SURROUNDINGS - Forest Soul Gathering 2

Barroso region and the North of Portugal are simply overwhelming, We prepared a list of diferent spots for you to visit and chill before and after the festival.

In the south margin of Albufeira do Alto Rabagão there’s Vilarinho de Negrões, one of the most picturesque villages of all the region, because of their well preserved construction and mostly by being located on tiny and beautiful peninsula.

Vilarinho de Negrões is a land that sees itself on the mirror everyday and distinguishes itself by it’s perfect symmetry.

Coordinates:  41.736948, -7.801128

Located in Peneda-Gerês National Park, this region offers visitors a wide range of stunning views, in an area where nature has been allowed to preserve all of its many charms.

The town of Montalegre is dominated by its castle, built in the thirteenth century on the remains of a much older fortification, which demonstrates the importance that this site has always had as a strategic point of defence for the whole of the region.

In the surrounding area, close to the typical communal village of Pitões das Júnias, is the small and curious monastery of Santa Maria das Júnias, which today is in ruins but once belonged to the Cistercian Order (in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries).

As far as regional cuisine is concerned, Montalegre is famous for its sausages and smoked ham, and the Feira do Fumeiro (the smoked meats fair), which is held in January every year, is the ideal occasion for buying some of these tasty delights.

Coordinates:  41.825802, -7.790743

It’s a terrific drive to Pitões das Júnias, 25km northwest of Montalegre, and set in one of the wildest corners of Portugal. The clustered brown-stone, red-tile buildings of the village are framed by the most extraordinary jagged peaks (pitões) of the Gerês mountains, and the surroundings simply beg you to get out of your car and walk.

Happily, there’s an enjoyable waymarked trail (4km; 1hr 30min) that descends a stone path into a hidden valley where a gloriously sited, twelfth-century monastery and plunging waterfall await.

Follow the brown signs for “Mosteiro” and “Cascata” and then the paint marks, which take you first to the monastery, then along a stepped boardwalk to the waterfall viewing point before looping back to the village. Pitões may be isolated, but it expects visitors: there’s a car park at the top of the village.

Coordinates: 41.841514, -7.948978

A medieval stone bridge arcs above the Rio Rabagão in northern Portugal. Supposedly, the devil himself conjured up the structure. He was, after all, a rather nifty builder (at least according to medieval legends).

According to local lore, a criminal was in dire need of a way to cross the river while fleeing the nearby village. He summoned the devil, who kindly said he’d help the man—for the small price of his soul, of course. The man agreed, and the devil created a temporary bridge that vanished before those pursuing the convict could cross as well.

Supposedly, the bandit felt so remorseful he later sought out a priest to repent. A virtuous priest took pity on the man and used his Rosary and a bit of holy water to expel the devil and turn the bridge into a permanent structure.

Modern visitors to the Misarela Bridge won’t have to worry about it vanishing beneath their feet. The sturdy stones allow anyone to walk (or flee, if they must) across the river. In fact, in the early 19th century, French troops did use the bridge to flee from British forces during the Peninsular War.

While you’re there, be sure to take in the views of the surrounding nature. Trees and plants fill the space, their verdant cover creeping down the hillside until it meets the water and rocks. After a wet spell, you’ll likely catch a waterfall cascading over the rocks near the bridge. In the summer, people can take a dip in the river below.

Coordinates: 41.692831, -8.018859

Situated in the shadow of the Padrela hills, in a fertile valley on the banks of the Ribeira de Oura river, Vidago is a small spa town, in days gone by the favoured haunt of royalty and nobility in Trás-os-Montes. Famed for its miraculous medicinal waters – naturally sparking, with sodium and bicarbonate ions – this spa resort offers rest, recreation, treatment and tourism.

On the basis of the archaeological remains discovered, the town’s toponymy and its geographical position, which would have made it an ideal site for a hill fort of the Castro culture, its origins are thought to date back to pre-Roman times. The Romans were not slow to exploit the region’s wealth, both in terms of its mineral water and the fertility of its lands, which yielded excellent wines and high-quality agricultural produce.

