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The Garrano Horse at Gerês National Park, Portugal

Garrano horses at Peneda-Gerês National Park, Portugal

The Garrano Horse at Gerês National Park, Portugal

Wild horses in Portugal at Gerês National Park.

Why are the Garrano horses so important?

In a territory with such ancient boundaries, such as Portugal, and where the human presence is almost everywhere, there are not so frequent wildlife sightings.

When these sightings happen, as it was in this case, it is always an exciting moment.

Garrano is a breed of Iberian horses.

We often tend to refer to Garrano horses as being Portuguese but the fact is the animal knows no boundaries and they can be seen both on the Portuguese side and on the Spanish side.

On the Spanish side, the Gerês (Gerês National Park) is called Xures, very similar.

These are horses of small stature, wrongly often referred to as ponies, adapted to the harsh conditions of the Gerês and with working horse characteristics.

It’s difficult to find the word to express how much I love seeing these free animals in the wild.

They are no longer in danger of extinction as once they were, it is a sign of hope in the future of coexistence between humans and wildlife.

This was a moment to remember.

David Monteiro

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Unknown places to walk – the river Alva dams

Unknown places to walk - the river Alva dams

The river Alva starts in the southwestern part of the Serra da Estrela and goes into the Mondego River upstream of Penacova, around 230km north from Lisbon.

At the mouth of the river Alva, and near Penacova, there are a number of small dams that allow a very interesting walk where we can cross the river several times from one side to the other, as we can see in the photographs of the various walks I led there.

With a good knowledge of the region, it is possible to predict the level of water passing over the dams in such a way that it becomes possible to do the crossings without taking your boots off.

 An unknown location, which does not come in tourist guides but well worth a visit and the hiking is fabulous, especially if it’s finished with a typical regional dinner with dishes such as “Chanfana” or a Lamprey Rice. I will write about these dishes later.

Let’s walk?

I will be expecting you.

David Monteiro

Originally posted 2015-12-28 12:37:30. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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

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

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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The Way of Saint James

The Way of Saint James

What is the Way of Saint James? How did it appear? Why is so important?

What is the Way of Saint James? How did it appear? Why is so important?

More than a pilgrimage is a spiritual journey within us, steps towards to self-knowledge.

The History of the Way of Saint James dates back to the time of the birth of Christianity.

In the middle ages pilgrims came from all over Europe on the road to Santiago de Compostela with the intention to pay a promise or any other religious intent. In this way they contributed to what would later be called the Way of St. James or, as it is known in Spain, “El Camino”.

After an impressive growth over the centuries it felt abruptly to the point of to be counted 40 pilgrims, during the 19th century.

But something happened that made the flame burn again and in 1999 an impressive number of 155,000 pilgrims were counted.

What happened?

This is a long story that I will tell in a few posts.

Keep tuned.

David Monteiro

Originally posted 2013-06-15 09:26:36. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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Walking in Ervamoira wine farm – Portugal

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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Salto do Cabrito, a handsome waterfall, São Miguel, Azores

azores-portugal-006

Salto do Cabrito, a handsome waterfall, São Miguel, Azores

One cannot imagine this walk’s beauty before you did it. Its name is Salto do Cabrito, near Ribeira Grande at São Miguel, Azores.

The Salto do Cabrito walking trail at São Miguel, Azores, is marked to be done in the opposite way than the one I usually do it but I have my reasons.

Having said that, start walking at Caldeiras da Ribeira Grande where you can find some fumaroles/boilers making bubbles on the outdoor water tanks.

Caldeiras da Ribeira Grande has thermal baths dating back to the 19th century and is a pleasant place to start this adventure.

The first kilometer will be walked on tar.

I find quite annoying walking on the tar roads. However, the surroundings are so lovely that it really doesn’t matter.

Anyway, by the time you will arrive at the small electric plant, you will have to climb some stairs to walk on a platform on top of some big tubes/pipes, kind of a catwalk metal grid.

Well, you can find it odd, but you will love it.

It will allow you to have a top-bottom perspective that will be even better inside of a small canyon you will have to cross.

At the end of the canyon, you will find a handsome waterfall called Salto do Cabrito “little goat’s jump”.

Like in any other linear walk, you will need to organize transportation to the beginning where you left your car.

This is one of the walks we do during the Iberactive tour to the Azores.

In the photo gallery, you can have a better idea of the place.

A gorgeous place.

David Monteiro

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Walking from Lagos to Burgau – Portugal

algarve-portugal-005

Walking from Lagos to Burgau – Portugal

A 16km’s (10mi) long trail that connects Lagos with Burgau always walking along the coast, without much gain in altitude, is an excellent and relaxed walk.

Walking along the Algarve coastal line is one of many fine activities you can do.

The Algarve’s coast, at the southern area of Portugal, is composed by a very compact yellow sandy rock.

This sand, with such warm color, matches perfectly with the remaining colors.

It is like a painting where the artist want’s to transport us to a summer setting but with such perfection, only Nature can achieve.

This walk is a 16km’s (10mi) long trail connecting Lagos with Burgau.

It goes always along the coast, without much gain in altitude, is an excellent and relaxed walk.

Besides the beautiful sea landscape, there are other points of interest in this walk:
– Farol da Ponta da Piedade (Ponta da Piedade’s lighthouse);
– Caves by the sea level near the lighthouse
– Romans ruins at Luz Beach;
– Overview of the sea and cliffs.

The suggested length of the trail is not compulsory, you can do a shorter trail.

There are many possibilities where to start/end the trail.

One of the places you pass when doing this walk is Praia da Luz.

Praia da Luz is a perfect place to relax for a while. Is where you will find the Roman ruins.

There are many bares and restaurants to have a beer or a snack.

If you are walking from Burgau to Lagos, your last possibility for a nice stop before the lighthouse is at Porto de Mós Beach.

Like many other beach areas, Porto de Mós Beach has a couple of restaurants/bars where you can chill out.

And, in the same way, just before arriving at Lagos you can visit the Ponta da Piedade lighthouse area.

Although is a touristic attraction, is quite iconic and you will find many references in touristic publications about this place.

From here you can take photos that will dive a sense of the place in your photo album.

Something else totally different but worth to notice: you will not find many Portuguese people walking around.

Why?

Well, walking is not YET the “thing” around here.

Have a nice walk.

David Monteiro

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