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Walking to Cape Roca, Europe’s mainland westernmost

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Have you ever walked to Cape Roca, Europe's mainland westernmost point?

Walking to Cape Roca is a way to prepare my guests for mountain walking tours.

Walking from Guincho to Cape Roca is one of the classic walking trails in Lisbon/Sintra area.

Quite close to Cascais, at Guincho, you will find some trails along the seacoast.

Walking these trails you will have the sensation of “I’m at the end of Europe”.

In fact, you are at the westernmost point of Europe mainland, the Cape Roca (38°46’49.59″N 9°29’56.19″W).

From the Cape Roca, or arriving here, you can walk many different trails.

I am going to focus on only one, from Forte do Guincho to Cape Roca, means from East to West.

North from Guincho, at Abano beach, you can find an XVII century fortress named Forte do Guincho.

This is one of several Portuguese military fortresses built after the revolution of Dec’1640.

An interesting flower to look for and to care for, around here, is the Armeria pseudarmeria.

This species is at risk of extinction both because tourists pick them up due to its beauty during blooming and because it only grows along these cliffs.

Granite is the king of the area.

It offers us magnificent cliffs often with more than 150m/492ft (+/-) high and with standalone rocks.

Some of these rocks look like guardians of the coast, always searching for the enemy boats at the horizon.

The sunsets at the west so one can take amazing sunset photos from the Cape Roca or very impressive photographs of the waves hitting the rocks.​

Map-Guincho-Cape-Roca

I usually come here with Portuguese guests before mountain hiking tours.

The trail is wonderful as a pre mountian tour preparation.

Have fun,

David Monteiro

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Walking the Congost de Mont-rebei, halfway to the Pyrenees – Spain

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Walking the Congost de Mont-rebei, halfway to the Pyrenees - Spain

Nothing better like a nice walk to stretch your legs during a long van transfer, even better if is the Congost de Mont-rebei.

After a long flight, there is nothing worse than being seated in a car for 4 hours driving to doesn’t matter where. But that is what can happen when you are traveling to the Pyrenees after landing at the Barcelona Airport if you don’t have a backup plan.

Of course, you can fly to a closer airport like Huesca or Zaragoza. However, there are not many flights to those airports and in the end, it can take more time than getting there by car.

So, what to do to, at least to soften the long car ride? The answer is to stop somewhere nice for a walk and enjoy the place and instead of a long drive you just add an extra interesting day.

I was searching for a walk halfway to the Pyrenees because of the above reasons and this place caught my attention, is the Congost de Mont-rebei.

The Congost de Mont-rebei is the narrowest canyon of the river Noguera Ribagorzana, right in between the provinces of Huesca and Lleida, Spain.

Is located in quite remote hills and until the beginning of the XX century there were no roads to connect some local villages or with the existing roads, it was a very long ride. So, in 1912 a walking trail was built in the canyon to connect Corçà to Alsamora and other tinny little villages.

Later a river dam was also built and the first trail was flooded (you can see that in one of the photos) and was needed to build a new trail again but now in a higher altitude. In 1984 the second walking trail was finished allowing the people to cross from one side to the other.

More recently an iron bridge and some catwalks were added.

Map-Congost-Mont-rebei

The trail (red line) is not too far from Tremp, has 13 Km to each side without relevant elevation gain. Obviously, you can do a shorter distance because the most beautiful part of the trail is the canyon and it goes until the first 8 Km.

Allow me to suggest you take a sandwich or something else to bite, you will find a perfect place to do it, like my colleague in the photo.

Have fun.

David Monteiro

Location: Tremp, Spain

 

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River Bestança, beyond the Douro Valley wine region – Portugal

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River Bestança, beyond the Douro Valley wine region – Portugal

The Douro Valley wine region is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world.

Is was established in 1756 by Marquis de Pombal, Portugal’s prime minister during the time of the king D. José I.

In the previous post, I described a walking tour trail I lead once in a while that takes place in the demarcated wine region. It’s a wonderful place where you can see all the landscape covered with vineyards.

However the demarcated region does not cover completely the Douro Valley and there is a part of the valley that was not “affected” by the rules of the demarcated region and the landscape is totally different, although being so close to each other.

The river Bestança valley is a hidden jewel even for Portuguese people. Here the trails are old paths that were used by farmers to access to their farming lands or where they still go with their cattle.

In the river Bestança Valley, you can find both the lifestyle of 100 years ago but also quite interesting hotels, like the case of Hotel Porto Antigo or manor houses that are totally equipped to receive guests.

Diversity is probably one of the strongest characteristics of the Portuguese territory where one do not have to go too far to be in a completely different scenario.

Enjoy.

David Monteiro

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Walking the Douro Valley – Portugal

Walk the Douro Valley trails and paths, Portugal

Walking along the river Douro – Portugal

The Douro Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and walking along the river Douro is a unique experience.