Before waking up to the properties of its water, Vidago was an essentially agricultural settlement with its social life focused around Largo do Olmo, the square named for an ancient elm tree. Today it is the site of the Capela do Olmo (Elm Chapel), also known as the Capela de S. Simão, one of the town’s most important monuments, most of which are of a similarly religious nature. High on the belvedere, which affords a panorama of exuberant beauty, stands the Coto chapel, a hermitage erected in honour of Nossa Senhora da Saúde. A place of pilgrimage, its stairway is often used for the keeping of vows. As the town grew, a process accelerated by the properties of its waters, it became necessary to build a main church (1942). Dedicated to the town’s patron, Nossa Senhora da Conceição, the church is in the Romanesque style. The centre of old Vidago still boasts examples of manorial architecture, with houses that bear the coats of arms of the families whose deeds marked the town’s history.

Vidago’s precious mineral water is available to visitors to Vidago’s park, where nature in all its splendour pays homage to those who wander by. Over the past hundred years, Vidago has welcomed major figures of the European monarchy, politics and the arts, who travelled there seeking the beneficial properties of its waters. Vidago, Vidago II and Fonte Salus are the three springs that supply the water used in the various treatments.

All these attractions, from historic monuments to the tall, gracious mountains of the surrounding countryside, can be appreciated from the footpaths that run though the town and nearby villages.

As well as medicinal waters, the town of Vidago is also blessed with fine wines. The region’s white wines can vie with Portugal’s best, and can be tasted, along with its reds, in any of the traditional cellars that have been springing up in the surrounding area. To finish up with, nothing beats sampling traditional products, like cured ham and smoked meats, in one of the many local restaurants.

Coordinates: 41.641771, -7.574831

In the remote northern region of Trás-os-Montes, Chaves (meaning ‘keys’) is only 10km away from Spain and lies on the upper stretch of the river Tâmega. It is a spa town steeped in history, the most important example of which is the fantastically maintained Roman Bridge. This feat of engineering was completed at the end of the 1st century and all twelve arches are still visible. Reputedly built by locally sourced slaves, as one of the inscribed stones attests, it allowed people to cross the river all year round, thus joining the two existing parishes. Until its construction, communication between the two was limited to summer months of low water. Cars still use the bridge, albeit less than before since a new bridge was opened fairly recently, but do make a point of crossing on foot as it provides a lovely view of the riverside town.

Originally a fortified settlement due to its frontier location, it has been captured and fought over by all manner of invader. The two forts – São Neutel and São Francisco – are situated on the outskirts of the town and are both in a decent state of repair, especially that of S. Neutel. The old houses in the medieval quarter are tall and thin allowing more accommodation to exist within the confines of the ancient walls. Many inevitably did not stand the test of time, but some of those remaining still sport their various balconies, each more pronounced than the one below, meaning that in some streets, like the Rua Direita, opposite top floors are very neighbourly indeed and the street below decidedly shaded. From the main square, the Praça de Camões, we see the 14th century keep built by Dom Dinis, now containing a military museum which contains displays focusing on Portugal’s involvement in WW1 and its 20th century colonial struggles. Two of the town’s churches also flank this square, though as this region has always been the poorest in Portugal they are simpler and plainer that their counterparts in other parts of the country. The most beautiful is the Miseracórdia with its ornate columns and biblical tales told on typical 18th century tiled friezes.

Although nowadays known for its traditionally cured presunto hams, it was the existence of gold nearby and the natural hot springs which originally made this town desirable. The water which issues from the ground is one of the hottest in Europe, with a temperature of over 70ºC, and still draws people from near and far to take its thermal waters in the hope of easing various ailments. Other spas exist in the vicinity, including one at Vidago a dozen kilometres south west. This small town also boasts one of the few examples of industry in the area with its mineral water bottling plants. Such lack of industry means that even today this is an area of considerable economic emigration, particularly to France. August sees the return of many of it migrant families and the population is said to double as a result.

