When our lives become cluttered with traffic congestion, business meetings, mobile device notifications and 500 satellite TV channels, it’s nice to know that places still exist where life moves at a slower pace, authenticity is celebrated and centuries-old tradition is embraced. Welcome to Aldeias Historicas de Portugal.
This collection of historic villages located on the eastern side of Central Portugal provides a unique escape from hectic urban life. Each village has its own distinctive character and is worthy of a day trip, weekend get-away or extended holiday. Visit one, or visit all. Either way, we are confident the old-world charm and relaxed atmosphere of these historic villages will make for a memorable experience.
The 12 historic villages are made up of:
The history of Almeida can be traced back to the first century BC, when the area was inhabited by Lusitanians. The central village was later held by Romans and Barbarians, before the Arabs took control and named the village Al-Meda (the table). A fortress was built in the 17th century, surrounding the village. It is fortified with bulwarks and has a star-shaped walled design. Click here to see Ameida on Google Maps
The castle at Belmonte served on the Alto Côa line of defense fortresses protecting Portugal from eastern invaders from the east. In the 13th century, Jews settled in Belmonte, assisting in the commercial development of the city all while hiding their beliefs from the Spanish Inquisition. The heritage of these Crypto-Jews survives today, making the village a popular destination for those interested in Judaism. Click here to see Belmonte on Google Maps
With only 87 current residents, Castelo Mendo remains a village steeped in history and authenticity. Two large stone statues from the Iron Age guard the entrance to the castle. Walk amongst the ruins, which include ancient tombs and cisterns. A popular medieval fair takes place late March/early April each year. Click here to see Castelo Mendo on Google Maps
Castelo Novo is one of the many fortifications given by the Portuguese kings to the Knight Templar to assist in the protection of the region. The windy streets of the village are fun to explore. Examples of Manueline (16th century) and Baroque (18th century) architecture are evident in the building façades and monuments of Casetlo Novo. Click here to see Castelo Novo on Google Maps
Castelo Rodrigo is a perfectly restored hilltop village. Stone walls surround homes, shops, cafés and guest houses. At the highest point in the center of the village stand the ruins of the castle itself. Explore the former fortress and see extraordinary views across Portugal, and all the way to Spain. Click here to see Castelo Rodrigo on Google Maps
Considered one of the oldest villages in Portugal, Idana-a-Velha is built on a former settlement known as Egitânia. It’s marvelous architectural heritage reflects Celtic, Roman Classicism, Suebic, Visigothic, Arabic, Middle Ages and Portuguese Manueline influences. A restored 16th century church holds the largest collection of Roman epigraphs in Europe. Click here to see Idanha-a-Velha on Google Maps
Linhares da Beira
This centuries old medieval village was officially granted a charter by King Afonso Henriques in 1169. The castle at the center of the village is strategically placed along the defensive border to watch over the Mondigo River. Granite houses line the village streets. A Romanesque church houses valuable wood paintings attributed to the great Portuguese master painter Grão Vasco. Click here to see Linhares da Beira on Google Maps
A beautifully restored medieval village and castle still stand to tell stories of its illustrious past as a defensive fortress for the region. Old homes and shops of gothic architecture line the cobbled-stone streets. A small square features a 15th century pillory, former prison and a court. The 16th-century St. James church presides over the village. Click here to see Marialva on Google Maps
This important defensive village in the history of Portugal, is also popular for its village houses that utilize giant boulders for walls or roofs. The castle at the highest point of the village offers stunning views of the Serra da Gardunha and the River Ponsul. In 2nd century BC the village withstood a siege by the Romans. Today, villagers commemorate this victory with the Festival of the Crosses, every 3 May. Click here to see Monsanto on Google Maps
This rustic mountain village rests quietly on the side of the Serra do Açor (a protected landscape area). Piodão is a Schist Village, one of a handful of notable communities in Portugal built primarily of this dark stone. This unique quality makes the village a charming place to visit and a photogenic subject for photographers. Click here to see Piodão on Google Maps
A Gothic gateway invites visitors to explore this medieval village sitting high on a mountain crag at 760 meters. The village, constructed mostly of granite, has many features to discover, including a beautiful pillory and a 14th century church. Click here to see Sortelha on Google Maps
Another fortress in the line of defense on the border with Spain, Trancoso is an idyllic village of narrow stone streets oozing medieval charm. A distinctive feature is the Porta d’El Rei at the entrance, honoring Dom Dinis who, in 1282, married Isabel of Aragon at the local São Bartolomeu chapel. Over the centuries, Trancoso was contested by the Moors and Christians. Yet, in the 15th century, much like Belmonte, the village received Jewish immigrants, contributing to the unique diversity of village. Click here to see Trancoso on Google Maps
For more information visit the Aldeias Historicas de Portugal website.
Accommodations within or near the Historic Villages: