Travelling through history
12…the number of “Aldeias Históricas” in Portugal. You can find all info here.
Every corner tells a different story…so stick around and you might get curious enough to go there before ending this post.
I have been visiting this circuit since 2013. What I will leave you with is just a few historical contexts, experiences and a photo gallery: most of the photos were taken during Summer time, but I have been there again recently during Winter and the magic and peace still remain…
I do challenge you to get out of the beaten path and explore – I will keep a few things out as I am willing to keep a few secrets…and I would like you to go there and create your owns; the photos are subtitled and Oi have added an extra because I wanted to…again, travelling is all about surprising yourself and a great learning experience for self-growth.
Almeida: occupied in 61 a.C. by the Romans, and later by the barbarians. The Arabs called it Al-Mêda (the Table) and built a small Castle (8th-9th century); part of the castle still remains, though more interestingly is the actual village built inside the castle walls and the community bonds you feel and see; felt like a tourist in my home town. Local bed&breakfast and restaurants are very reasonable, with friendly owners (who do not like you to starve…so don´t be a stranger if the owner offers you more food for no extra charge!
Belmonte: Tradition says that the name Belmonte comes from the place where the Village stands (beautiful hill). However, there are those who attribute to the origin of “belli monte” – mount of war. Sunny village, good people, endless landscapes and a history of centuries – the history of the Cabrais and the Jews. It was the birthplace of Pedro Álvares Cabral, the navigator, who in 1500 commanded the second armada to India. Worth visit all museums and walk around the castle (crazy thing, i do not have any photo from Belmonte…i presume i was too busy visiting museums :))
Castelo Novo: I can´t explain why, but I just loved this village; definitely the people (the bed&breakfast and the local art&crafts store owners were so kind!), the walks around the village, the shades of green and grey, the smells of earth and water, the unknown paths that lead to discovering old ruins and fresh water lakes…something very mysterious but at the same time comfortable. I recommend to take a look into the work of local craftsman in Casa da Lagariça.
Castelo Mendo: This predominantly medieval village is divided into two walled sections: the oval citadel is the old town and the new town is protected by a Dionysian wall that once boasted eight towers. They were partially destroyed by the 1755 earthquake. Castelo Mendo’s charter granted and regulated the ﬁrst free fair in Portugal. It was held three times a year and lasted eight days; maybe that is why I felt so alone in there…possibly because the town lost that vibrant mobilization brought by merchants…still worth walking around.
Castelo Rodrigo: is a genuine location of monuments preserving important medieval references. The most valuable features of its historical heritage are the old walls, the ruins of Cristóvão de Moura Palace, the 16th-century pillory, the medieval church, the parish church, the medieval cistern and inscriptions attesting to the existence of a substantial new-Christian community. Amazing place if you are into photography…the Sun Gate, the shapes engraved in stone, the elderly peaking from windows or sitting outside in benches carved in stone. Take a day to stroll around this gem.
Idanha-a-Velha: it has some of the country’s most important archaeological sites. It stands in a place where a Roman city once lay. It was occupied by Muslims in the 8th century and taken back by Christians in the 12th century. It was donated to the Knights Templar in the 13th century and still has traces of different ages that attest to permanent occupation by various civilisations. It still has an old oven (carved in stone) that is used by the local community to make bread! Inside the Tourist Office there is a shoe of unique instruments or materials used by the locals.
Linhares da Beira: Linhares da Beira is a 12th century medieval village. Wandering around the streets of this museum village is travelling back in time to its history and feeling the breeze from the Mondego Valley.
Marialva: is a few minutes from the town of Mêda. The streets are lined with buildings that have stood the test of time. Outside the walled ruins there is an interesting niche for tourism, as houses are emerging in every corner, like hobbit domes. If curious, google “Casas do Côro” Ecotourism.
Monsanto: one of the most interesting villages along this route. Perched on a hilltop that oversees all the surrounding horizons, the village has a unique charm. The oldest part is also the highest point, where the Knights Templar built a wall and a dungeon. Houses built in and under stones? What?? Yes, here you see that magical architecture happening, Also, great place to grab a bite!
Piodão: the Christmas Village; more and more tourist visit this small, fairytale-like village. The contrast of the white church as you enter the oval citadel, the river and natural pools as you descend towards the river and the pedestrian trails leading to another magic village – Foz d’égua, re-erected by locals, full of stories but vacant of inhabitants. Every season has something different to offer; do not forget to do hike to the Serra da Pena Waterfall (hopefully the fires will give a break this year as this area has been devastated in previous year…).
Sortelha: Sortelha is one of the oldest, most beautiful towns in Portugal. It has kept its physiognomy all this time and is considered one of the best preserved. A must go, for the scenic views, people, trails and FOOD!! Two restaurants (the only ones actually) where you eat true local food; one a bit more gourmet, but don´t be afraid to as it is very reasonable!
Trancoso: Today’s peace and quiet in its centuries-old castle contrast with the alarms and fears experienced by people of other times. It was a border town, the stage for ﬁghts and battles that were decisive to the formation and independence of the kingdom. This lovely village enclosed within the castle walls is a really well structured mini metropolis. Outside you will fing walking trails, parks and lots a nice local people, who must want to have a chat about the weather or tell you how things were back in the days…
Fresh news: this circuit is looking to obtain a Certificate of Sustainable Tourist Destination (Biosphere certification). In my point of view, well merited! See more on the official website