Look downhill from my balcony and you’ll see a U-bend of the River Alva flowing past our house before it curls back around the village. The water froths and tumbles over the rocks beneath the tiny weir, providing a constant soundtrack to life in Moura Morta. I hardly notice it these days but on hot summer nights, when the bedroom window is open, its constant dull roar is quite soothing.

River Alva, from our balcony, Moura Morta
River Alva, from our balcony, Moura Morta

The chameleon qualities of the Alva fascinate me. Its water is usually clear, and appears dark from above, but when the sun’s at the right level, it’s transformed into a patchy silver snake.

Occasionally, diamonds of light flash on the surface like fireflies providing a mini light show below the balcony. At other times, the sunlight turns the pebbles into golden coins. After heavy rains, the water turns to a swirling, churning caramel milkshake or a cloudy pea soup.

Smoke on the Water, Rio Alva
Smoke on the Water, Rio Alva

Down by the ruined mill on misty mornings, I can’t help humming Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water and conjuring up images from the Heart of Darkness as whorls of steam rise from the dark liquid. On clearer days, the mimosa trees and clumps of reeds are mirrored back from the still, glassy surface. Until Daisy decides to go for a swim, that is.

Daisy the dog fetching a stick from the River Alva
Daisy in the Alva

No matter how hot it gets, I’m not joining her. I’ve swam in this river once and that’s enough, thank you.

The Alva starts way up in the Serra da Estrela Mountains and retains that icy feel all year round in Moura Morta, thanks to the dam a few kilometres upstream in Fronhas. Which is a shame, because it’s a perfect spot for a river beach and steps have been taken towards providing facilities here.

It would be quite handy to just stroll down the hill for a dip in the summer; instead we end up driving to other river beaches where the water temperature is bearable.

I might not like the cold water but trout seem to. We’re more likely to see fishermen in waders than bikini-clad bathers as there are several spots along this part of the river that are used for fly fishing competitions.

This post is the first in My Personal A to Z of Portugal series.

BEFORE YOU GO...

Julie003%282%29 street6

If you're interested in visiting or moving to Portugal, why not get my free insider tips and resources by email? These newsletters also include blog updates and information about relevant products, services and special offers.

See my privacy policy

No spam. Unsubscribe any time Powered by ConvertKit

20 Comments

  1. Hello Julie Dawn, I’m Rob Lee,retired in Adk Mtns of NY and am interested in paddle/portage an inflatable kayak from the Alva source to Coimbra in May ’19. Planning 2 wks, camping and visiting villages along the way. I am gathering info on the area and river conditions and would very much appreciate any help. Thanks, Rob

    1. Hi Rob, Even the short section of the Alva between the dam at Fronhas and my village is tricky for kayaking. Fallen trees and weirs make it challenging and dangerous unless it’s been cleared. I wouldn’t recommend it.

  2. Does the river Alva ever overflow? I would love a place near the Alva river but would be concerned if flooding is a possibility. Loving the blog by the way!

    1. Author

      Hi Dominique, yes, it does. We have seen the river flood at least once a year over the last 8 years. This year was the worst – it took out the dirt road that ran alongside it in our village and destroyed several walls. You’d want to be several metres above the water level if you want to be near it or any other river.

  3. Great pictures Julie XD Congrats!

  4. Lovely spot Julie, we lived about 1h south of you – Carregal do Sal, between Coimbra and Viseu. That central area of Portugal has some lovely villages.

  5. what a fantastic photo of the light on the water – no wonder you like living there!
    I couldn’t possibly choose my favourite beach down here in the Algarve – every time I think I’ve found it – we find another one! But Ferragudo still has my heart!
    Great post – lovely descriptions and I am enjoying the new series of posts already!

    1. Author

      I haven’t spent much time in the Algarve yet but I can see how it would be difficult to choose. I’m planning to check out Ferragudo in April after everything you’ve said about it 🙂

      1. then give us a shout if you are coming our way – happy to put the kettle on for you! 🙂

  6. Certainly looks a lovely spot Julie- how did you pick it? Expect that’s the subject of another blog. Love that “smoke on the water” shot- it’s a stunner.

    And you know where my favourite watery place is, don’t you?
    Looking forward to B.

    1. Author

      I assume that’s Tavira?

      Funnily enough, I didn’t pick the spot. It came with my husband. He’d bought the house the year before we met and although we considered moving a bit closer to Coimbra, there’s a lot to be said for where we live so we decided to stay.

  7. So pretty! I’ve only been in Portugal for about a week (and just in Lisbon…heading down to Faro tomorrow), but it’s been enough time to fall in love with the beautiful coast and to wish I lived by a river full time.

    1. Author

      Thanks. Glad you’re enjoying Portugal, it really is beautiful. I’m sure you’ll have a lovely time in the Algarve.

Over to you. Please share your thoughts in a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.