Walking from Soajo to Peneda at Gerês National Park, Portugal

Walking from Soajo to Peneda at Gerês National Park, Portugal

Let’s suppose you are in the Serra da Peneda or Serra do Soajo area, in the Gerês National Park.

In that case, I suggest you consider walking the “Trilho da Fé e do Pão”, which means the walking trail of bread and faith.

This walking trail connects the villages of Soajo and Peneda.

Anyone experienced in hiking in the National Park can say that it is not an extraordinarily beautiful walk.

I cannot disagree. But then, what makes me suggest this activity anyway?

In fact, there is not one but a set of reasons to suggest this walk:

1st

This route connects the two villages of Soajo and Peneda and passes through other exciting places.

Starting in Soajo and ending in Peneda, we have the opportunity to get to know these two locations.

Both small and very different from each other,  these two villages hold some of the most promoted interest points in the National Park brochures. They are the Espigueiros do Soajo and the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Peneda.

2nd

The trail passes by:

mountain villages that maintain the characteristics of other times, I’m talking about the villages: Adrão and Tibo.

a fascinating picnic spot, maybe at the right time of the walk;

a bathing area in Tibo, so bring your bathing gear;

and the viewpoint of Tibo, which has one of the most emblematic views of Serra da Peneda.

3rd

Being a somewhat long and tiring journey allows us to spend the night in Soajo or Peneda, depending on how you walk the trail.

For this walk, I suggest using hiking boots and walking sticks as part of the essential gear.

Most of the walk is on dirt trails. Still, you will find large granite slabs, gravel, and muddy areas.

This walking trail is 10,8mi long, has 2890ft of elevation gain, and has 1667ft of elevation loss.

Be safe, have fun, and respect nature.

David Monteiro

Sistelo Walkways, Portugal

Sistelo Walkways, Portugal

The Sistelo walkways are one of the many walkways that have been built in Portugal.

If you want to know more about walkways in Portugal, access here.

As the name implies, they are at Sistelo, or, better said, one of its ends is connected with this village.

When we want to say how long this walkway is, it is not easy to define where we start measuring and where do we end. Even more difficult is to know when we are told a length, to define to from where to where is being measured.

So I will say that, from the point where we leave the road, until the moment we reach the center of Sistelo, it’s 6 km, which is what we have to walk if we ask a taxi to take us to the “start” of the walkway.

Also, considering the direction “to Sistelo”, we can consider 250 m of elevation gain and 160 m of elevation loss.

The route is very interesting because you will be walking mostly along the crystal clear waters of the Vez River and there are many points where we can rest and bathe in the river if the weather conditions allow it.

Regardless of how hot the day can be, the waters of the river are always cold – freezing cold.

This route has already served me as a programmed destination, for whom this kind of route is ideal both in its length and in the type of pavement, but it has also served to escape the extreme heat that was felt in trails of Gerês, also because it is a trail with long shadow extension.

In the photo below, I am with a group of hikers bathing in the river, running away from the heat … it was spectacular.

Naturally, the installation of walkways has been a very controversial topic, receiving comments saying that they attract too many people who are not prepared to make the trail without a walkway, and these kinds of people are also not prepared to respect Nature when the access is facilitated and many other arguments.

These walkways have been much sought after by those who have less experience of walking and, in some way, have made Sistelo a well-known place that is already called Portuguese Tibet due to the number of terraces that exist in the valley.

In Sistelo, at the end of a walk, we find at least one cafe shop that, on a hot day, a cold beer maybe what we want most.

Have fun.

David Monteiro

River Vez dam
Sistelo
Walking trail
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Paiva Walkways, Portugal

Paiva Walkways, Portugal

The Paiva Walkways is the translation of what in Portuguese we refer to as “Passadiços do Paiva”.

Searching the Internet, I found several translations for “Passadiço”: passageway, boardwalk, trailhead, and even catwalk. Here we will refer to them as walkways.

What are the walkways?

Walkways are constructions, often made out of wood, creating easy access to natural areas where they would be difficult to access for those who are less skillful without them.

Thus, when we approach these walkways, we find a paved corridor, made of wood or other materials, expanding within a valley, along a river, or any other natural attractive place.