Nearby places of interest include an enormous rock of Outeiro Machado, near the village of Soutelo. The multiple engravings on this 50m hunk of stone are said to date back to at least the Celts. Another rock of note is the Bolideira near the village of Monforte which is said to be balanced on top of another piece of granite and can be rocked despite weighing several tons. Perhaps the most interesting local curiosity is the nationally acclaimed Wine of the Dead produced in the village of Boticas since the invasion of the French army in 1809. Legend tells us that the local people buried their wine to avoid it being pillaged, and upon digging it up, once safe from the enemy, discovered that it in fact tasted better.

Coordinates: 41.740809, -7.470743

The Peneda-Gerês National Park , also known simply as Gerês, is the only national park in Portugal (although many natural parks, protected landscapes, and reserves exist across the nation). It is located in the Norte region, in the northwest of Portugal, specifically in the districts of Viana do Castelo, Braga, and Vila Real.

The park was created on 8 May 1971 due to its national and international scientific interest, with the aim to protect the soil, water, flora, fauna, and landscape, while preserving its value to the existent human and natural resources. Education and tourism are also goals of the park.

Here are some points of interest for you to visit in Gerês:

It’s near to Rio Cávado, on the stream that crosses Cabril.

This waterfall is located at high altitude and with hard access, you need to go on foot (more than 5Km), but is excellent for bathing due to the tiny puddles, or lagoons.

Coordinates: 41.759270, -8.027313

In the South zone of Gerês, you’ll find this magnificent waterfall, in Pincães, not far away from Cabril. It’s natural pool is one of the most amazing of Portugal and the walk is really worth it.

Coordinates: 41.715567, -8.059671

Tahiti Waterfall (popular name given to Fecha das Barjas Waterfall) in Gerês is one of the most beautiful locations of this Park but is only possible to get there on foot, on a motorbike or a AVT. This waterfall is really seeked by tourists and visitors of the region.

Coordinates: 41.703867, -8.10956

Arado Waterfall is located on Rio Arado, near Aldeia da Ermida (Terras de Bouro, Braga).

This waterfall is characterized by being located in high mountain water course where the land slopes are won by a succession of waterfalls that end in a crystal clear lake near Aldeia da Ermida.

Coordinates: 41.723807, -8.130011

The camp, which occupies 3 hectares, is rectangular in shape, a wall with rounded corners and defensive quadrangular towers between the doors and the corners can be seen. The wall was raised with small perpianhos of granite (opus vittattum), is 3.20 m wide and was topped by semi-cylindrical battlements; The towers are about 10 cm high. to the outside and 30 cm. to the interior. The outer gap is V-shaped, 4 m. of width and 3 of bottom. It had four monumental gates, from which the main left (sinister principalis) and the decumbrian were excavated. The first had a 4-meter track. wide with two strips separated by two large studs; the second is similar, but with a single opening. The wall is separated from the interior constructions by an interval (intervallum) of 11 m. width.

Coordinates: 41.979325, -7.98243

A Cascata de Leonte it’s a waterfall located near Caldas do Gerês, a parish of Vilar da Veiga in Terras de Bouro, Braga.

This wonderful waterfall is located aprox. 2 km away from Portela do Homem and the waters come from the beautiful Rio Homem with his source in a granitic hilltop of old origin. After the fall, the waters give way to a peaceful lagoon very used in summer time.

To get there you need to get to Portela do Homem and from there you have directions.

Coordinates: 41.760667, -8.149234

Mata da Albergaria is one of the most important forests of the National Park of Peneda Gerês (PNPG), consisting predominantly of a secular oval that includes species characteristic of Geranian fauna and flora. It also has a section of Via Romana – Geira – with the ruins of its bridges and a significant set of landmarks.

The reduced human presence in this forest until a few years ago did not break  the fragile balance of its ecosystem, whose richness and variety contributed to its classification by the Council of Europe as one of the Biogenetic Reserves of the European Continent. It is also, under the terms of the Park Management Plan, classified as a Partial Area Protection Area of the Environment.

