All About Portugal gives you 10 Christmas getaways to discover the best that Portugal has to offer. Quick weekend trips to places where time passes oh so slowly. There are small villages but also fortified settlements that, having lost the warrior role of yore, retain a historic and cultural heritage of great value. Due to their architectural nature, they reveal a special charm at Christmas time. In this list you will find suggestions in the North and Centre of Portugal, but also in the Alentejo. All have a common point: they offer several options for accommodation in Rural Tourism.
Branda da Aveleira, Melgaço
We are still on the Municipal Road 503 and we can already see, in the distance, the stone houses surrounded by Nature and the cultivated fields. Right outside the village, we stop at a viewpoint that highlights José Maria Rodrigues, the driving force behind Branda da Aveleira. We leave the viewpoint behind and continue down towards the village. We pass the small Sanctuary of Senhora da Guia and the restaurant O Brandeiro and, here it is: Branda da Aveleira. A crystal-clear lake welcomes us. Further ahead, there are signs indicating both Rural Tourism houses and walking trails, attracting many hikers.
With a circular and flat route, the village of Figueira surprises us by the density of its urban agglomeration. The inhabitants are friendly, like to receive and invite us to get to know the village or to explore the surroundings. Stroll through the streets of this shale village and discover the communal oven, still used by the natives. Its rurality is noted with the presence of pens, vegetable gardens and backyards. Do not be surprised to find even chickens running free in the alleys between the houses.
Marvão is a pick that never fails to deliver. In this fortified village, typical of Alentejo, the streets invite family outings, and the houses are a constant appeal to yet another photograph. From one end to the other, there are points of historical interest that you cannot miss when visiting Marvão; so here is everything you need to know. You also have several accommodation options to choose from to enjoy a peaceful and memorable getaway, for two or with children, which you can consult here.
Impeccably preserved, the village of Monsanto stands out on top of a hillside. The houses impose themselves on the granite boulders and leave no doubt about the strength of will of the inhabitants, hard-working men and women who broke through the stones to build the village. Its privileged position made it strategic during the period of the peninsular wars. To attest to this military heritage, right at the entrance to the village we find the Largo do Baluarte with some historic cannons. From there you can enjoy the scenery in the “most Portuguese village in Portugal”.
Monsaraz, Reguengos de Monsaraz
Situated on the top of a hill, Monsaraz is a fortified medieval village that offers us postcard-worthy sceneries, like the Alentejo plains and the Alqueva Lake. The view to the outside of the fortification is stunning, but if we look inside, we will also be enchanted. The houses are whitewashed and almost all have flowers or vines growing next to the doors; a perfect setting for taking pictures. The historic centre invites quiet walks and offers accommodation and dining options. Explore some options here and here.
We head to Trás-os-Montes for a short break in Montesinho. This mountain village has an urban agglomeration consisting of granite stone houses and slate roofs. It is highly sought after by lovers of mountain tourism and has several options for rural tourism. We also suggest a visit to the Interpretative Centre, to get to know the village better, and a walk through the Montesinho Natural Park.
It is known as the “crib village”, not only because of the way the set of houses is nestled in the Serra do Açôr, but also because of the alleys and streets that remind us of a nativity scene. The trip to the village may not be easy, but there is no doubt that, once you arrive, you will feel that all the curves were worth it. Go up the village step by step, through all the streets and narrow alleys, and we are sure that you will notice this peculiarity: the windows and doors of the houses of Xisto do Piódão are all, or almost all, painted in bright blue.
Pitões das Júnias, Montalegre
Located in Montalegre, this is the highest village in Terras do Barroso and one of the many attractions of the Peneda-Gerês National Park. Even before reaching the village, take a detour towards the cemetery, at Largo do Anjo da Guarda, and from the road you have a panoramic view of Pitões das Júnias and the imposing rock mass that serves as a backdrop. Throughout your stay in the village, which still preserves a strong rural activity today, take the time for a walk to the Monastery of Santa Maria das Júnias, and explore its luscious green surroundings.
If you are in the North and do not feel like doing many kilometres for a getaway, Quintandona is the perfect destination. Near Porto, in the municipality of Penafiel, the village is impeccably preserved and maintains a strong cultural and recreational component. There is also an offer of rural tourism accommodation recently restored, which had the merit of maintaining the rustic design that characterizes the houses in Quintandona, built with granite, shale, and slate. During this Christmas getaway, take the opportunity to take a walk to Monte da Pegadinha.
Sistelo, Arcos de Valdevez
Inserted in the National Park of Peneda-Gêres, the village of Sistelo surprises us by its terraces. Look for the sign with the indication Miradouro dos Socalcos (Socalcos Viewpoint) and follow on foot among the houses, granaries and washhouses until you find the best place to contemplate the terraces of this village, also known as the “Portuguese Tibet”. On the National Road, there is a Picnic Park that gives you a clear view of this rare scenery. The village centre has several options for accommodation and heritage points that can be visited, such as the Castle of Sistelo.