After walking along Terra Fria and Terra Quente routes, we now suggest that you discover the Alto Tâmega. In this third route through the lands of Trás-os-Montes you will visit the counties of Chaves, Vila Real, Ribeira de Pena, Boticas and Montalegre and discover a vast secular heritage.
Heritage and cuisine in Chaves and Valpaços
Start this route in Chaves and pay special attention to the landmarks that the Romans left in the city. The Trajan bridge, connecting the banks of the Tâmega River, is the greatest example of Roman heritage and also the major symbol of the city.
It was also the Romans, admirers of the powers of thermal waters, who recognized the quality of the thermal springs in Chaves. The hot water originates at a temperature of about 73 ° C and remains popular today.
In addition to the heritage, Chaves is also a place where you can taste the best transmontana cuisine. The Chaves ham and pasties (stuffed with minced meat) have national fame. Beside these delicacies, there is also the salty folar (a savory cake stuffed with sausages), the bísaro porc, lamb, veal and the "cozido à transmontana". For fish lovers, stuffed trout are a popular snack.
Leaving Chaves we head to Valpaços. Located in a plateau region rich in water resources, agriculture is an activity with a huge importance in the economy of Valpaços, especially with the production of cherries, almonds, olive oil, chestnuts and wine, which was already famous during the Roman period.
For a unique view of this region, head to the parish of Vales, specifically, the summit of the Santa Comba mountain range. The viewpoint offers a broader landscape of the Trás-os-Montes region: one can see the districts of Vila Real and Bragança and even the highest mountains of the Spanish region of Castile and León.
In the religious heritage of Valpaços county, the highlights are the imposing church of St. Nicholas in Carrazedo de Montenegro; the Valpaços parish church and the Possacos parish church, from the seventeenth century.
If the weather is pleasant, enjoy the sandy river beach of Rabaçal in Possacos and take a rest. If it is cold but the sun is shining, go for the picnic area: choose some sausages, fruits, rye bread, local wine and the famous folar of Valpaços (bread stuffed with pork and sausages, typical during Easter).
Nature in Vila Pouca de Aguiar and Ribeira de Pena
Get ready to get in touch with nature when visiting the region of Vila Pouca de Aguiar. We start with the water element: about four kilometers from Vila Pouca de Aguiar lies the Falperra dam, an area for relaxation and leisure, with excellent conditions for water sports.
Besides being used for recreation, water can also cure. To enjoy the quality of the region's thermal waters, visit the Pedras Salgadas SPA & Natura Park for a treatment or massage. Stay in one of the tree-houses, houses that are among the trees of the park and where you can gaze at the stars before falling asleep.
After the water, how would you like to see what is under the ground? Go to the village of Tresminas, famous for the old mines that supplied the gold used for coinage during the Roman period. The heritage of this mining site is a complex system of underground galleries that can be visited.
From Vila Pouca de Aguiar, in the heart of Trás-os-Montes, go to Ribeira de Pena, a county located in a transition zone between Minho and Trás-os-Montes. Start by visiting the Church of the Divine Savior, built in 1793. After visiting the church, you can take a walk: the "Abbot's Way" route starts right in the church square and is 6 kilometers in length.
Do not leave Ribeira de Pena county without tasting the caldo verde (a soup made with potato and green cabbage), the corn bread (a typical bread made of corn flour), the river trouts, or the roast goat or veal. But the most traditional dish of Ribeira de Pena is "Milhos", a delicacy made with ground corn, which is then cooked for several hours along with beef, chicken or pork.
Unravel the secrets of the mountains of Boticas and Montalegre
The two municipalities left to visit are Boticas and Montalegre. These are mountain lands where agriculture and grazing are the main economic activities for these people shaped by harsh winters and hot summers.
In lands of strong gastronomic traditions, make sure you try posta à barrosã: a piece of grilled meat seasoned simply with salt. But do not let yourself stop there; in addition to the culinary delights, the municipalities of Boticas and Montalegre have a vast cultural heritage and landscape to get to know.
If you are an art lover, head to Boticas and visit CEDIEC - European Center for the Documentation and Interpretation of Castro Sculptures, whose function is the appreciation of proto-historic artistic expressions in the Northwest of the Peninsula.
After the culture, it is time to get in touch with nature in "Boticas Park - Nature and Biodiversity", which covers the parishes of Beça, Vilar and Codesso. This area of approximately 60 hectares aims to protect the native fauna and flora that can be observed throughout the signposted footpaths.
After relaxing in contact with nature, return to history with a trip to Montalegre village. Head to the castle, built in the eighteenth century on the remains of an older fortification. From here you have a panorama of the region, including a view over the Larouco mountains.
Be sure to visit the communal village of Pitões of Junia, in the Peneda-Gerês National Park. Here you can admire the waterfall, about 30 meters tall, and the Monastery of Santa Maria of Júnias. The monastery is accessible only on foot and today only the ruins remain, but it is worth going to find this building that belonged to the Cistercian Order. You can still see the facade of the church, the monks' dormitory and also the space of the kitchen and respective chimney.
Finish the day with a comforting meal: you can choose between roast veal or Barroso-style stew, made up of sausages and veal, potatoes, baked beans and cabbage. For dessert, try the rice pudding or the crème brûlée.