The Caminos de Santiago leading to Santiago de Compostela, in Spain, cross Portugal from north to south and pilgrims have followed them for centuries. The pilgrimage tradition dates back to the Middle Age targeting the dazzling Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where we can find the tomb of the Apostle James, who evangelised the Iberian Peninsula when it was still a part of the Roman Empire.
This tour follows the paths of the Way of Santiago, unveiling a true hidden gem: the Portuguese Inland Way of Santiago. This deeply fascinating way is 214 km long, crossing 8 municipalities: Viseu, Castro Daire, Lamego, Peso da Régua, Santa Marta de Penaguião, Vila Real, Vila Pouca de Aguiar and Chaves. The Inland Portuguese Way has been recently certified by the Portuguese government, in a recognition of the major role played by the St, James Way in the national cultural and historical heritage. It connects Viseu to Chaves, crossing the Galician border heading to Chaves, where it meets the Spanish Sanabrés or Ourense Way in direction to Santiago de Compostela. This is a journey of self-discovery across the purest natural landscapes.
Starting in the enchanting historical city of Viseu, regarded as "the natural starting point" of this journey, the Portuguese Inland Way of St. James, dating back to the Middle Ages, crosses the magical Montemuro Mountain, inhabited by generous people and an overwhelming nature, leading to Lamego, at the heart of Douro Valley.
The Portuguese Inland Way of St. James is without any doubt the best kept secret. A once in a lifetime opportunity to discover magical villages, breath-taking mountains, places of silence and inspiration, where you will meet the most fascinating people and their unique stories. With a dazzling nature in the background that makes us feel truly blessed. And grateful.
Occupied since the Castro era, the History of Viseu is closely connected with the History of Portugal. If the mythical figure of Viriathus, the warrior who led Lusitanian tribes against the Romans, gave the old city vital importance during Roman times, King Afonso Henriques, the first Portuguese King, established a close connection between the first years of the foundation of the country and this noble city. Viseu is the natural starting point of the Inland Portuguese St. James Way, located 387 km away from the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
Cava de Viriato, named after the iconic Lusitanian warrior, Viriato, is the greatest enigma of Portuguese archaeology. A perfect octagon, when seen from above. How did this gigantic fortress appear in Viseu? A question that remains unanswered. This national monument was featured on National Geographic's documentary: "Europe from above".
Montemuro Mountain is the 8th highest mountain range in Portugal. The Portuguese geographer, Amorim Girão, described Montemuro Mountain as "the most unknown mountain of Portugal". Owner of a great biodiversity, Montemuro Mountain has an average altitude of 838 meters. The geographical diversity of the region stems from its morphology, which displays two distinct types of landscape realities: the mountain landscape, arid and bare of vegetation, traditionally fostering subsistence agro-pastoral values; and the riverine landscape, marginal to the valleys of the Douro and its tributaries, rich in waters that descend from the granite peaks of the Montemuro, flooding the landscape with green.
The enchanting village of Moura Morta is located in the eastern slope of Montemuro Mountain. It is one of the best-preserved villages with its granite houses in traditional design.
Beautifully located at the Montemuro Mountain, the bucolic villages of Campo Benfeito and Mezio are true precious jewels of the region of Castro Daire. Magical places at the heart of Mother Nature where we can still hear the inspiring sound of silence.
In Montemuro Mountain the knowledge of Mother Nature is as ancestral as the involving natural landscapes. The inhabitants of the cosy villages of Montemuro Mountain know by heart which is the best time to plant and the best time to harvest. Food has almost a sacred meaning, for every product must be eaten in its due time. This is the secret of absolutely unrivalled flavours: respecting the pace of Nature.
This tour follows the Central Portuguese Way starting in Lisbon across Tomar, Coimbra, Águeda and Albergaria-a-Velha, heading to the North of Portugal. This is a journey across the most incredible landscapes. But it is above all a journey of self-discovery. Deeply personal and non-transferable. It's all about finding ourselves during the way, embraced by the utter beauty of silence.