Naturally, there will be easier and more difficult walkways. However, this difficulty comes from the elevation gain to be overcome and not from any technical obstacle.

In the specific case of “Passadiços do Paiva” (Paiva Walkways or Passadiços do Paiva Trailhead), it has a length of 8700m.

It is a linear route. Taking the direction from Espiunca to Praia Fluvial do Areinho, we have 627m of elevation gain and 475m of elevation loss. Naturally, these measurements made by the GPS device may have inaccuracies. Still, it gives you an idea of ​​the elevation gain/loss before choosing the direction you may want to walk them.

Perhaps, the Paiva Walkways are the most successful case of walkways in Portugal.

I don’t know if they were the first ones to be built, but they inspired many others’ construction.

The decision to build them took place in 2013, and they were inaugurated at the end of June 2015.

Unfortunately, after about two months from the inauguration, these walkways suffered a significant fire during September of that year, leading to their closure for repairs.

Reopened in early 2016, they would again suffer another fire in August of that year.

They reopened in 2017 and have been working ever since.

To have some idea of ​​these walkways’ success, in 2015, during the two months of operation, they had close to 200,000 visits.

That year, there were days of registering 8,000 visits. Later, a maximum limit of 3,500 daily visits was imposed.

This success has its setbacks. We have been witnessing protests by environmental organizations saying that tourist pressure is causing a lot of damage to the ecosystem.

Nevertheless, as already mentioned, the success of the Paiva Walkways has encouraged many others’ construction, and I will write about some of these walkways I usually visit.

Well, I hope you are curious about these structures, and I will be waiting for your visit so we can walk on one of these walkways.

Carpe diem,
David Monteiro

Walking from Minas de São Domingos to Pomarão, Portugal

Walking from Minas de São Domingos to Pomarão, Portugal

Walking Minas de São Domingos to Pomarão is an unforgettable experience.

To know a little more about Minas de São Domingos, I ask you to access here.

The construction of a railroad through which it was possible to transport the production from Minas de São Domingos to Pomarão, a village on the Guadiana River banks, and where ships could access was essential.

Transporting the immense production of the mines using animals was no longer viable. For this reason, this railway line was built.

With the name of “Ramal de São Domingos”, it was always isolated from the rest of the Portuguese train network, having been, perhaps, the second train line to be built in Portugal.

In 1862, the Minas de São Domingos railway line was inaugurated. It was closed in 1965 when the production of the mines also ended.

Later, the railway lines and the “sulipas” (the wooden part that connects the train lines) were removed, leaving an excellent hiking trail.

For security reasons, the various small bridges have been dynamited, creating the only minimum difficulty of this journey. To overcome these obstacles, you will have to go down and then up short slopes.

The walk, which always follows the old railway line route, passes through various tunnels.

I do not remember precisely how many tunnels are there. But I believe there are four.

The last tunnel is the longest. Having your own light is essential, so taking a flashlight or a headlight is advisable.

I have already read several descriptions of this path, referring to various lengths. What I am going to say is different from the rest.

Usually, this route is identified as being about 17 km long. However, as I always walk in the village to see some points of interest before starting the hike, I add another 3.5 km to the mentioned number. The hike is 20.5 km long.

With a gain of 180m in elevation and 320m of elevation loss, it can be said that it is an almost flat or slightly descending route towards Pomarão.

Avoid walking this path during the summer because the temperatures are too high to walk. My preferred time of the year is spring or autumn, almost in winter.

Have fun.

David Monteiro

Minas de São Domingos, something different, Portugal

Minas de São Domingos, something different, Portugal

Minas de São Domingos is a village located in the south of Alentejo, close to Spain’s border, perhaps in one of the least densely populated areas in the country.

It is one of those kinds of places I try to find when I travel, wherever I go.

It has a fascinating history, and the landscape is unusual.

It allows excellent walks or bike rides, delicious food, and, as if everything else was not enough, the weather is very favorable. That is, it rains little, and the sun shines frequently.

I started going to Minas de São Domingos more than thirty years ago with a friend I met during compulsory military service. His parents are from there, and I was always invited to spend some weekends or vacation days.

