Central Portugal is home to a group of schist villages which are a delight for all those who love nature and rustic living.
They are hidden up in Serra da Lousã, a range of relatively high mountains covered in pine trees, eucalyptus, oaks, cedars, acacias, cork trees, heather and many other species. These mountains include many hiking and cycling trails which more often than not end up in tiny villages with cottages made of rust-coloured schist and slate. Many are roofless and abandoned due to modern life movements: younger generations migrating to towns and the elderly population gradually passing away.
Yet, although many of these cottages are still in ruins, in the last decade or so there has been an official (as well as private) concerted effort to preserve and revive these schist villages. Many of them have been carefully restored and rebuilt using traditional methods and materials thanks to a partnership with a Norwegian museum. Nowadays, these houses are being bought to be used as holiday homes or are lived by artists and nature-lovers.
In the midst of all this, lie 27 restored villages which are now part of the “schist villages” trail. Fortunately, they have kept all their original authenticity and charm. You will love the guesthouses and b&b’s in these villages: just check Casa Cimeira or Casa do Zé Sapateiro. If you prefer a more traditional hotel, try the Palace da Lousã, an 18th century manor house which is being renovated and dedicated to the practice of mountain biking.
Apart from these schist houses, the region includes a number of villages where much traditional housing is still white-washed and either framed with stone or with thick rust-coloured or dark pink borders. We love the Foz de Arouce village and its wine! Try it at the aristocratic “Viscondessa” (in Palace da Lousã hotel), the “Páteo de Xisto” (Gondramaz) or “D. Sesnando” (Penela), which has been awarded with the 2014 Tripadvisor Excellency Certificate. Or at any “tasca” along the way…
Photo: Antonio Sacchetti