A few weeks ago, we road tripped our way around the Magic Mountains of Portugal to explore the region through the Water and Stone Route. Villages, waterfalls, geoparks and archaeological sites were on the menu in addition to the renowned Portuguese gastronomy, its wines, the traditions, and the warmth Portuguese people are known for.
Here are some of the highlights of this Portugal Magic Mountains adventure as an appetizer if you are wondering if this destination should be on your plans – Spoiler alert: It should!
Without further ado, let us introduce you 24 things to do and see in Montanhas Magicas (in chronological order, in case you are interested in replicating the route!):
Vale de Cambra
1. Start your journey at Vale de Cambra Interactive Tourism Office
Vale de Cambra is one of the main towns in Montanhas Magicas and the perfect spot to start uncovering all the region offers. Stop at this recent and interactive tourism office if you are planning to do some hikes or have a particular interest in knowing more about the region. They are ready to give you all the info you need prior to your adventure.
2. Discover Trebilhadouro village
Located on Serra da Freita, this village was recently adapted for rural tourism. It still maintains the traditional Portuguese houses in granite stone, a component that was also used in the steep village paths. material that extends to the roads. The complex is simply perfect to enjoy the tranquility of a unique natural environment like Serra da Freita.
3. Guess what Trebilhadouro engravings mean
Barely 1km away from the village, rocks engravings of Atlantic art (as the ones in Terras de Pontevedra) were discovered and can be visited in what’s a short and pleasant hike. The carvings and inscriptions are better seen at sunrise or sunset as strong shades define the designs. We will need to go back and take some proper pictures of them, as when we visited the spot it was noon and our pictures don’t show them well.
4. Taste Cozido da Velha at Mira Freita restaurant
Rua da Freita, nº 306, Felgueira, Arões, Vale de Cambra (Aveiro).
Stopping for lunch at Aldeia da Felgueira is a great idea. Try ‘Cozido da Velha’ at Mira Freita restaurant and get ready to be amazed.
5. Get a great night sleep at Quinta Anna Horvath
Travessa Luiz Bernardo de Almeida, Vale Passô, Vale de Cambra (Aveiro).
Recently refurbished, this building has 6 ensuite rooms, a lounge, common kitchen, a garden, outdoor pool, barbecue area, a terrace and a large leisure area.
6. Shoot sunset at Freita mountain range
Serra da Freita, together with the Arada and Arestal mountain ranges, is part of the Gralheira massif. Perfect to wander around slowly – perhaps go a hike or two as well – and definitely stunning at sunset if you ask us.
7. Learn about geology at Pedras Parideiras
Once in Serra da Freita, the Casa das Pedras Parideiras (translation would be something like ‘pregnant stones’ home) is a must visit.
This is an interpretation center of a singular geological phenomenon, recognized by Unesco and part of Arouca Geopark. The visit includes a 3D movie that got us a bit dizzy yet was key to understand how these strange rocks are formed.
8. Witness Frecha da Mizarela awesomeness
The highest waterfall in mainland Portugal, Mizarela fall stands out even if it is almost dark as you can see in the pictures.
9. Taste local products at Casa no Campo restaurant
Espinheiro, Moldes, Arouca (Aveiro).
In business since 2004, this Serra da Freita restaurant is perfect to taste the local flavors of Montanhas Magicas as cured and cooked meats and vinho verde.
10. Treat yourself at Quinta do Pomar Maior hotel
Lugar de Barreiros, Santa Eulália, Arouca (Aveiro)
Located in Arouca Geopark, the Quinta do Pomar Maior is an ingenious rustic complex, inspired both by modern architecture and traditional construction techniques. With a special stress on allowing its guests to live a mindful experience in nature, this is a partially sustainable project as well. The use of renewable energies and a special care to keep the environmental impact low privileging native species are some of the measures they took.
We enjoyed Casa Mosteiro just for ourselves. This stunning villa features spacious living and dining areas, a fully equipped kitchen, 4 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms and the coziest fireplace ever. What’s not to love?
11. Try Arouquesa meat at Parlamento Restaurant in Arouca
Travessa da Ribeira 2, Arouca (Aveiro)
One of the best eateries if you want to give grilled slices of Arouquesa meat a try. Located in the historical center of Arouca – a town that happened to be all dressed up for Xmas, its dessert menu is also pretty neat and extensive with different sweets made of the recipe of Arouca Monastery nuns, passed over generations and generations. A treat!
12. Spend a foggy morning at Passadiços do Paiva
Located in the municipality of Arouca, the Passadiços do Paiva or Paiva corridor provides an unforgettable 8km – or shorter – walk through the Paiva river valley, one of the cleanest rivers in Europe and one of the most sought-after in Portugal by whitewater sports fans. As other spots on this list, it is part of Arouca Geopark, recognized by Unesco as Geological Heritage of Humanity.
