Lands lost in time characterize many of the small towns of Portugal. The residents continue to produce port wine using traditional methods, cook using age-old Alentejan techniques, and favor donkeys as their mode of transportation. These slices of European history offer an authentic, albeit slow-paced, experience that not many tourists enjoy. Discover the enchanting villages that Portugal has to offer:
Sitting on the central-eastern border of Portugal is a tiny town with fewer than 2,000 people. Almeida may be small, but it guards a crucial crossroad from Spain. The Almeida Castle remains standing despite a fortunate shell hitting the gunpowder store during the Peninsular War 1810. Five hundred defenders were killed, and half of the town was leveled by the explosion.
The local residents place great importance on defending the crossroad, which is why the town has established the Museu Histórico Militar de Almeida, an intriguing museum constructed within an underground labyrinth.
3. Castelo Rodrigo
Experience a journey back in time by visiting Lamego. This north-central Portuguese town drips with Baroque flavor, cradled by the slopes of the port wine nation. Tourists flock to the centuries-old Baroque staircase that leads to the awe-inspiring Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios. The granite sanctuary and the ornate church delight the eyes with their genuine preservation and lavishness. A dense forest is traversed by the 686 steps, which lead to the breathtaking sanctuary. The sanctuary offers unparalleled 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside. During the visit, you can burn off some of the region’s irresistible port wine.
The locals will enthusiastically tell you that Nazare boasts the best beaches in Portugal. Big wave surfers are drawn to the active Atlantic, while the long, sandy beaches provide an ideal seaside escape. On Saturdays, witness the arrival of Portugal’s largest net fishing boats as they bring in abundant catches while sitting on the cliff side. The spectating crowd will be approached by local women selling artisanal goods. As you tour the clean, white houses of town in search of your next seafood treat, take a moment to gaze out into the ocean and envision a massive 24-meter (78-foot) wave. Garrett Macnamara broke a world record in 2013 by riding such a wave at Nazare. An underwater canyon just off the coast causes the large waves.
6. Castelo de Vide
Castelo de Vide is located in the heart of Portugal’s eastern border with Spain. This authentic small town is home to less than 4,000 residents. The town’s crystal-clear, clean, and refreshing mineral water pours from various small fountains, adding to its attractions besides the medieval castle.
Things happen at a leisurely pace in this place. Early risers will witness women sharing stories and crocheting on their front steps, children kicking soccer balls down narrow alleys, and men playing cards in front of cafes. This hilltop city offers a delightful view that is sure to please you.
A hill in central Portugal is scattered with 200-ton boulders, giving the impression that they fell from the sky. The houses and buildings of Monsanto nestle in between the boulders. Less than 1,000 permanent residents still use donkeys for transportation. The community’s ingenuity shines through as they use the boulders to fortify, build walls, and even create roofs. One of the largest rocks in town even has a house built right into it. This unique city in the central region of Portugal cannot be missed, as it was once named the most Portuguese town in the country.
Marvao rests high on a hilltop south of Almeida. The faint of heart should steer clear of this town, with its population of less than 5,000. A crag jutting out from the hillside carves the ancient, narrow alleys of the town.
Marvao’s houses shine brightly and are adorned with flowers. You can take in Portugal’s eastern landscapes with a breathtaking and panoramic view. The town is protected by a castle, and the absence of sieges or wars has helped preserve the old buildings. Travelers seeking the road less traveled are enticed by a few guestrooms.
Prehistoric megalithic monuments dot the outskirts of Monsaraz, an ancient settlement in southern Portugal, creating an eerie atmosphere reminiscent of Stonehenge.
The castle of Monsaraz, like many towns on the Spanish-Portugal border, was strategically constructed on a hilltop for defensive purposes. The Moors, Christians, and Knights of Templar have ruled the castle, each leaving a distinct cultural mark. The town’s biggest draws now include Alentejan cuisine and tourism. This sleepy, authentic Portuguese city has ancient streets that zig-zag past uneven cottages.
The Pope ordained the Knights of Templar as a religious, military faction. During the Crusades, they were highly skilled fighters and those who didn’t fight excelled in finance. From the 12th to the 14th centuries, they held dominion over Christendom, with Tomar as their residence at one point. This historical gem, the Convento de Christo, still stands tall against the Sete Montes Woods, once home to the Knights.
Visit the Almourol Castle and the old synagogue to immerse yourself in history. Don’t forget to indulge in the Fatias de Tomar. This delicious confectionary bread snack has been made here for generations.