Relaxing in Serra de Bornes

Relaxing in a SPA overhanging the Vilariça valley and the mountain landscape, sleeping in a former elementary school and enjoying water sports in Sabor River are some of the things you can do in Alfândega da Fé and Serra de Bornes.

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The council of Trás-os-Montes is located in the southern part of the Bragança district, between the mountain of Bornes, Vilariça valley and Sabor River.

Why go

  • Natural landscape
  • Birdwatching
  • Gastronomy and wines

Alfândega da Fé takes its name from the Arab times in the 8th and 9th centuries, but it dates back to an even older period, when it was probably an Iron Age fortified settlement. Its heritage is very rich, so all the more reason to visit it. Almond blossoms, cherry orchards, vineyards and chestnut trees make this a unique landscape.

The impressive mountain is wholly part of the Old Massif. Standing about 1200 metres high, it is located halfway between the Sabor and Tua rivers, making this a popular destination for practicing radical sports, such as paragliding and hang gliding.

Overhanging the landscape

Stay in a hotel overlooking the Vilariça valley and relax in an overhanging SPA, with one of the most stunning views of this Trás-os-Montes region as background.

At the Hotel & SPA Alfândega da Fé, symbiosis with nature is perfect. This hotel unit was the first one to offer an overhanging SPA, at more than one thousand metres of altitude. The hotel used to be and old inn managed by the municipality of Alfândega da Fé and was transformed into a modern hotel.

What to do

  • Ask the local Tourism Office in Alfândega da Fé about the visits to the archaeological site of Cilhades
  • Attend one of the concerts of the Sete Sóis Sete Luas Festival
  • Stay at one of the former elementary schools

Try the properties of cherries and olives, two fruits that mark the economy of the region. Get a full body massage with olive oil and then a body mask with the same fruit, finishing with a body moisturiser. Olive oil therapy and cherry therapy are two of the treatments offered by the Hotel & SPA Alfândega da Fé.

Watch the sunset on the outdoor deck, where the overhanging part of the SPA is.

Another option is to stay at a former elementary school. The municipality rehabilitated and adapted seven schools not attended by any students or only by very few, for rural tourism, in Sendim da Serra, Gouveia, Cabreira, Colmeais, Covelas, Vales and Felgueiras. As if it were not enough that these schools are very special places, the fact that they are located in traditional villages, where the locals welcome visitors – even tourists! – with a bag of potatoes or fresh vegetables from their farms makes this a memorable experience.

Cod with rye bread, octopus fillets with migas, grilled veal or wild boar with chestnuts are some of the specialties that you can (and should!) try in Alfândega da Fé. As far as sweets go, try the chestnut pudding and the regional almond delicacies, especially the Barquinhos and Rochedos (made with almonds and eggs), almond jams and Sweet Chorizos, a sausage made with almond, bread, honey and blood. Don’t forget to try the Trás-os-Montes DOC wines.

Heritage

The city council of Alfândega da Fé organizes visits to the archaeological site of Cilhades. Look for the Tourism Board to find if there are any programmes available on the days of your visit.

Located on the right bank of Sabor River, this archaeological site includes a Medieval necropolis and a fortification from the Calcolithic period. Needless to say that these visits are guided by archaeologists doing exploratory works, studies and surveys of the archaeological sites and are, therefore, a one of a kind opportunity to learn more about the historical development of this region.

Another place of interest in Alfândega da Fé is the Sanctuary of Imaculado Coração de Maria, with a tower in rustic stone with the following engraving "God intends to establish the worship of my Immaculate Heart in the World". According to the tradition, these were the words of Our Lady of Fátima in 1917. The tower was inaugurated in 1962, the Via Sacra in 1964 and the Calvary and the 15 Mysteries of the Rosary was inaugurated in 1967, carved in stone.

It is considered as the “side altar” of Cova da Iria and the place of pilgrimage of devotees unable to go to Fátima.

You will like

  • Seeing the almond blossoms in February and march
  • Visiting the Sanctuary of Imaculado Coração de Maria on the last Sunday in May, which closes the month of Mary and is the day with the most visitors

Adventure

Enjoy your stay and live an experience you will never forget. Try canoe-rafting in Sabor River, an unmatched activity! But there are other similar programmes of varying durations, from 40 euros per person.

Walking and cycling tours, or on donkeys through cherry orchards, trails along the Douro and off-road tours across the almond blossom lands are other exciting activities available in Alfândega da Fé and Serra de Bornes. Contact the local tourism companies to book the programme that attracts you the most.

Culture

If you are travelling in February and March, you will enjoy the vast almond groves of Alfândega da Fé that break the colour monotony of winter. The fields covered in white are of unparalleled beauty.

In June, the Cherry festival attracts thousands of people every year to Alfândega da Fé. This is the biggest festival of the council, celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2012. It brings together more than one hundred exhibitors, mostly showcasing local products, and hosts recreational, sports and cultural activities.

In summer, the Sete Sóis Sete Luas music festival, which in 2012 celebrated its 20th anniversary, attracts locals and visitors. Over the years, the festival has offered various types of music, art and tourism that linking the Mediterranean and the Portuguese speaking world.

Attend one of the popular contemporary music concerts and visit the plastic art exhibitions that are usually part of the festival programme.

Throughout the year, the Casa de Cultura Mestre José Rodrigues screens films and holds photography and plastic arts exhibitions.

What you need to know

  • The Cherry Festival of Alfândega da Fé in June is one of the oldest tourist, cultural and economic attractions in northeast Trás-os-Montes

Nearby

In the middle of the Montesinho Park, visit the castle and the historical area of Bragança and the Biological Park of Vinhais.

Visit also the Museum of Côa, in Foz Côa, and the town of Torre de Moncorvo, and stop for tea in the fishing village of Foz do Sabor.

In Miranda do Douro, enjoy a typical meal and visit the Miranda Museum.

Freixo de Espada à Cinta is the birthplace of the Portuguese poet Guerra Junqueiro and is filled with History and traditions. Enjoy the beautiful landscape of the belvedere of the Durão cliff and plunge in the river beach of Congida.

How to get there

There are low cost flights to Porto, for e.g., from London (Stanstead and Gatwick), Paris (Beauvais, Orly, Vatry and Charles de Gaulle), Marseille, Lille, Tours, St. Etienne, Bologna, Bordeaux, Lyon, Toulouse, Madrid, Barcelona El Prat, Tenerife, Valencia and Palma de Majorca.

In summer only, there are low cost flights from Liverpool, Las Palmas, Carcassonne, Rodez and Nantes.

Regular rate tickets are available from London – Gatwick, Madrid, Barcelona and Paris – Orly.

The best way to get to the Porto city centre from the International Airport of Francisco Sá Carneiro is by metro. The trip takes about 30 minutes.

Take the A4 from Porto to Amarante and then the IP4 to Bragança, in the heart of Trás-os-Montes. Exit at Macedo de Cavaleiros and then take the IP2 until you reach Alfândega da Fé.

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