Experience History as You Walk Village to Village through Breathtaking Landscapes
With homes made of granite or shale, these ancient stone villages shield stories of wars, conquests and old traditions. Each are located in the central region of Portugal, and can be seen from far away because of the tall towers of their medieval castles. Nowadays they are peaceful and quiet, and their streets and houses preserve the most genuine of Portugal’s features: the authenticity of its people and a 900-year-old proud history. But it wasn’t always like this. Built on the top of mountains and hills, from their towers and walls watch was kept over the surrounding land. That is why they are so strategically located along the border. Kings and landlords thought this was the only way to get some peace and quiet. How wrong they were! Moors, Christians, Castilians and Portuguese all tried to conquer these lands, leaving each of these villages an ancient tale to tell. These historic villages will captivate you not only with their rich heritage and history. You’ll also enjoy some of Portugal’s most magnificent landscapes and feel surrounded by their natural warmth.
7 Days of easy-moderate hiking, walking and touring
- Enjoy a walking tour of Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon, with its Gothic cathedrals, majestic monasteries, and the narrow lanes of the old quarter
- Explore historic villages lost in time with traditional houses made of shale, and their striking blue doors and windows, all in the shadows of ancient watch towers and medieval castles
- Walk through Portugal’s stunning landscapes and feel surrounded by its natural warmth
Duration: 8 days Start Location: Lisbon, Portugal End Location: Lisbon, PortugalDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrival in Lisbon
Plan to arrive at the Lisbon Portela Airport, also known as Lisbon Airport (LIS), on the morning of Day-1 of the itinerary. After arriving and clearing customs, an MTS representative will be waiting at the airport to welcome you and transfer you to the hotel. We’ll have some time to check in to our hotel and freshen up before lunch and a walk through the old town of Lisbon, and the Mouraria and Alfama neighborhoods. We’ll finish our day with a festive welcome dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 2 : Lisbon – Salvaterra do Extremo – Monfortinho
After a hardy breakfast, we'll begin our journey inland, north of Lisbon, to the small village of Salvaterra do Extremo, where today's hike begins. This village, located near the border of Spain, dates back to an ancient past, and was originally a stronghold used by the Romans and the Arabs. After its ruin, D. Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal, born in Coimbra, ordered the construction of a castle. These days, the village preserves only as a testimony a pillory, for its castle and fortress are long gone. The whole village has a very special charm. Here we’ll find such wonders as the House of Sardões (lizards), the moon-shaped well, Casa da Câmara and its bell tower, old traditional homes made of shale, the storks in the belfry, and the cylindrical sties made of granite. Our hiking route today is approximately seven miles on varied terrain along an ancient Roman road. At the end of the day, we´ll continue on to Monfortinho, where we’ll be stay for two nights.
Day 3 : Monfortinho – Idanha-a-Velha – Monsanto – Penha Garcia – Monfortinho
Today we are going to walk village-to-village through a beautiful landscape known as "The Lost Streak." These historic old villages are among a group of 12 villages classified under a 1991 government program called The Historic Villages Program (Programa de Aldeias Históricas). We'll begin with a transfer to Idanha-a-Velha, one of the oldest towns in Portugal. With a long history of Roman settlement dating back to 16 AD, Idanha-a-Velha has been described as a "modest village with a rich historical background." Today, those who visit this small, peaceful village will find it difficult to imagine that it was once a prosperous Roman city almost as rich as Lisbon; and that it endured the battles between Christians and Muslims in the first century of Portuguese nationhood. Today, Idanha-a-Velha is much like an open air museum, where great civilizations still breathe through the remains they’ve left behind.
After exploring this special place, we'll continue our hike towards the old stone village of Monsanto. Our five-mile journey follows a good path that gradually climbs up to Portugal’s “most Portuguese” village - Monsanto, an ancient fortified village perched against the face of a rocky cliff. This “most Portuguese” village keeps intact very deep roots of Portuguese culture. It is here that people resisted for seven long years to a siege imposed by the Romans in the second century B.C. Nearing the end of the siege, it is said that Monsanto was down to its last sack of grain and only one calf. Knowing they were on the brink of surrender, Monsanto's leader decided to feed the entire bag of grain to the calf before throwing it over the castle walls. When it exploded in front of the soldiers, they were disheartened at how much food the village must still have, and thus abandoned their siege. This victory is still celebrated today in Monsanto in the “Festa das Cruzes” (Feast of the Crosses) every year on the 3rd of May.
A cluster of houses has grown up the slopes of tall cliffs, taking advantage of huge granite rocks that are used for the walls, and in some cases a large single rock has been used to make a roof. We'll hike through this unique village, up the steep rocky slope to a castle perched above it. Our effort will be rewarded with a nice picnic lunch enjoyed along with one of the most stunning panoramic views in Portugal.
After lunch, we'll explore Monsanto a bit more, and then begin our return to Monfortinho, stopping along the way in the village of Penha Garcia for a brief side hike (approximately 1.2 miles). Considered by many the “Nativity Scene” of the Beira, Penha Garcia is located on the slopes of a hill with the same name. This is an ancient village, dating back to the Neolithic period. From here we'll enjoy a view of the great Raiana grasslands. A labyrinthine of streets winding among Penha Garcia's small houses of shale are covered in flowers, making this a true gem to explore.