Coordinates: 41.783370, -8.165781

Tradition suggests that the village was founded within the 1st century (c.70), during the Visigothic settlement of the region, a time when the nearby Roman road (Via Nova XVIII) was extended. According to this history, seven men settled present-day Portela do Campo, but following a dispute, four decided to settle downstream of the Rio Homem, establishing Vilarinho da Furna. Little evidence exists to support this story, although there several Roman roads and bridges within the region, including two roads to the south and three bridges (one within the village that crosses the Ribeira do Eido, one upstream (the Ponta Nova) and one downstream (Ponte do Couço)

Little is known about its status during the Roman occupation, although it was first referenced in 1623, in the church register of baptisms.

A German who visited Vilarinho da Furna in the final years of the 18th century noted that the houses were comparable to other peasants in the region. However, his large, host family lived comfortably; in contrast to many other places, they had no shortage of food, and their beds were clean and made-up with white linens. He suggested that many German peasants would envy how well-off they were.

Flood

Planning for a reservoir and dam began in the 1950s, with surveys and test drilling. Construction started in 1967. At this time, the village had almost 300 inhabitants in 57 families spread over 80 houses.

The exodus started in September 1969, when the then-Companhia Portuguesa de Electricidade (Portuguese Electricity Company) started to pay out the indemnity fees to the villages residents. The villagers received a total of 20,741,607 escudos: excluding houses and other structures, the land itself was valued by HICA – Companhia Hidroeléctrica do Cavado (Cavado Hydroelectric Company) at .5 escudos 1 square metre (11 sq ft), equivalent to the price of half a sardine. When including all structures, the compensation was equivalent to 5 escudos 1 square metre (11 sq ft), which was less than the cost that HICA incurred to build houses for its workers. In October 1970, notices were posted throughout the village stating that the reservoir would be filled. Before the dam was built, all roads leading to the village were constructed by the villagers. The dam construction company attempted to build a new road to evacuate the villagers, but this attempt failed. In the end, the villagers had to construct a new road to allow them to take their belongings by truck from the village. Residents tried to bring away as much of their belongings as possible (even the roof tiles); only the bare walls of most of the houses were left behind. The last inhabitant left in 1971, and the village was submerged the following year

Coordinates: 41.740809, -7.470743

Cascata de Portela do Homem is within the Peneda-Gerês Natural Park but almost in Spain, very close to the border. The whole area is magnificent, and you can reach the bridge over Rio Homem.

The last two kilometers must be on foot, which makes it one of the best accesses in Gerês, besides being one of the most beautiful.

The space around the thermal baths is well structured to receive visitors who want to spend there the day or even a few days. Around the river and the pool the area has trees and grass for a well spent day (with picnic); and on the main road of the village, there are several hotels for those who want to experience for a few days the health benefits of these hot springs.

Coordinates: 41.803608, -8.128191

Castro Laboreiro belongs to the municipality of Melgaço and is located in the Peneda-Gerês National Park.

It has one of the richest prehistoric patrimonies of the country that gathers pictures and cave paintings, 120 Dolmens (dated 5000 years ago) and Cistas (funerary megalithic monuments). This village has a rich historical and architectural heritage, with a particular type of castrejas constructions existing in Castro Laboreiro: Castro Laboreiro Castle – classified as a national monument, the Church of Castro Laboreiro, Pelourinho de Castro Laboreiro, dating from the 16th century, classified as a property of public interest; medieval churches, communal ovens, granaries and mills.

Cascata do Laboreiro is to the south of the Old Bridge and can be seen from the top of the walls of the Castle.

Coordinates: 42.030597, -8.156127

Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Peneda is a Catholic shrine dedicated to Mary, mother of Jesus under the invocation of Nossa Senhora da Peneda.

It is a secluded and unique place and one of the most important and popular sanctuaries of the North of Portugal and where, in the first week of September, there is one of the largest pilgrimages of Alto Minho, of urban centers and reminiscent of the most secular traditions, rooted in the deepest of populations and their ancestral rhythms.

Coordinates: 41.973856, -8.223195

One of the least know and most well preserved locations is on Tibo Village, near Santuário da Nossa Senhora da Peneda. You can leave the car in Tibo and walk for about 30 mins until you get there, and it’s really worth it.

Coordinates: 41.935633, -8.234068