Since that time, I have seen some changes, I did not like them all, but in general, it has remained more or less the same, a unique and extraordinary place.

The place’s history is closely linked to the mining of cupric pyrites, the base from which copper, sulfur, and some other elements can be extracted.

Very briefly, the history of mining in this village can be told as follows:

    • During the Roman occupation, there were mining activities between 14 BC and 395 AD
    • In 1854, a Spanish mining engineer carried out ore prospecting work and found what he was looking for. The group of French engineers for whom he worked opened a company in Spain and obtained authorization from the Portuguese government for mining there.
    • This company’s potential activity was leased to an English company, Mason & Barry Ltd, which started mining the ore in 1859.
    • During the last mining period, Mason & Barry built a set of infrastructure that left indelible marks:
    • Dams and tanks
    • Railway between Minas de São Domingos and Pomarão
    • Housing for workers
    • Hospital, kindergartens, soccer field, and other social infrastructures
    • In 1965, after a long slow death, the ore extraction was stopped.
    • 1968, Mason & Barry goes bankrupt, and the last worker was fired.

Of course, there are many other exciting elements to understand Minas de São Domingos‘s life in the above summary, but this is not the appropriate place to detail them.

The history of mining in Minas de São Domingos is, among the village’s attractions, the most immediate. However, it is not the only one.

The River Beach of Minas de São Domingos, which many years ago was identified simply by the name of “a Tapada” is also a mandatory stopping point, attracting many bathers as soon as the summer heat begins.

Contrary to the cold waters we can usually find on river beaches, this beach has warm waters. The water is heated by the frequent high air temperatures.

For those who like active tourism, another point of interest is the walk that connects this village to Pomarão, always following the old train line route.

For more details on this walk, I ask you to wait for a detailed article.

Notwithstanding the more detailed information you can find in the specific article on the hike, I can say that the landscape is different from the usual, both because of the ruins of the old mine structures and the strong colors of terrain you can find along the way.

Finally, one of the main reasons for the place’s attraction you will feel it, but you can’t see it. It is a peaceful environment that we will find here, an ambiance that contaminates us.

For reasons too extensive to be exposed here, life in the village follows such a slow pace that I cannot identify such slowness anywhere else. Ignoring time is contagious and fills us with peace.

Hope you like it.

Minas de São Domingos
Minas de São Domingos
Minas de São Domingos
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Visiting and walking at Belver, Portugal

Visiting and walking at Belver, Portugal

Belver is a small Alentejo parish, on the right bank of the Tagus River and belongs to the District of Portalegre.

It is one of those places that has almost no promotion, rarely appears mentioned on social networks and that seems to me to be a destination only for the most curious to find and learn about less frequented places.

I don’t understand this social oblivion concerning Belver.

Belver has quite a set of attractions that would lead me to believe that it could be better known and consequently more visited.

Although with this list, I do not want to exhaust Belver’s reasons for a visit, I want, however,  list some points I consider more than enough reasons for, at least, a day trip:

    • Close to Lisbon. Belver is a 1h 30m drive from Lisbon. I use Lisbon as a reference only because it is the most populated area in this country. It is close enough for a day’s visit but overnight is advised.
    • Although the train, from Lisbon, takes three hours or more, the journey itself, along the Tagus River, is enough reason for a trip.
    • Belver is a very photogenic location, easily allowing excellent photographs.
    • It has many points of interest, including Belver’s Castle and the Penedo Gordo’s cromlech.
    • A loop walking trail of about 17 km, touching several points of interest in Belver’s area.

    • Alentejo gastronomy, as is the prerogative of the region.
    • The Alamal River Beach allows us the possibility to enjoy the temperate waters of the Tagus River.
    • Possibility to visit a vulture colony that lives on the banks of the Tagus River.
    • Typical Alentejo local accommodations.

These are, certainly, sufficient reasons for a visiting Belver.

Enjoy your day..

David Monteiro

Walk from Castelo de Vide to Marvão, Portugal

Walk from Castelo de Vide to Marvão, Portugal

The walk from Castelo de Vide to Marvão is, probably, the most popular one in this region.