We'll then return to Monfortinho for dinner, and some time to rest.
Day 4 : Monfortinho – Sortelha – Belmonte – Linhares da Beira – Penhas Douradas
After a refreshing night’s rest and a relaxed breakfast taken with beautiful views of the hotel garden, we'll leave Monfortinho and continue on to our next destination - The Penhas Douradas, Serra da Estrela, and the first mountain resort in Portugal. Along the way, we'll stop to explore the village Sortelha. Surmounted by a castle built on a formidable crag at an altitude of 2,500-feet, Sortelha keeps intact its ancient architecture of rural granite houses, retaining a mediaeval appearance.
We'll then continue to Belmonte. The unique village of Belmonte is dominated by a 13th century castle that was transformed into a 15th century manor house by the family of Pedro Alvares Cabral, the discoverer of South America. Adjacent to the castle is a labyrinth of ancient alleyways that make up the old Jewish quarter. Still home to dozens of Jewish families, this is the largest Jewish community in Portugal.
After a visit here, we'll continue to Linhares da Beira in the Serra da Estrela Natural Park. Situated on the western slopes of the Serra da Estrela, Linhares da Beira was originally a Lusitanian hill fort. We'll walk through the village amongst the simple granite houses that stand side by side with elegant manor-houses still displaying signs of their ancient nobility.
We'll then continue on to Penhas Douradas, on the central high plains of Estrela Mountain.
Day 5 : Hike in Serra da Estrela Natural Park (Penhas Douradas Region)
Today we'll get an early start, and leave our hotel with our hiking boots. Today is a day with many ups and downs along a route that will take us through the diversified landscape of Penhas Douradas, marked by rocky outcrops, boulders and crags, several of which resemble human forms that have given rise to popular names such as "head of the old woman " and the "Pitchers" (fat, thin and flat.) Our destination today is the dam of the Vale do Rossim, a picturesque lake with a small beach perfect for resting, soaking our feet, and enjoying a nice picnic.
We'll then make our way back to our hotel, arriving in the early afternoon. For those who prefer more activity. The rest of the day is yours to rest or explore.
Day 6 : Penhas Douradas – Piodão – Lousã
Today we'll leave Serra da Estrela behind, starting our route towards the small town of Lousã. En route, we will visit the village of Piódão. Here the houses are harmoniously situated into forming the shape of an amphitheater, and easily blending into the landscape. Entirely made of shale, these ancient houses and cobblestone avenues form a beautiful old neighborhood that cascades down a gentle slope in a cluster of dark stone contrasting bright blue painted doors and windows.
It is said that this jarring note of color originated from the village’s only shop, what had only blue paint for sale. Given the isolation of the village's location, it was not easy for people to travel to other places. It was, in fact, this isolation that preserved this unique feature of Piódão. Within the set of small houses, with no more than two floors, a delightful church dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Conceição clearly stands out, with its white facades and its cylindrical buttresses. The inhabitants of Piódão erected this church at the beginning of the 19th century using their own gold and money.
Given its location at the bottom of the hill, Piódão was once an ideal shelter for outlaws running away from justice, and it is said that it was probably here that one of the men responsible for the murder of D. Inês de Castro (14th century Queen Consort of Portugal) escaped to.
We’ll reach our destination, Lousã, in the middle of the afternoon, with plenty of time to rest or explore.
Day 7 : Lousã – Lisbon
Today we will again leave our hotel with our hiking boots on. This time we’ll hike on the magnificent trail of the Serra da Lousã, passing through villages long since lost in time.
Our hike starts at the Castle of Arouce, on the western slope of the Serra da Lousã. This narrow trail, molded by the passage of mountain people over the centuries, winds gradually uphill. Here and there, we’ll be able to catch a glimpse of a castle in the distance through dense vegetation, on top of what looks like an unreachable cliff. In the village of Talasnal, we’ll wander through the small winding alleyways, under the shade of houses made entirely of shale. Here we can drink fresh, cold water straight from the village's spring fountain, or just sit back and relax, take a break, and contemplate the beautiful scene around us.
We’ll continue our journey along a beaten path, crossing bridges and creeks, and guarded by the shade of chestnut trees as we climb towards Casal Novo for our final village visit. From Casal Novo, we’ll walk downhill through woods, where mimosa tenuifloras are abundant, until we finally reach the best view upon the valley, and the castle which was once the scene of many battles between Christians and Moors, now in full display. We’ll then proceed through terraces of ancient farms, turned into abundant gardens, reaching the end of our route.
After lunch, we'll have the opportunity to take a dip in the very refreshing waters of nearby river pools, before returning to Lisbon. After checking in to our hotel, we’ll depart for an epic ending to this trip—a special dinner in a typical "casa de Fado," which is a restaurant that features the traditional Portuguese Fado music. In 2011, Fado was added to UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Day 8 : Departure from Lisbon
Our trip officially ends after breakfast today. Three hours before your scheduled flight, your guide will transfer you to the airport and assist you in the check-in process.
DATES: Best time to go: April - May, September Departures: Sep 28, 2014 - Oct 5, 2014
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
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