I know that many of you enjoy getting away from the hustle and bustle of cities to explore picturesque villages and I’ve shared many of my favourite villages in Portugal with you over the years.
In anticipation of a public vote on the best villages in Portugal, I decided to round up seven of the best for you from all around the country. The winners of the 7 Wonders of Portugal: Villages edition were subsequently announced and, as you can see from the list below, two of my choices are winners!
- Remote Villages: Piodão
- Villages In Protected Areas: Rio de Onór
- Monumental Villages: Monsaraz
- Seaside Villages: Fajã dos Cubres
- Authentic Villages: Castelo Rodrigo
- Rural Villages: Sistelo
- Riverside Villages: Dornes
My list is a little different so read on and see which you would like to visit.
1. Monsaraz, Alentejo (winner!)
Monsaraz is a prime example of a medieval village that has been brought back to life through tourism in a good way. It won the Monumental Villages category, possibly because it’s considered to be an open-air museum and possibly because of its castle.
Whatever the reason, with cobbled streets, whitewashed buildings, ancient archways and stunning views over the Alentejo plains and Alqueva reservoir, the photo opportunities in Monsaraz are endless.
Enter the walled village via an arched gateway and explore its walls, castle, shops and art galleries. There are plenty of restaurants and cafés where you can sample Alentejan cuisine and wines.
Read more about Monsaraz, including suggestions for where to stay, in this article.
If you don’t have your own transport, there are guided tours from Lisbon area or Faro which include half a day in Évora. Click for more details:
2. Monsanto, Central Portugal
I often get the Monsaraz mixed up with Monsanto in my head. If you’re planning to visit either village, make sure you don’t confuse them as they are miles apart and completely different.
The ancient settlement of Monsanto is crowned by the ruins of a castle with views of the surrounding plains. The most striking thing about Monsanto, however, is its gigantic granite boulders, many of which form the walls of cottages.
It’s one of the 12 Historical Villages of Portugal and was the set of the Game of Thrones prequel, House of the Dragon.
See more photos and find out how to visit Monsanto in this post.
3. Lindoso, Peneda-Gerês National Park
Located in the far north of Portugal, within the country’s only national park, Peneda-Gerês, Lindoso also has a castle, evidence of a turbulent and powerful history. It’s also renowned for it’s remarkable set of 54 stone grain stores (espigueiros), which are grouped around a community threshing area.
Lindoso is also one of the five gateways to the Peneda-Gerês National Park so has the benefit of a visitor’s centre where you can get information about walks in the area.
It’s also one of the mountain villages used as a base for this 1-week self-guided hiking holiday in the Peneda-Gerês.
4. Fajã dos Cubres, São Jorge Island, Azores (winner!)
I was thrilled to see Fajã dos Cubres in the finals for the Seaside Village category. I discovered this seriously remote and utterly beautiful village on the best walk that Dori and I did in São Jorge. It’s where I dream of spending a few days with nothing but a book, walking gear and a swimming costume. Well, besides some bread and cheese perhaps. And my camera.
The closest accommodation is 2.3 km away in Fajã da Caldeirade Santo Cristo, which has a volcanic lake with calm water that’s perfect for swimming.
5. Curral das Freiras, Madeira Island
Before I bring you back to mainland Portugal, let’s take a look at Curral das Freiras, aka Nun’s Valley. In the Remote Villages category, it’s actually much easier to get to than Fajã dos Cubres (there are buses from Funchal). Nuns based on the coast of Madeira eventually got tired of fleeing to this hidden crater valley to escape from pirates and the like so they settled here centuries ago.
Mike and I walked down to the village along a steep zig-zagging path from the viewing terrace at Eira do Serrado but there are also organised tours to help you get to Curral das Freiras.
6. Alte, Algarve
The village of Alte, tucked away in the hillsides of the Central Algarve, is one of many possible day trips in the Algarve.
Known for its esparto grass weaving and ceramics, the quiet cobbled streets and riverside picnic area make a pleasant change of scenery from the coastal towns. As well as quaint cottages and unexpected artworks dotted throughout the village streets, Alte’s parish church boasts a wonderful Manueline doorway.
If you don’t have a car, you can take a half day jeep tour from Albufeira which takes you through the countryside and several villages including Alte.
It’s also one of the places I walked to on this Algarve walking holiday.
7. Cerdeira, Central Portugal
One of the highlights of the central region of Portugal is its network of Schist Villages. The ones in the Lousã Mountains are particularly attractive, especially Cerdeira, which was a finalist in the Authentic Villages category of the competition I mentioned earlier. Now that it’s connected to the N236 by a tarmac road, it’s fairly easy to visit, assuming you have transport, although the access road is narrow and winding.
Houses in this mountain village are made almost entirely from slabs of rust-coloured slate that blend in with the forested hillside. I love just wandering around the tiny village, especially during the annual Art Meets Nature outdoor art exhibition.
Some of the cottages have been renovated to provide self-catering accommodation and the owners have gone to great lengths to create itineraries for day trips from Cerdeira so you could use it as a base for exploring this part of Central Portugal. Click to see available holiday cottages in Cerdeira.
Portugal itineraries designed by Julie
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Im keen to rent a camper van what is your comment
You put Lindoso in the picture (https://juliedawnfox.com/exploring-peneda-geres-national-park/stone-grain-stores-and-communal-drying-and-thrashing-space-lindoso-peneda-geres-national-park/), but this place is not Lindoso. Lindoso is a parish and has 3 villages (Castelo, Parada and Cidadelhe). The place is Parada. Its a shame that you don´t show the castle and the biggest concentration of granaries.
We went on our first Portugues road trip this year and I can’t wait to go back. Your blog has been great for tips Julie. I was sad to see so many of the places we travelled to be affected by the fires. Hoping things go back to normal soon
Hi Christiane,glad you enjoyed your trip. It will take a year or so for the greenery to reappear any several more to hide the effects of the fires but it will get better. It must be soul destroying to be surrounded by such devastation day in day out though.
All I can say is you are opening up new windows for us of beautiful Portugal, Thank you.
You’re welcome, Tony 🙂
I can’t argue with the nomination for Alte, Julie, and I agree that Monsaraz is a beauty (even though I only saw it in the rain 🙂 ) I still haven’t seen as much of the central and northern areas as I’d like. Maybe next year, when we’re finally planning to make the move abroad.
Oooh! How exciting that you’re taking the plunge, although if you’re moving to Tavira, you certainly know what to expect by now.
And I only know one – Monsanto! There are so many beautiful and quaint villages….a difficult choice.
I know, Sami. I agonised over this selection as there are so many I could have included. Never fear, I shall continue to slowly but surely showcase pretty Portuguese villages to the world 🙂
I am just back from the Algarve area . Monchique, Alvor, Carvoiero, Algor Seco, Ferragudo and Padralva are quaint and cute villages that should be included in the category picturesque .
Diana, thanks for your suggestions. There are hundreds of Portuguese villages that could fall into that category. I went with just seven in keeping with the 7 Wonders theme 🙂
I love these competitions mainly because they show the side of Portugal not seen by many tourists .I have been coming to Portugal since the late 50:s and only knew 2 of the competition villages I look forward to the result and now have a target to aim for to see asap.thank you
Exactly, Michael. There are lots of villages among the 49 nominations that I have yet to discover.