The Historic Villages of Portugal, one destination that is in fact 12, are surrounded by incredible landscapes that form an enchanting scene with the villages’ peculiar beauty. The challenge is to (re) discover them either on foot or by bicycle through Grande Route 22’s extraordinary trails and passages.
In the following lines, the challenge is to appreciate the Historic Villages of Portugal and their landscapes in full through the passage defined by Grand Route 22 (GR22). Created in 2000, it was remarked in 2014 and sits on a circular trail that is 565 kilometers long and has been divided into 12 stages. Whether on foot or by bicycle, GR22 takes the most audacious through the most impressive panoramas of the Historic Villages of Portugal and other must-see locations in Central Portugal’s countryside.
This GR22 adventure begins in Sortelha – where no one should leave without first visiting this picturesque, unforgettable Historic Village to walk along the impressive wall and explore the castle. Stage 1 starts from this Historic Village and ends in Castelo Mendo, passing through Urqueira, Sabugal, Souto, Alfaiates, Rebolosa, Aldeia da Ribeira, Vilar Maior, Malhada Sorda, and Freineda along the way. It is nearly 79 kilometers long and has a total duration of 17 hours on foot or 7 hours by bicycle. During this stage, we suggest stopping at Sabugal, Alfaiates, and Vilar Maior to appreciate their castles and in Freineda to visit the house that was once the Duke of Wellington’s military barracks. For those on foot, we recommend completing this stage in two days and staying the night at one of the villages along the route for a more enjoyable adventure.
Stage 2 begins in Castelo Mendo. Before starting on foot or by bicycle, take the opportunity to walk through the meanders of this magnificent Historic Village. This stage goes on to the Historic Village of Almeida, through Leomil, Ansul, Aldeia Nova, and the Ponte Grande (Great Bridge) over the Côa River. Nearly 19 kilometers long, its estimated duration is 4 hours on foot and a bit less by bicycle. Through this stage’s passages, we are stunned by the impressive landscapes that characterize this area of the Beira Alta and by the Côa River’s beauty, which we meet along the way.
Stage 3 begins in the Historic Village of Almeida and ends in Castelo Rodrigo. Before taking off, scout the Almeida stronghold and hear the stories of this place that had once been so crucial in defending Portuguese borders. This stage takes us past Malpartida, Almofala, Mata de Lobos, and the Convent of Santa Maria de Aguiar. It is about 36 kilometers long and usually takes around 7.5 hours to complete the entire course on foot and 3 hours by bicycle.
In Stage 4, we leave the Historic Village of Castelo Rodrigo – where we must visit the castle and the pleasant surrounding roads – for Marialva, passing through Freieda, Faia Brava, Juízo, and Gateira. It is nearly 36 kilometers long and has an estimated duration of 8 hours on foot and 3 hours by bicycle. To recover energy, we recommend stopping in the village of Juízo to savor a delicious meal at Taberna do Juízo, specialists in the traditional dishes of the region.
Before starting Stage 5 in the Historic Village of Marialva, take the time to stroll through its winsome streets and the castle. Stage 5 connects Marialva to Trancoso through Rabaçal, Esporões, Moreira de Rei, and Castaíde. It is almost 29 kilometers long and has an estimated duration of 6 hours on foot or 3 hours by bicycle. Upon arriving in Trancoso, a visit to the millennial castle of this Historic Village is worth a quick break from our adventure along GR22.
Stage 6 begins in the Historic Village of Trancoso and ends in Linhares da Beira, passing through Miguel Choco, Venda do Cepo, Aldeia Nova, Muxagata, Vila Soeiro do Chão, Mesquitela, and Carrapichana. The course is about 42 kilometers, with an estimated duration of 8.5 hours on foot or 4 hours by bicycle.
Before setting off on Stage 7 in Linhares de Beira, take some time to wander through this Historic Village and appreciate its fine castle. Stage 7 takes adventurers to the Historic Village of Piódão through Vale do Rossim, Sabugueiro, Senhora do Desterro, Lapa dos Dinheiros, Valezim, and Vide. In total, it is nearly 80 kilometers long, with an estimated duration of 23 hours on foot or 7.5 hours by bicycle. For those on foot, we recommend two days to finish this stage and to take advantage of the opportunity to sleep in one of the peaceful villages along the way.
In the Historic Village of Piódão, discover the streets and schist houses dotted in tones of blue before setting off on Stage 8. In this stage, GR22 leads us to Castelo Novo, past São Jorge da Beira, Aradas, Unhais o Velho, Portela de Unhais, Póvoa da Raposeira, Dornelas do Zêzere, Partida, Pereiros, São Vicente da Beira, and Louriçal. Stage 8 is almost 87 kilometers long, and its estimated duration is 23 hours on foot and 8.5 hours by bicycle. Since this stage is so extensive, for those on foot, completing this course in two days and staying a night halfway along the course would be convenient.
Before venturing on to Stage 9 in the Historic Village of Castelo Novo, go visit the “Atelier de Histórias Criativas by Ana Almeida,” a project by the Historic Villages of Portugal, where we find the honorable knights and princesses from the legends of these villages in the form of wool dolls and their stories in the book Lendas da Tua História. Stage 9 ends in Idanha-a-Velha and goes through Atalaia do Campo, Orca, Aldeia de Santa Margarida, and Proença-à-Velha. Nearly 45 kilometers long, its estimated duration is 9 hours on foot and 3.5 hours by bicycle.
Once in the Historic Village of Idanha-a-Velha, a visit to the Sé Cathedral and Roman ruins is required before beginning Stage 10, which goes on to Monsanto through Devesa. It is almost 19 kilometers long, with an estimated duration of 4.5 hours on foot and 2 hours by bicycle.
In the Historic Village of Monsanto, take on the challenge of walking up to the castle through the village roads before starting Stage 11, the penultimate leg of GR22. In this stage, we return to the Historic Village of Sortelha and pass through Aldeia de João Pires, Meimoa, and Meimão. The course is 75 kilometers long and has an estimated duration of 17 hours on foot and 7.5 hours by bicycle. For those on foot, we suggest taking two days to finish this stage due to its extent – and taking the time to peruse this region’s options for accommodation for an overnight stay along the way.
The final stage, or Stage 12, connects the Historic Village of Sortelha to Belmonte in a course that is 18 kilometers long and has an estimated duration of about 4.5 hours on foot and 90 minutes by bicycle. Once in Belmonte, after overcoming this incredible challenge, celebrate with a stroll to the castle and the enigmatic Centum Cellas tower.
For more information on Grand Route 22, the Historic Villages of Portugal furnish a guide with all the information needed to become a true explorer of these villages. It contains 64 pages and even has an attached set of individual forms that correspond to the 12 stages and the GR22.1 variant. It includes directions for the trails and a description of the course, technical information and points of interest, and a directory with information on where to sleep. The guide and these attachments are laminated, always keeping the set neat and protected from humidity and wear. The guide is light and pocket-sized and can also be placed in the bicycle’s map holder.
The Historical Villages of Portugal are the first network destination – worldwide – and the first national destination to receive the BIOSPHERE DESTINATION certification. There are many reasons to visit these villages, where the priority is the preservation of nature and heritage.