We really do want you to experience the very best of Mainland Portugal so we’ve put all of our favourite destinations in one place so you can get a feel of what we have around us.
We have everything here, from beautiful views for those insta photo opportunities, amazing lakes and rivers that are perfect for swimming and kayaking, 1000’s of km of offroad tracks for 4×4’s, quad bikes and motorbikes, all varying in difficulty level from beginner to pro, perfect picnic spots, mountain bike trails, climbing, hiking or casual walks…you can pretty much explore every inch of this place any which way you like!
Wherever the adventure takes you there is something to cater in our local viscinity.
For ease of you planning your trip we have categorized ‘places to visit’ in the distance it is from us.
30 Minutes or Less
Distance from Vista de Penamacor– 30 Minutes- 30km
We absolutely love this place and it’s only 30 minutes away from us. The village itself is beautiful, you can explore the castle ruins and go right up to the top, once there you can look down on the barragem swimming lake surrounding the top part and just below you can see some pretty little houses, and the Geo Park site of special interest.
A little further down the street you will find the Geo Park which is one of our favourite places to head for a swim when the afternoons heat up, there’s areas of shade which is perfect for picnicking, the water is shallow on one side so great for little ones and deeper on the other side which is great if you fancy an actual swim.
If you enjoy a bit of walking there is also a 3km trail which take you round to see the fossils and further around to the lake itself.
Everything is free to do and there is plenty of parking which is also free.
So what’s the history? The castle ruins in Penha Garcia date back to the 12th century when King Sancho used it to defend Penha Garcia from the Leon. It was then given by King D Dinis to the Knights Templar over one hundred years later and returning back to the crown in the 15th century.
The Penha Garcia fossils can be seen in the walls of the rocks and are believed to be from creatures that lived 490 millions ago.
Whilst in the area, if you are a lover of climbing then you are in luck. New to Penha Garcia is “Boulder” climbing wall run by Teresa and Nuno (both proffesional climbers), and designed for children and adults, with classes for both that take place every week as well as “turn-up” open sessions which are just 5 euros each.
The lessons are Tuesday and Thursday. – 5 to 6 pm, 3 to 7 year olds – 6 to 7 pm, 8 to 16 year olds and 7 to 8 pm, older than 17 year olds.
If you are interested in going, let myself (Mike) or Carla know and we can get intouch with our friends that run it. Alternatively have a look here www.escaladaPenhaGarcia.pt
Horse Riding – the best way to see and feel the Portuguese Countryside.
Our friends at Quinta Encantada run a horse riding school/stables, which is loated 10 minutes from Vista de Penamacor. Erika runs the stables and charges 15 euros for an hour of horse riding. All skills and ages are catered for too, with very small horses to very tall ones.
If you would like to take advantage of this, let us know before you stay, or during and we can contact Erika and get it booked in. She always needs a few days notice, so the further ahead you book, the better.
Off Road Trails
Pick a track, any track at all and it will take you to amazing places.
OK so this one is a bit of a cheat because you could travel a few hours for some off road trails or you can find some 30 seconds away.
Driving along the main road you will see lots of turnings that look like you’re probably not supposed to go there…but quite simply you can. So go and enjoy.
Exploring the area off road is one of our favourite things to do in our down time and has taken us to some truly extraordinary places that we never would have found on foot. From gushing rivers (that we figured would be great for a bit of white water kayaking!) to the highest hilltops, travelling through woodland jungles that you would only normally see in movies, finding plenty of abandoned buildings and houses that are intriguing and mysterious along the way.
Barragem da Meimoa
Distance from Vista de Penamacor– 23 Minutes- 23km
Another favourite place of ours is the barragem in Meimoa. It’s a very tranquil place to just sit and enjoy the moment. It’s a man made dam with a huge lake where you can fish, swim, picnic, kayak and paddle-board. Sometimes we spend a whole afternoon here just chilling out and getting in the water when we fancy cooling off a bit or taking the kayak and going for a paddle.
There is a road that goes right around the whole lake which is around 10km long and you can stop off and picnic wherever you want. There are no parking fees!
On one side of the barragem there is a place you can hire kayaks, a jetty with a kids pool limiting the depth and another pool slightly deeper if you prefer not to swim in wild water, however if you do fancy a rough swim out into the lake there’s a diving board and steps you can venture out on. There is also a cafe and toilets if you wanted to grab a bite to eat.