If we had to choose a single thing from this list, these passages would undoubtedly make the cut.
Just one more thing, do not be discouraged if the weather isn’t all sun and clear skies. When we arrived, a dense fog covered the whole valley, making it impossible to see more than a few meters. Still, the photographs we took in this spooky setting will remind us that epic spots like this one can be marvelous rain or shine.
And before moving on to the next spot, please let us give a special shout out to our guide Paulo Pereira who performed an exquisite song inspired by the unique nature that was surrounding us!. That was sublime!
13. Enjoy Aguieiras Waterfall from afar
Accessible only on foot, the Aguieiras waterfall can be observed from one of the evocative viewpoints of the Paiva walkways. It originates the Aguieiras stream that, after traveling Alvarenga, falls precipitously on the cliffs that border the river Paiva, surpassing a drop of more than 100 meters in successive waterfalls.
This formation is part of the Paiva gorge, natural bottleneck of the Paiva valley, where this river crosses the granite of Alvarenga.
14. Get lost at Gralheira village
The town of Gralheira is a small town on top of Montemuro mountain range. One of the highest in Portugal at 1152m, it’s also a great example of traditional architecture as thick wall stone houses can be seen all over the place. There are a few buildings that can be visited as the House of Ribeirinho, today a museum where traditional activities like bread baking are carried out for the guests.
If you happen to visit it in December, you will find Gralheira all dressed up for Christmas as an Aldeia do Pai Natal or Noël village, an event that promotes different activities for all ages across different locations within the Magic Mountains of Portugal and beyond.
15. Eat ‘pizza à lavrador’ at Recanto dos Carvalhos
Largo dos Carvalhos 1, Gralheira, Cinfães (Viseu).
Its tasty cuisine attracts locals and visitors. Their roasted veal and pizzas à lavrador are well worth a stop!
16. Drive across Bestança Valley
Bestança Valley is not short of inspiring landscapes and nature. Part of Montemuro mountain range, it was included on the Natura 2000 Network, justifying the richness of its biodiversity.
17. Learn about traditional agriculture at Bustelo da Laje
In this village are located the unique Eiras da Laje – orchards – formed by a gigantic granitic boulder, which from ancient times has been used by the inhabitants as a spot for the accomplishment of agricultural activities.
18. Take tons of pictures at Porto Antigo
Another great spot on the Water and Stone Route, located next to the mouth of the river Bestança, on the left bank of the river Douro.
19. Enjoy a well-deserved rest at Douro Porto Antigo Hotel
Rua do Cais 675, Oliveira do Douro, Cinfães (Viseu).
In the bay of Porto Antigo, on the left bank of the Duero and near the mouth of the Bestança River, lays this hotel that enjoys a magnificent view of the Carrapatelo dam. It has an impressive terrace overlooking the river, a river marina and a classic restaurant called Serpa Pinto. With an elegant and refined atmosphere, regional and traditional cuisine – as their tasty Porto Antigo cod – can be enjoyed there among other Portuguese delicacies.
20. Get close and personal with Bestança Valley at its Center for Environmental Interpretation
Located in Pias, in the municipality of Cinfães, this building features the best of Bestança Valley throughout the four seasons as well as the fauna and flora that can are found there.
21. Rejoice at Queda de Água do Ribeiro de Sampaio
Located in Cinfães, you can find the waterfalls of Sampaio River aka. Sonoso stream falls. Surrounded by a stunning green scenery, they result from an imposing slope break that occurs on the granite massif of Montemuro. The S. Cristovão picnic area, where the path to the waterfalls begins, is a great wooded area to take a break.
Castelo de Paiva
22. Feel in love with nature at Ilha dos Amores
Also known as Ilha do Castelo, the Ilha dos Amores – Love Island – is bathed in the calm waters of the Paiva River in its encounter with the Douro.
23. Pamper your taste buds with pão-de-ló at D. Amélia restaurant
Quinta do Outeiro, Casal, Bairros, Castelo de Paiva (Aveiro)
Dona Amelia restaurant’s rustic decor and traditional Portuguese cuisine have been delighting locals and visitors since 1997. Try their grilled beef steak, roast goat, lamprey and pão-de-ló (egg yolk sponge cake) – our favorite dessert of this trip!
24. Taste Vinho Verde in Sobrado
Or anywhere else within the region, really. We particularly enjoyed our vinho verde – green wine – and local products tasting at Casa de Payva.
Finally, if you are lucky and happen to visit Sobrado during Christmas, do not forget to visit the Feira Agrícola de Natal (Christmas Farm Fair) in Largo do Conde. You’ve been warned!
Are Portugal Magic Mountains on your travel plans? Do you know any other mountain in Portugal worth visiting? Would you like to continue exploring Portugal? Let us know in the comments below!
Disclaimer: Big ups to Porto e Norte Tourism and Adrimag that invited us to explore the Montanhas Magicas region. We had a blast!