From the belvedere of São Salvador do Mundo (Saint Savior of the World), we can see a huge portion of river Douro.

The Belvedere is at 493 m high (1617 feet) at the top of a long slope.

At the top, you can see both river bank’s completely filled with vineyards.

Port wine and table Douro wine are produced here.

Looking around, the river dominates the landscape. Is like a long snake on its way to the ocean.

Almost all we can see from here are steep shores with vineyards.

Is there something else besides vineyards?

In the few little spaces that man is not be able to extract wine from the land, proud olive trees will be found whose fruit will produce one of the best Portuguese olive oils, the Douro Valley olive oil.

In addition to the olive trees, the almond trees stand out in number and, the closer we get to Pocinho, the almond trees become more numerous.

Is in the Algarve and Trás-os-Montes regions where there is a greater abundance of almond trees in Portugal.

The Douro train line.

This is an overwhelming location.

From this high point, a huge number of other summits can be spotted. There are countless mountains around here, spread as far as the human eye can reach.

Down the steep slope, very close to the river, the train slips through the railways. It looks like a toy.

It’s hard to distinguish the train and sometimes it seems like a caterpillar being swallowed by the landscape.

In fact, the train is going into some tunnels existing along the railway.

When the train passes, it always causes for joy and excitement.

I love to imagine what the people inside the train think about the group of walkers who apparently are in the middle of nowhere.

The train stations are perfect locations for brief stops, to eat a snack, and we can also admire the hand-painted tiles.

Porto São Bento, Pinhão and Pocinho are the train stations where you can see wonderful hand-painted tiles.

If you want to know more about the train ride please access here.

About the walks.

You can find many different kinds of walks.

Some of them are quite easy, on paved surfaces,  with wide-open views, as you can see in one or another photo here.

But the walks to the highest points are not easy, especially if you lack training but with some patience and walking slowly you will overcome the strong inclination of the trails.

In the end, at the top of the hill, you will finally get the reward for the effort by looking to these wide landscapes.

I prefer to walk during the first hours of the day.

It’s usually quite pleasant with a cold breeze and even some fog on the water.

Photo opportunities.

The river water condenses in the air, leaving a very slight mist. It gives a mystical ambiance to the Sunrise complementing this idyllic setting.

This is gold for photography lovers.

I can also say that this is a paradise for landscape photography with all sorts of angles.

The weather.

During summer months is very hot.

As the day progresses it starts to get warm reaching 40º C (104ºF) or higher during the summer.

However, early Spring or during the Fall one can have very nice weather.

When walking down towards the river, we will notice an increase in temperature, especially at a half hillside.

We understand why these grapes ripen so early in the season and we understand how life can be so hard around here for those who are harvesting vines.

A large part of these grapes are harvested by hand and, during harvesting season, there are numerous teams of people hired from everywhere to participate in the harvest.

What kinds of wine can we get here?

Port wine and table wine from the Douro region.

In another post, I will detail a bit more matters concerned with the port wine, the wine production, and the harvesting.

What about hand-painted tiles?

There is a long tradition of hand-painted tiles in Portugal and we can find impressive tile works in these train stations.

The train stations of Pinhão and Pocinho are the most impressive, hand-painted tiles wise.

When to visit the Douro Valley?

Between April and the end of May and between mid-September to late October the Douro Valley is just perfect to visit and to walk around.

Anyway, there is no one time better than the other, there are different seasons and with very different scenarios, although this is my favorite months.

Visiting the Douro Valley in September/October you will see the end of the harvesting season. The vines have dark red leaves and the scenario is an impressive spectacle of shades of red and one can take amazing photographs.

The grapes harvesting is probably the most important time of the year and all around you can see people carrying baskets of grapes in a huge frenzy.

What else to do in the Douro Valley?

This is a wine region so wine tastings are to be expected.

If you are at Pinhão, the heart of the Douro Valley, you can try one of the many farms with wine tastings.

Is also a good opportunity to earn more about Port wine and its differences versus still wines.

Suggestion: you can try Quinta do Bomfim for a wine cellar visit.

Enjoying one of the several upscale lodgings is an experience that worth the cost.

A suggestion: Quinta Nova Nossa Senhora do Carmo

In a landscape dominated by the River, the hike could not finish better than with an excellent ride on a Rabelo boat.

The Rabelo boat is the wooden typical boat of the Douro River that was once used to transport the barrels of wine to Vila Nova de Gaia, in front of Porto.

From Vila Nova de Gaia, the wine was then shipped to the rest of the world.

The river waters are usually calm and the Rabelo boat, with its wide hull, is a very stable and comfortable vessel, sailing toward the mouth, to the West.

Ahead of us, the sunset is the end of a fabulous day, a treasure to save.