Distance from Vista de Penamacor– 30 Minutes- 23km
Monsanto is one of the original villages of Portugal. The whole village is built into the side of the mountain with impressive boulders housing some of the bars and properties.
The views are absolutely beautiful and you can look across Portugal for miles.
There are lots of places you can walk through to catch a glimpse of the views over the mountain and also public toilets part way up.
It is a bit of trek to the top where there’s a castle ruin so make sure you do this one when you’ve had a good sleep and are well rested… the hills are pretty steep.
As with most of the places in this part of Portugal there are no parking fees. There is a parking area on your right as you’re driving up the mountain. You can take a quad bike or a bike further up but it’s too tight for anything larger.
There is a cafe opposite the car park and a handful of small shops as you go further up.
Distance from Vista de Penamacor– 27 Minutes- 23km
This is a small village on the Ponsul river. The ruins date back 1st Century BC.
The grounds of the old ruins have walk ways that go around the entire area. Here you can explore and see remnants of old buildings that are from various times in Portugal history.
There are beautiful gardens to stroll around with plenty of greenery and colourful flowers. There’s also a stream that is perfect for a little paddle. You’ll also find cafes and lots of places to park which once again are free!
The Thermal Baths. Termas de Aguas
Distance from Vista de Penamacor 5 minutes 4km
Bath in the natural springs of the Termas in the quaint little village of Aguas. Relax and forget about everything for a while, the Termas is natural spring water and in this town [Águas] a fountain called Fonte Santa, passes through sulphur minerals – as can be seen by colour, smell and effects – are salutary to those who bathe in them. The Termas itself was founded in 1758 and Fonte Santa has been sought by the people to cure their ills ever since.
The facilities currently have modern certified equipment and specialized technicians in balneo hydrotherapy
Immersion bath and whirlpool bath
Jet shower and more
1 Hour or Less
Covilla and the magic of street art.
Covilha is a university city around the same distance as Castelo Branco, and sits and the bottom of the Serra De Estrela mountain range. The city has an old section and a new section, which is full of malls, latest shops etc.
Covilha is synonymous with Street Art, and every 2 years has a “Wool” festival, where the best street artists from around the globe come together to produce art based on the subject Wool. All of the little streets, and avenues have amazing pieces of work, and you can sit outside one of the many bars and admire.
Check out this Blog, on the Urban Street art of Covilha, with handy routes to take to see the works.
Covilhã is one of the gateways to the Serra da Estrela.
The original inhabitants of the land were Lusitanian shepherds. Covilhã was reconquered from the Moors by King Dom Sancho I, who built city walls to protect it. It became a strategic point in the Middle Ages, especially in the reign of Dom Dinis, who set about reinforcing the defence of the territory.
The town was granted royal status by Dom Manuel, who gave it a new charter in 1510, and it was also a land of discoverers. Prince Henry the Navigator was given the title Lord of Covilhã by his father, King Dom João I, after conquering Ceuta in 1415.
It was the birthplace of Pêro da Covilhã, the explorer sent to the Orient by King Dom João II, and whose information helped Vasco da Gama to discover the sea route to India.
One of Covilhã’s claims to fame is the art of making woollen goods. This began in the time of Dom Sancho I, and was developed by the Jewish community that settled here at that time, where they remained until the 15th century. The textile industry, which produced all the uniforms for the Portuguese army during the reign of Dom João V, was given a new boost when the Marquis of Pombal established the Royal Cloth Factory here, making it into the country’s largest centre for the production of woollen goods. Due to economic growth that followed, Covilhã was raised to the status of a city in 1870.
A visit to Covilhã’s historic heritage should not omit the old Judiaria (Jewish Quarter), with its narrow streets and Manueline windows, the Chapel of São Martinho, the Chapel of Santa Cruz and the Wool Museum.
In Covilhã and surrounding areas, discover the Land of Castles and Historical Villages, the Wool Route, the Old Judiarias Route, and the Serra da Estrela Nature Reserve, by taking one of the itineraries that show you the region’s natural and cultural heritage.
Castelo Branco – The big city.