I am not surprised, because it is a gorgeous walk and along the way, we have the opportunity to learn about the area and local customs.

Both Castelo de Vide and Marvão are villages with many points of interest. However, for each one of these locations, I will make independent texts.

In relation to the marked trail between these two villages, I confess that I am not sure where, in Castelo de Vide, the trail starts or where, in Marvão, the trail ends because I do not always follow exactly the start and end markings. However, I don’t think that either the beginning and/or the end are hard to find.

The trail, after leaving the urban area, always follows country trails, rural dirt roads, single trail paths, or even beautiful century-old walking paths where we have the opportunity to walk on stone slabs, as we see in some walking documentaries.

Along the way, and through the fields we encounter, we perceive a little of the local people’s way of life.

Olive trees are trees we more often spot. No wonder, local cuisine includes olive oil as one of the key ingredients.

Depending on the time of year, we can find beautiful black olives, which after being properly cured, we can find them in local restaurants … yummi.

We also can find several common fruit trees, but I would love to focus more on the persimmons who, enjoying the local weather, grow abundantly.

Here, as in so many other places, what is more abundant must also be less appreciated, I guess, or less valued, because we can find trees laden with persimmons without anyone picking them. So, I deduce that they have little commercial value on the local markets.

On a certain occasion, I walked this path at the end of December, and, to my surprise, I found quite a good number of mushrooms. It was awkward because I never thought to find them at that time of the year.

Whether they were edible or not, I don’t know. I’m no expert in what concerns mushrooms so I prefer not to try them.

What I found in abundance, and ate a lot, were arbutus or madrones. In this area they are frequent and they sprinkle the path with lovely red dots.

As we move away from Castelo de Vide, we get good views over the village and castle. While we approach Marvão we also have many opportunities for photography.

But the views or photography motifs are not only related to the two villages. Along the way, we can find typical houses of the region and rural scenes that, at least to me, seem impossible not to photograph.

On the way, near Marvão and consequently, near the end of the route, we find the Chapel of Santa Maria de Marvão. It always seems to me to be a good place to stop for a snack.

Attention, there is no place where you can buy anything. So you need to bring a snack with you from the beginning of the trail.

At one point, I had a “boleima” with me.

Boleima” is a sweet, similar to a cake, that you can hardly find in other parts of the country beyond this region.

In the past, the “boleima” was made with the remains of the leftovers of dough attached to the walls of the bowls where the bread was made.

Fats, like pork fat or olive oil, sugar and cinnamon were added to the bread dough and after beating or kneading it would go to the oven, which would have been prepared for the bread.

It is, therefore, a simple cake, accessible to the poorest people in the region.

Nowadays, the way of baking is quite similar to how it was done before, but we can buy it at almost all pastry shops in Castelo de Vide and / or Portalegre.

As in the rest of the Alentejo, cork oaks could not be missed in this area. If you are not familiar with this magnificent tree from which we can extract cork and would like more information, I suggest reading the text “Portuguese Cork”.

This is a very well signposted trail, with about 11 km, 570m of ascents, and 320m of descents.

If you choose to walk this trail, please give me your opinion.

Have a good time.

David Monteiro

Pico summit, the highest mountian in Portugal – Azores

Pico summit, the highest mountian in Portugal - Azores

The hike up to the Pico summit must be among the most common goals for hikers and mountaineers in Portugal.

As the name implies, the Pico mountain can be found on the island of Pico, one of the islands of the Azores archipelago.

Being on the island of Pico, the mountain is obvious and visible from most parts of the island.

In relation to the ascent to its highest peak, Piquinho with 2351m of altitude, the question often arises whether or not to use a local guide’s services.

The answer will depend on the experience of who will be going up there, either individually or in a group.

In any case, the use of a guide service is not mandatory, but if you are in doubt, then it is because you may need a guide.

However, it is mandatory to pass through the “Casa da Montanha”, the local mountain experts office, before the ascent and at the end of the descent.

The “Casa da Montanha” exists to give support to anyone who wants to access the mountain and, in its objectives statement, you can read the following “The Mountain’s House is an obligatory stop at Pico Mountain. Its main goal is to support those who want to climb the mountain and to make the registration and control in accordance with the regulation.”