Suggestion: Magnífico Douro Wooden Rabelo Boats for a boat ride.

Check our tour to the Dour Valley here.

David Monteiro

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Walking in Ervamoira wine farm – Portugal

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Walking in Ervamoira, a wine farm in the Douro Valley, Portugal where they produce Port wine and table wine.

It'spectacular and unexpected to see a planted vineyard where is so warm and so dry that only olive, almond, and fig trees could grow and nothing else can.

The merit belongs to Ramos Pinto the famous Portuguese winemakers.

José Ramos Pinto was looking for a more flat estate to able to have a mechanized vineyard structure and found this estate that, at that time was called Quinta de Santa Maria.

The farm was “re” baptized as Ervamoira, like the book from Suzanne Chantal.

This is one of the warmer and drier areas in Portugal so you may want to avoid the summer months because it will be too hot to walk. During winter it can also be too cold … extreme temperatures, very characteristic of inland regions of the northeast regions.

This area, called Fôz Côa, is quite known due to an impressive set of prehistoric drawings. In case you want to visit the engravings, you will need to go to the Tourist Office at Vila Nova de Foz Côa and get a guided visit.

Remember, above all this is a wine region so taste the wonderful wines you can find here, both table wines and Port wine. I tasted (several times) their white Port wine and is delicious.

A special thanks to Sónia Teixeira the official guide of the Ervamoira and a lovely host.
From Chãs to Ervamoira’s premises is a 7,5 Km walk with 390 m descent (blue line of the map) and from Ervamoira’s premises until Chãs is a 9 Km walk with 375 m ascent (red line of the map), taking into account that you might want to see the engravings in the meantime.

Enjoy yourself.

David Monteiro

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Lac Negre, Pyrenees – Spain

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Lac Negre, Pyrenees - Spain

A landscape can get stuck in your mind for many reasons not just because is astonishing. Sometimes you just don’t know why but you keep remembering the picture you mentally took or maybe you did it with your camera as well.

The Lac Negre, Black Lake in Catalan, is the case for me, it just pops up in my mind once in a while.

I keep going there on tour and, in between the 200 lakes of Aigüestortes National Park, this is the lake I better remember. I just don’t know why … yet.

Anyway, for your information, the Lac Negre is located here. It’s easy to access if you park your car at the Cavallers Dam parking lot here.

You can take the trail at the right side of the dam face upstream and you will find some signs pointing to the mountain hut Ventosa i Calvell. By the way, a mountain hut in Catalan “refugi”.

It will take you around 2h30m walking to the mountain hut and there you will find the lake.

Although I already did this walk a few times, usually I arrive at Ventosa i Calvell coming from another mountain hut while doing a trekking tour called Carros de Foc.

The water of the lack seems black because of some algae, the dark color of the granite and also because it never gets too much direct sunlight.

The best picture of the lake is during sunrise. Although for a photographer can seem obvious is also to say that during sunset the landscape can be quite flat, it loses the sensation of depth.

For several years I crossed this place during the first week of June when the mountain huts were starting their season and the scenery was always different. Sometimes it was all white from the snow/ice and some other years the snow/ice was long gone and everything was green under a deep blue sky.

I’m leaving you with some pictures of the lake, the mountain hut and where you can see also a mountain range on the background called Bessiberri.

Would you like to visit this lake?

David Monteiro

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Arrabida Natural Park, a special walk (part 4/4) – Portugal

Portinho-da-Arrabida-002---Portugal

Arrabida Natural Park, a special walk (part 4/4) – Portugal

Sesimbra is one of the jewels of this quadrant

South/West Quadrant

When I turn to the quadrant W/S and face down, exactly where we will have to go to get out of here, I see some crosses on the silhouette of the hills to the sea. They belong to the Arrábida Convent complex.

By their modesty and quiet life, isolation and description, this convent always has an aura of mystery around it. Looking at the road we see a complex of old buildings and, further up, across the hills, a set of shrines and crosses that give us the feeling of being meditation cells of the monks of the convent.

The construction of the Arrábida Convent dates back to the 16th century and today covers four structures: the Old Convent, the New Convent, the garden and the Bom Jesus sanctuary.

A local curiosity refers to the existence of a chapel prior to the construction of the convent and it was a place of pilgrimages. A long time ago, four of the friars who came to join the convent, lived for two years in excavated cells … hard life.

Toward the West, we can’t see the village of Sesimbra because is in between two hills. Sesimbra is a small fishing village with a very busy port and also has a beach that is filled with swimmers during the summer. Summer nights in Sesimbra are animated by the numerous restaurants that serve fish dishes grilled on barbecues in the middle of the streets. 

Continuing West we have the Cape Espichel, whose sea view is also fabulous and is an excellent spot for night photography on Full Moon days.

Maybe it’s time to walk down … This is a great walk that I will repeat whenever I can, perhaps in the gallery of the most emblematic walks in Portugal.

