, the cathedral, Rossio square with numerous terraces and a magnificent long azulejos wall with scenes of everyday life. It is mainly the Museu Grão Vasco, the former archbishop's palace, that is the main attraction. Vasco Fernandes, better known as Grão Vasco, and the school of Viseu (16th century) were particularly influenced by the Flemish primitives, so the resemblance is very noticeable.
Day 3: The impressive heart of the Serra da Estrela
On the programme today is Portugal's largest protected nature reserve with its highest mountain (1993 m) and highest road. Via Mangualde to Celorico da Beira, the first fortified town on your journey with a huge square keep of the old castle. Afterwards, you will continue to Linhares, another fortified town with a magnificent rampart in a mighty castle on a protruding granite rock and via Folgosinho, an ancient village towards Gouveia. Soon you reach the high mountain plateau which is full of impressive granite blocks, some with surprising shapes such as the 'Cabeça do Velho', 'the head of a greybeard'. You then set off towards the beautifully located Seia and a diversion past the 'Cabeça da Velha' - or 'old woman's head', towards Loriga and Unhais da Serra, a small spa town in stunning surroundings. Then you'll head up to Covilhã, a university town renowned for its wool industry and its street-art, ideal for a stop. Via Penhas da Saúde, you will travel on towards the Torre, Portugal's highest mountain. Soon a landscape appears in which eroded granite blocks are scattered. The view of a reservoir and the high glacial valley of Zêzere is simply spectacular. Your route continues along that glacial valley to the mountain town of Manteigas, where you will stay for 3 nights.
Day 4: Hiking in Portugal's purest air
Together with an experienced mountain guide, you will hike into nature with impressive granite blocks against which houses were built. Here, in primitive conditions, the first patients were brought by Dr Sousa Martins with spectacular results. Enjoy the silence and sheer beauty of this pristine landscape here.
Day 5: The route of the medieval fortified villages
These fortresses were built in the 17th and 18th centuries to guard the border with Spain. The first stop is Belmonte, an ambient town, birthplace of Pedro Álvares Cabral, discoverer of Brazil. Make sure to visit the Igreja de São Tiago, the pantheon of the Cabral family and the Jewish quarter with its synagogue and the 'Museu Judaico'. The centre 'A Descoberta do Novo Mundo' is also intriguing. Via a narrow road with colossal granite boulders, you reach Sortelha, a world of granite, but unimaginably beautiful and picturesque. After this, you will drive on to Monsanto, with its giant granite boulders that even incorporate some houses.
Day 6: The 'Aldeias Históricas'
On the sixth day of your trip, you will pass through Guarda, to Castelo Mendo, a fortified town on a rocky hill among the remains of a Gothic rampart with some interesting buildings from the time of Spanish rule, a 17th-century church, a pillory and granite farmhouses. Continue via the picturesque fortified town of Castelo Bom to Almeida, some 6 km from the Spanish border. The gigantic dimensions of the defences capture everyone's imagination!
Day 7: From the eagle's nest to mystical prehistory
Castelo Rodrigo is also called the eagle's nest of eastern Portugal with beautiful views of the surroundings and with an impressive ruin. Through Pinhel with a landscape full of olive trees and vineyards, to Trancoso with a fully intact medieval ring wall. The journey then takes you to Marialva with remains of a castle on a rocky ridge to the interesting Parque Arqueológico do Vale do Côa. A visit to the Museum of Art and Archaeology is not only a must because of its location and architecture, you will discover priceless collections of prehistoric finds and explanations of open-air Palaeolithic engraving art. Return via Castelo Melhor, the final walled fortified village of your trip.
Day 8: Going home
Passing the Douro Valley and Amarante, a pretty town terraced against the idyllic banks of the Tâmega River, you will depart for Porto. You will drop off your rental car at Porto airport and take your return flight home. Prefer to enjoy beautiful Portugal a few more days? We will be happy to help you!
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