Distance from Vista de Penamacor- 40 Minutes- 45kms
Castelo Branco (White Castle) is a suburb city offering great restaurants for Foodies, Vegan, Burgers, Desserts etc, as well as some fantastic shops, and two large shopping Malls. It is the nearest big city to Penamacor, and you can expect to find the usual big brand shops, and some really cool indie bars and cafes, bowling, amazing China shops and much more.
On your way into Castelo, look for the crazy rock formations on your right, and the car graveyard (where all cars are sprayed red, white, black). It sounds odd, but it has become the subject of many discussions with anyone who visits the area.
Also check out the “Docas” area, in the centre with some great bars, water fountains, museums and galleries.
Castelo Branco also offers race karting, Motocross and car events at the Escuderia Castelo Branco. The Karting can be booked in advance on (351) 925 380 494 and we highly recommend it. Our son Elvis enjoys Enduro School (Escola) once a month too – which is free. Here´s a picture of Elvis at the school.
Distance from Vista de Penamacor– 35 Minutes- 33km
Fancy lazing on a river beach under big oak trees, having a little swim to cool off when you get hot, beer in hand, the sound of birds chirping, frogs croaking and the noise of the water running down the stream over the brook into the river?
Sabugal is a stunning place, with a beautiful river you can walk along for miles or sit and relax beside. There are steps for getting in and out of the water, a play park and big sandy river beach with a bar for refreshments.
Sabugal also has a beautiful castle which is illuminated with golden lights at night, sat atop of a hill in full view of the town. There are plenty of ancient historic battle stories to be heard around this area as the castle dates back further than the 1100’s.
Sabugal is also home to our ABSOLUTELY MOST FAVOURITE DELICIOUS AMAZING pizza restaurant we have ever been to! And is totally worth the 35 minute drive to get there. Grab a pizza at lunchtime and it will still be warm when you get to the river beach, its just 2 minutes away! You can take a look over in our ‘cafes, bars and restaurants’ page.
Distance from Vista de Penamacor– 37 Minutes- 36km
If you are looking for a place that leaves you quite literally speechless then Sortelha is a place you have add to your list.
From the moment you see the arch way entrance where you can drive or ride in and park you will be in awe of the whole place.
The village is built inside the walls of a castle ruin. The houses are built around boulders, some of which you have to climb over to get around, there are cafes and restaurants and also clean and tidy public toilets.
You can walk all the way around the castle wall which is from there you will see the most amazing views. Trying to explain exactly what your eyes can see is just about impossible, a camera doesn’t even give you the whole extend either. The only way you can truly appreciate the beauty of Sortehla is by experiencing it.
Once a year they have a medieval festival. There are stalls, food, drink and a ‘treasure hunt’ where you walk around and find out stories from Sortelha, each story you hear you have your card stamped and at the end you receive a goody bag.
2 Hours or Less
Serra Da Estrela
Distance from Vista de Penamacor– 1 hour 19 Minutes to the peak- 68km
Serra da Estrela is the second highest mountain in Portugal. Through the summer you will find the most breathtaking views and fantastic meandering road climbing 2000 meters above sea level.
There are plenty of pull-ins for epic photo opportunities and views that you won’t find anywhere else with deep valleys that cut right through the mountains and the sun reflecting off the bodies of water. Look for the “Miraduro” signs, for amazing photo viewing spots, all of the way up to the peak.
In the winter months this place turns into a ski resort! It’s a great place to go at Christmas when the snow has fallen making for a perfect festive feel. There is a shopping centre that you can buy toboggans, slippers, locally made woollen clothing, warm boots, hats, gloves and scarves and also plenty of local cheeses, meats, aguardiente and other food produce.
3 Hours or Less
Praia da Vieira
Distance from Vista de Penamacor– 2 hours 45 minutes- 221km
If you want a beautiful sandy beach with a pub lunch and clear waters Leiria is great place to visit. We took a trip here when Mike picked up his new car in a town a few kms away and decided to pop to the coast.
The beach is so clean and clear and the water was warm clear, I have to say it was really nice having the waves crashing at your feet feeling the cold water on your skin. It felt like a real day off.
The sea front is adorned with restaurants and cafes so the is no lack of choice for places to stop eat and drink.
There is plenty of parking along the front too so don’t be disappointed if it looks busy…there is loads of parking further up.
Definitely worth the drive if you fancy a day at the beach.
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