It is advisable to access the “Casa da Montanha” website for more specific information such as the office timetable, fees, regulations, etc. You can access it here.

As you can read on the “Casa da Montanha” website, there are several options with regard to the hike’s objective, as is the case of going only to the crater or to Piquinho, the summit.

One popular option is to stay overnight in the crater so that you can see the sunrise the next day.

Casa da Montanha is 1250m above sea level and it is from there where you can start walking up to Pico summit.

The ascent and descent times vary a lot from group to group, as you can understand.

Either way, you shouldn’t be surprised if the climb takes about 3 to 4 hours and the descent takes about 3 hours.

For this activity, in addition to other equipment, it is necessary to pay attention to mountain boots and hiking poles that I consider essential for walking on volcanic stone terrain such is the one you will find here.

During the route there is no possibility of supplying water or food so you only have to rely on what you are going to transport.

Enjoy yourself and be safe.

David Monteiro

Douro Valley walking trail at Pinhão and Provesende, Portugal

Douro Valley walking trail at Pinhão and Provesende, Portugal

Contrary to what may seem, in the Douro Valley, is not easy to find a pre-defined walking trail. At least there are not as I would like.

The reasons are easy to understand.

I think there are two main reasons:

    • most of the more spectacular areas are privately own
    • or they are so steep that they are not interesting for leisurely walking trail.

A set of exciting coincidences made it possible to design a beautiful walking trail connecting Provesende to Pinhão, passing through São Cristóvão.

This trial allows you to walk among the vineyards that most people only will admire from afar. These vineyards are the great attraction of the Douro Valley.

It is a spectacular walking trail to take photographs like the ones we see in tourist catalogs of the Douro Valley region and appreciate the beauty of this region classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

You can find fruit trees in several spots, especially at the exit of Provesende, there are fig trees and quince trees.

Almost arriving at Pinhão, when walking from Provesende, in the upper part of São Cristovão, the almond trees are the stars of the road.

In any tourist brochure, from the area, it is possible to find the points of interest of Provesende and Pinhão. Still, I want to highlight one point in Provesende: Casa do Santo.

Casa do Santo, the House of the Saint, is an 18th-century building owned by Joaquim Pinheiro de Azevedo Leite Pereira.

Between the 1870s and 1880s, this gentleman was part of the group of researchers who found a way to control the advance of phylloxera in Europe.

In short, for those who do not know, phylloxera was a pest that catastrophically affected wine production in much of Europe in the second half of the 19th century.

The walking trail is defined as crossing, but it can be done either from Provesende to Pinhão or starting at Pinhão and ending in Provesende.

Although normally I prefer to walk trails going uphill rather than going down, in this case, it is the opposite. I prefer to start in Provesende and go all the way down to Pinhão.

Going down, you will have the Douro river in front of you most of the time, and the landscapes are more spectacular as it is said above.

Starting in Provesende, check for the trial on the right side of those facing the church.

As I said above, I suggest consulting the Provesende tourist information office. 

Despite the remaining information, Provesende is part of six wine villages in the Douro. You might find it interesting to visit them on another occasion.

Attention: please pay attention to the slippery floor when crossing São Cristóvão, especially after rain. You have to go carefully and, if you can use walking poles, so much the better.

Please check here for more information and check the map bellow.

Have fun,

David Monteiro

Day 8 at Aigüestortes National Park, Spanish Pyrenees.

Day 8, at Aigüestortes National Park, Spanish Pyrenees.

Length: 12.5Km / Walking time: 6h / Elevation gain: 500m / Elevation loss: 950m
Length: 12.5Km / Walking time: 6h / Elevation gain: 500m / Elevation loss: 950m

The hike between Refugio Josep Maria Blanc and the parking lot, where the van is parked, is Day 8, and the last day of this hiking tour, the Aigüestortes National Park trekking tour at the Spanish Pyrenees.

I can fell a mix of “finally … we did it” and “I could continue for a couple more days”, and it is not only me. I can see the looks of several walkers with me.

