The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peneda is located in Arcos de Valdevez, in the heart of the Peneda-Gerês National Park. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it was built in the 18th and 19th centuries, inspired by the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte, in Braga. If you’re thinking of visiting Portugal’s only national park in the near future, I think you should add the Sanctuary of Peneda to your travel itinerary. After all, its bucolic location in the middle of the mountains makes it a unique sanctuary!
Castelo Novo is located in Fundão, in the Castelo Branco district, and is part of the 12 Historical Villages of Portugal (a program created to restore and enhance villages older than the country itself). Well, the town may be called Castelo Novo (ie “New Castle”), but it has nothing new: after all, we’re talking about more than 800 years of history! With Templar origins, Castelo Novo developed markedly medieval architecture, but you can find buildings from the Manueline and Baroque periods!
Arcos de Valdevez is a quiet town in the Alto Minho region and one of the best destinations for a weekend getaway in Portugal! Just 70 minutes from Porto, the municipality of Arcos de Valdevez has a large part of its territory included in the Peneda-Gerês National Park, the best natural attraction in Portugal! And of course, if you’re a cultural travel lover like me, get ready to explore picturesque villages, museums of all kinds, and dozens of historic buildings and monuments!
Óbidos is a very picturesque town, where you can walk along the centuries-old walls, discover where a long 16th-century aqueduct ends, and even climb a medieval castle, which was elected one of the “7 Wonders of Portugal” in 2007! Óbidos is an excellent option for a day trip from Lisbon and, if you can’t decide when to visit this Portuguese town, don’t worry. There are several festivals and fairs throughout the year, which can also your trip much more special!
Very close to the Spanish border, you’ll find the medieval village of Castelo Mendo, one of the “12 Historical Villages of Portugal” (a program created by the government to restore and enhance a series of villages in the Beira Interior region, older than the country itself). Castelo Mendo belongs to the Guarda district and is located 19 km from another historical village: Almeida. Besides, it’s also one of the smallest villages on this route, so you can visit it in a more relaxed way!
Despite being a town, Belmonte is considered one of the “12 Historical Villages of Portugal” (a program created to restore and enhance a series of villages in the Beira Interior region). Belmonte belongs to the Castelo Branco district and is located about 40 km from the Torre da Serra da Estrela (the highest point in mainland Portugal) and 20 km from another historical village: Sortelha. Besides, it’s famous because of its Jewish Community, which has remained secret for many centuries!
When the Jewish Museum of Belmonte opened in 2005, it became the first museum in Portugal entirely dedicated to the history of Judaism. Besides, its exhibition pays special attention to the Jewish community that settled in the town of Belmonte. So, if you ever visit this Historical Village in Portugal, it’s essential that you include the Jewish Museum of Belmonte in your itinerary. This space has a unique collection of pieces that encompasses centuries of Jewish history, culture, and traditions!
Despite being a town, Almeida is considered one of the “12 Historical Villages of Portugal” (a program created by the Portuguese government in 1991, to restore and enhance a series of villages in the Beira Interior, older than the country itself)! Located very close to the Spanish border (and to the historical villages of Castelo Mendo and Castelo Rodrigo), Almeida is internationally known for its fortress, which forms a twelve-pointed star, thanks to its six bulwarks and six ravelins!
The Bacalhôa Buddha Eden Garden is the largest oriental garden in Europe, occupying 35 hectares of the Quinta dos Loridos (a wine estate in Leiria, Portugal). And despite being known for the Buddha statues, the enclosure is made up of several green spaces, with ornamental ponds and curious sculptures. Above all, the Buddha Eden is a tribute to Asian cultures and religions. Here, you’ll wander among giant Buddhas, pagoda towers, terracotta warriors of Xian, and lakes with Koi fish!
The Cerco Garden is a baroque garden located next to the Royal Building of Mafra. It has about 9 hectares and started out as a conventual fence, housing a formal garden, a botanical garden, and several leisure areas. With the extinction of the Religious Orders in 1834, the Cerco Garden became exclusive to the court. After having served as a Conventual Garden and a Court Garden for two centuries, the Cerco Garden opened to the public in 1910. And nowadays, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site!