The Central Portuguese Way starting in Lisbon Cathedral has always been one of the most sought-after paths and the second in terms of number of pilgrims, only beaten by the French St. James Way.
This Way follows the banks of the River Tagus via Tomar, the former seat of the Knights Templar in Portugal. From here it continues towards Coimbra, passing Alvaiázere and Ansiãol. In Coimbra, it’s mandatory to visit the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Nova, housing the tomb of Queen Isabel (14th century), who made the pilgrimage to Santiago. The Holy Queen is buried with the symbols of the scallop shell, the cross of Santiago and the staff. Continuing north, the Way goes via Mealhada, Águeda, Albergaria-a-Velha, São João da Madeira and Grijó, before entering Porto, where the Northern Ways begin.
Picture a bridge and a peaceful river running underneath. Picture a charming romantic city, as if it were painted by the gifted hands of Cézanne. Picture a magnificent convent with eight cloisters. Picture a place where the presence of the Knights Templar can still be utterly felt. No, this is not the plot of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.
This is Tomar, hidden gem of Portugal that every 4 years proudly bursts with flowers for the whole world to see during the famous Trays' Fest – “Festa dos Tabuleiros”. The whole city is deeply engaged in this event, leading the expression “team work” to a whole new level! But it is totally worth the passion. Art does imitate life.
The ancient Roman road connecting Tomar (Sellium) to Coimbra (Aeminium) was later used by pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. The monumental complex of Santiago da Guarda, in the council of Ansião, is a place worth visiting, as well as an outstanding testimony of the overlapping layers of History.
As we walk further in our journey of self-discovery and enlightenment, leaving the cosy village of Alvorge with its beautiful white houses and friendly people, we head to Rabaçal, where the Roman presence can be so utterly felt.
The road from Tomar to Conímbriga passed very near Rabaçal as proved by the discovery of a milestone from the time of Emperor Decio. It marked eight miles from Conímbriga.
Earlier, many centuries earlier the owner of the Roman Villae in Rabaçal could see these mountains when looking out of the tower, towards the rising sun. He was certainly well to do and from here he could see his properties.
Conímbriga is a true jewel of the Roman world. A place that we can not miss on our journey to Santiago. The living testimony of the fascinating power of History and the enduring influences on the national cultural legacy.
Inhabited since the Neolithic, Conímbriga was a castle when the Romans arrived here in 138 BC and took over the Oppidum. In the time of the Emperor Augustus, the Forum and the baths were the first buildings to be built. The water came from a place known today as Mãe-de-Água de Alcabideque and through an aqueduct which is still visible today. The city was walled, a basilica was built and also many places of worship. The head of Augustus and his feet in strap sandals, found near the temple are the proof of this.
We have never understood why the famous fado of Coimbra says that the beauty of Coimbra strikes the most as we leave the city. It’s the other way round. As we approach this charming city knelt upon Mondego river, we can feel History in all its speechless splendour.
While in Coimbra, you must visit the Convent of Santa Clara-a-Nova, housing the tomb of the Holy Queen, Isabel de Aragão, the Patron Saint of Coimbra. The tomb was sculpted in 1330 by Master Pêro in a single limestone block. The representation of St. James, which can be found in one of the niches, as well as the pilgrim’s stick and the purse of alms, sculpted on the lying statue, witness her role of Pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela.
All the roads lead to the colourful city of Águeda, located half an hour away from Aveiro. Thanks to the Umbrella Sky Project, created by Agit'Águeda, the vibrant umbrellas travelled the world, becoming a true postcard of this welcoming city!
With traces of settlement dating back to about 5000 B.C., Albergaria-a-Velha was founded by Queen Teresa, mother of the first King of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques. It is a charming destination for nature tourism aficionados, offering the largest number of classified water mills in Europe, as well as a deeply dazzling natural heritage.