One day I will walk up here to stay overnight and see the sunrise.

David Monteiro

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Arrabida Natural Park, a special walk (part 3/4) – Portugal

Portinho-da-Arrabida-001---Portugal

Arrabida Natural Park, a special walk (part 3/4) – Portugal

Facing Lisbon from the hilltop.​

North/West Quadrant

In this quadrant, you can see Lisbon and from the city, I can only distinguish little more than a jungle of houses that seem to be glued to the Sintra Hills, is the effect of a view from a far distance because, in reality, Sintra is a 30 minutes drive from Lisbon.

In this direction I can see many vineyards and, although I have difficulty to distinguish them, I know that two wine producers that are considered to be in the gallery of the best wine producers in Portugal: Quinta da Bacalhôa and José Maria da Fonseca.

Somewhere there you can find Moscatel grapes used for the production of the famous wine “Moscatel de Setúbal”. The “Moscatel de Setúbal” wine is considered the best in Moscatel in the world. “Moscatel de Setúbal” wine is a fortified wine of amber color, which I love.

Watch this 2 minutes and 30 seconds funny and interesting video that pretty much explains the “Moscatel de Setúbal”.

In the small village of Azeitão one can also find two other extraordinary products: Azeitão cheese and pies of Azeitão (Tortas de Azeitão).

The cheese of Azeitão is a small cheese made with sheep’s milk, yellow-colored and very soft, buttery, excellent for spreading on toast.

Tortas de Azeitão is a small cake rolled up, made from flour and eggs, and is delicious.

to be continued …

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Arrabida Natural Park, a special walk (part 2/4) – Portugal

Serra-da-Arrábida-003---Portugal

Arrabida Natural Park, a special walk (part 2/4) – Portugal

At the Formosinho hilltop.​

North/East Quadrant

When I turn on eastbound I’m in the direction of Setúbal, despite not being able to see the city I can see the end of its industrial belt which creates me mixed feelings. In my mind is contradictory the need for development with the awareness of a natural environment conservation of a diversified place as the river Sado estuary.

Looking in the direction of Alcochete, almost facing the north side, I try to see the Ribatejo plain areas but I can’t any longer distinguish the settlements.

Setúbal, where our famous 18th and 19th-century writer Bocage was born and to whom is attributed a lot of anecdotes and naughty sayings.

to be continued …

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Arrabida Natural Park, a special walk (part 1/4) – Portugal

Serra-da-Arrábida-001---Portugal

Arrabida Natural Park, a special walk (part 1/4) – Portugal

I’m at the top of the Arrábida Hills. Around me a breathtaking view makes me wonder why don’t I come here more often … I love this spot.

The look on my teammates faces is tells me they can’t find words to express themselves. They are expressing fragmented and disconnected ideas, is amazing.

We are at the summit of the Arrábida Hills. Is called Formosinho, has 501 m high and is the highest point of the Setúbal’s District.

For many mountaineers reaching the mountains’s summits is an end in itself. I do not feel that call.

For me reaching the summit is interesting, sure is, but I tend to value more the all journey, the going up and the returning from as a all.

This is not a difficult summit to climb neither represents a true challenge in any way. So, what on Earth make’s it so interesting?

The type of view we can have from here is so diverse and so full of details that there are not many summits like this, is one of a kind.

From here we see the sea, the mountains, other small ridges, the cropland with vineyards, the fruit tree fields, the urban sites … is so diverse that for each side we turn we have a unique setting. 

The vision of the sea is the one that attracts me the most, there seems to be an endless beach. I fell in love by this 360-degree vision. 

For ease of explanation, in the map I marked the Formosinho summit with a red dot and I divided the post in the 4 quadrants of a compass. In counterclockwise I will write about each quadrant at a time.

South/East Quadrant

The Tróia peninsula dominates the landscape, a long tongue of sand headed by some buildings I know to be with summer apartments. More into the ocean, in front of the “head” of this peninsula, there is a large sand outer ring that during the low tide it turns to an immense beach.

On the river Sado side, I imagine the dolphins I can see when I’m there. I know their names, which gives me a pleasant sensation of familiarity.

Tróia has a quite interesting Roman heritage I will explore in a dedicated post.

From Setúbal to Tróia there’s a ferry that crosses the river. I always liked this crossing, is an excellent boat trip.

From the top I can see some green dots moving on the river, are the new ferries crossing the river.

Here I cannot see all of the river Sado estuary but to by seeing this river mouth I remember some hidden places in the estuary which are authentic treasures, such as the archaeological station of Abul with its Phoenician heritage.

In this quadrant by the sea is where you will find the most impressive beach area of the surroundings. Portinho da Arrábida, Figueirinha and Galapos are really the best beaches around … crystal clear waters, fabulous.

to be continued …