Amid castles and walls, mountains and valleys, there are an infinite number of places to explore in the region of the Historic Villages of Portugal. Surrounding these villages, we find the source and mouth of the Côa River – a route that is worth taking, through stunning trails in Central Portugal’s countryside.

Almeida, Belmonte, Castelo Mendo, Castelo Novo, Castelo Rodrigo, Idanha-a-Velha, Linhares da Beira, Marialva, Monsanto, Piódão, Sortelha, and Trancoso. Aside from their historic centers, museums, and river beaches, the Historic Villages of Portugal, one destination that is in fact 12, has much to discover. There are one thousand and one ways to tour the region. In each village, endless revelations await us.

One of the most interesting tours around the Historic Villages of Portugal is the route that follows the Côa River from its source to its mouth and passes through five Historic Villages of Portugal, several other walled structures, two hot springs, and the Côa Museum. It is a circular route about 264 kilometers in length. We recommend taking a camera or a fully charged cell phone and memory cards with lots of available space as the scenery along this route are irresistibly gorgeous to any amateur or professional photographer.

To enjoy this tour in its entire splendor, we recommend an overnight stay at one of the Historic Villages along the way: Almeida, Castelo Rodrigo, Marialva, Castelo Mendo, or Sortelha. If you want to stop and visit these five Historic Villages and some of the places along this route, you will need at least four days. If you just want to follow the course of the Côa River without stopping, the trip takes three days.

Fóios, Sabugal. Foto de: João Cosme.

By car, this route begins in Sabugal, where we discover the only Castle with five corners in Portugal. We then go on to Quadrazais, Vale de Espinho, and Fóios – where we find the source of the Côa River. We cross through Aldeia do Bispo and Aldeia Velha (where there is a stunning bridge over the Cesarão River, a tributary of the Côa River) until we get on EN233-3 in Alfaiates. We recommend a stop here to visit the Castle of Alfaiates.

Serra de Mesas, nascente do Côa / Foto de: João Cosme.

Next, the Côa River takes us through Rebolosa and Aldeia da Ribeira to Vilar Maior – where the Castle is worth a visit. We go on to Malhada Sorda and Freineda (where we find the house that served as the Duke of Wellington’s military barracks) to the crossing at EN16, which takes us to Castelo Bom. In this village, we find a magnificent medieval Castle that deserves a visit.

Uma passagem antiga / Foto de: João Cosme.

From Castelo Bom, we follow EN332 to the Historic Village of Almeida, where we stop to appreciate the Stronghold and the magnificent historic center. Back on EN322, we pass through Vilar Tropim to the Historic Village of Castelo Rodrigo, where we suggest getting out of the car to stroll through its lovely streets up to the medieval Castle.

Back on the road, we pass by the Convent of Santa Maria de Aguiar and Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo before getting back on EN332, which takes us through Vilar de Amargo and Almendra to Castelo Melhor – where another Castle awaits us.

We then pass through Orgal before arriving in Vila Nova de Foz Côa, where we find the mouth of the Côa River and the Côa Museum. We get back on the road along the EN102 and pass through Muxagata, Longroiva (where we can stop and visit the Castle), and Termas de Longroiva to the Historic Village of Marialva. Once in Marialva, we cannot forget to stop and admire the nooks of the village of the legend of the damsel with clubfoot and her Castle.

Gravuras do Côa / Foto de: João Romba.

Back on the trail of the Côa River, we pass by Barreria, Gateira, Juízo, Azevo, Bogalhal, Valbom…stopping only in Pinhel to visit the Castle. We then follow the EN324 and cross through Vale Verde and Leomil. We pass over the A25 and go on the EN16, where we take a detour to the Historic Village of Castelo Mendo. Here, we learn the legend of Mendo and Menda, the mystery surrounding the two stones encrusted in the village’s walls. They look like two human figures with the faces of a man and a woman, condemned eternally to looking at each other from opposite sides of the street.

We then get back on the EN16 and EN324, passing by Parado Cerdeira do Côa, Perofico, Termas do Cró, and Rapoula do Côa (where we suggest a visit to the river beach), and return to this trip’s point of departure, the village of Sabugal. From here, we go to the Historic Village of Sortelha, the last stop on our adventure, the last feature of the Côa, and the last tour through this amazing Historic Village.

Through these sites, we explore the Côa River in its full splendor, rejuvenating and beautifying the landscapes of the surrounding regions of the Historic Villages of Portugal – the first destination in a series at the global level and the first national destination to receive BIOSPHERE DESTINATION certification. A route that satisfies adventurers, who explore trails in this region’s wild, and History lovers, who collect one thousand and one stories to tell from the castles and walls they visit on this adventure.