Depending on when this hiking tour was done, the previous day may have been a very long 11-hour walk or a pleasant 5 or 6-hour walk contemplating extensive mountain scenarios and lake landscapes.

In Day 7 text, I explained that possible difference, and now I can offer two versions of this hiking tour. Each version has very distinct difficulty levels, and therefore, tailored to different people.

The same will happen for Day 8. This hike will be changed shortly.

Either way, when we arrive on this day, we can fell the end of the line, and we start imagining the car in the parking lot.

What the guests this hiking tour rarely expect is the difficulty level of difficulty of this day and adventure the adventure still to come.

To be honest, there is a shorter and away easier walk to the parking lot.

However, the promise is to have an adventurous tour, and that is what I offer.

In future tours, I will do the more leisurely walk for the 8 Day’s version and keep the strenuous hike for the 5 or 7 day’s version of the tour.

As we start walking, the group begins to realize they have to hike up a long downhill they have done the day before. It is when I start listening: “This is not fair ehehehe I should have told us yesterday that we were going to return uphill”.

My answer is still the same: “life is tough and not necessarily fair … keep moving”. The result is usually the same, they give me the “what if you shut up?” kind of look.

Along the ascent, there is no shortage of photographic and plenty of distractions.

Anyway, until we reach Coll de Monestero it’s a beautiful journey with about 500m of altitude gain … not easy.

I’d point out the often passage of the helicopters. Not that this is a guaranteed occurrence, but, as I said for Day 7, the mountain huts are supplied in the morning by helicopter.

It can also be that they are evacuating someone, but let’s think positively.

Again, after a long ascent to a coll, on the other side, we need to face the descent. This one is different from those we did on previous days.

On the northwest face of this mountain, you will find a very degraded descent trail.

The terrain is very slippery due to fine gravel, sometimes small loose rocks or sand over granite. This makes you slide, especially if you have boots with no pronounced heel or a very soft sole.

In these kinds of moments is when footwear makes a brutal difference, revealing itself in comfort, speed, but above all in safety. This is not the time to divert the subject to footwear, but it does not go by without a few words.

Of all the equipment, perhaps the boots are the most important.

When I am asked what type of boot is appropriate, there are several characteristics to be mentioned. Three features I believe they need to cover: ankle protection, hardness, and pronounced heel.

The boot needs to have a high pipe/tube for ankle protection, the sole should be hard and with good grip for feet comfort and safety, and protruding heel to avoid sliding in slippery surfaces and other situations.

Being breathable and other features are also requirements, but, for me, it is a second line of needs.

What should I answer when asked about soft-soled sneakers or boots with an unpronounced heel? I believe you know the answer.

The descent is slow and still passes through an area of large blocks where many walkers reveal some difficulty in moving from rock to rock.

For some hikers, it is a nuisance. For some others, it is a fun challenge.

Close to the flattest part of the trail, a final obstacle can give you the adrenaline rush of the day, a 5m almost vertical wall to descend.

In fact, what seems to be very dangerous, if you have the proper techniques and someone to guide you, it is no big deal.

As always, we manage to go down that small wall without major problems and finally reach the flattest area.

I never had someone that got stuck here. All my guests trusted to overcome this obstacle like they did for the other situations.

For me, it’s a sign that I managed to bring the participants safely and that they are happy.

There is little left to walk, just a few more easy kilometers, like a walk in the park serving as the decompression of several days of trekking, if such a thing exists.

During a trekking tour, there many opportunities for silent moments and some introspection. During this final walk is one of those moments.

Probably because you realize you have done something important, you lived unforgettable moments in great company.

Also, there are smiles you can spot in your companion’s faces.

Those are smiles you identify as of complicity because you now have a history in common, and now share memories.

On the way and close to the Estany de Saint Maurici, we stopped at the Ernest Mallafré Refuge for a beer. The joy is reflected in the faces of the participants.

A few more meters and the walk is over.

This is a journey of 12.5Km, 500m of elevation gain, and 950m elevation loss … hard.

I feel the pleasure of the duty well fulfilled and look forward to the next lap.

How knows? I might have the pleasure of one day having you joining this tour.

David Monteiro