Montalegre: a tiny corner of paradise
This region of Peneda-Gerês National Park offers visitors stunning views of a magical place where nature meets the charms of 13th-century remains.
Learn everything there is to know about visiting Montalegre, from its most prized attractions to its unique and delicious gastronomy, in the following guide.
Where is Montalegre?
Known for its dramatic medieval castle and breathtaking greenery, it is a popular spot. Those looking to explore the mountains and valleys of the park while lodging in a charming, old-town setting should go there.
Weather in Montalegre
The climate of Montalegre is warm and temperate with rainy winters and drier summers.
August is the warmest month of the year, with temperatures hovering around 18 degrees Celsius (64.8ºF) on average. w
Whereas January is the coldest month of the year, with temperatures dipping down to 4 degrees Celsius (39.4ºF).
Most visitors tend to spend summers in the region as the temperatures are warm but not too hot.
What to see and do in Montalegre
One of the most popular attractions in the region is the Montalegre Castle.
It sits on a lush, green hill overlooking the village below. And it is classified as a National Monument that includes a Special Protection Zone.
While partly in ruins, the castle’s towers continue to stand tall and proud and visits are free between the hours of 10:00 am and 6:00 pm.
Ponte da Mizarela
A medieval bridge that crosses the Rio Rabagão, it consists of a single arch. It is set into the rocks on the sides of the river.
The bridge connects the parishes of Ruivães to Ferral within Montalegre. Also, it is known for its old stones and the mossy cover as nature has slowly overtaken it over the years.
According to popular legend, the bridge was built by the Devil himself and serves as a source of superstition and worship among locals.
Mosteiro de Santa Maria das Júnias
This magnificent monastery dating back to the 9th century can be found at the junction of the plateau of Mourela and the Serra do Gerês and is thought to have been originally built to house Benedictine friars.
It was abandoned after the extinction of religious orders in Portugal in 1834 and was later almost burnt to the ground by a fire.
Visitors to the area can take a peek at what’s left standing and be amazed by the details carved in the stone walls and its unique wooden roof.
Minas da Borralha
At the south end of Montalegre lies one of the country’s largest tungsten deposits. These became crucial to the nation’s economy in the 19th century and lasted through the 1980s.
While the mine was up and running, thousands of workers lived in the area. They took part in the mining efforts around the clock. During the World Wars, the mine also supplied the front lines with materials made from the tungsten.
Now tourists can visit the onsite museum, which includes exhibitions about the history and culture of the mine.
Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês
This national park is one of the country’s hidden secrets. This is because most tourists flock to the big cities or the beach towns.
Those who venture into the park will step back in time as they observe the ancient traditions that take place in the community villages throughout the area.
The vegetation and rugged mountain terrain coupled with the many rivers and waterfalls ensure that visitors experience an added touch of magic during their stay in Montalegre.
For the nature-oriented, there are plenty of locations to go for a hike. Also, you can try your hand at canyoning or rent a canoe to explore the area by water.
What to eat and drink?
Sangueira de Barroso-Montalegre
The Barroso-Montalegre blood sausage is a scrumptious speciality of the region. It consists of bread, smoked meat, lard, and blood from the Bísaro breed of pigs.
It is made with fatty cuts of pork mixed with pig blood, salt, garlic, chilli powder, chopped parsley, onion, and Transmontano olive oil and then stuffed into sausage casings.
The sausages are cooked over a low fire of regional oak wood and contain a distinctive smokey taste when they are finished.
Chouriço de Abóbora de Barroso-Montalegre
This type of smoked sausage is similar to the Sangueira in terms of meat but boasts the additional flavours of dried pumpkin, salt, garlic, red or white wine, and hot or sweet paprika.
Vinho dos Mortos
The story behind this type of wine, which literally translates to Wine of the Dead, dates back to the 19th century when the French invaded the region.
The people living in the area were afraid that the invaders would plunder their goods and took to burying the wine underground. When they finally dug it back up, they realized that the wine had taken on a different flavour and had become slightly fermented.
Farmers in the area keep the tradition alive by burying wine in the vineyards and selling it to restaurants where it can be enjoyed by visitors.
Top hotels in Montalegre
Casa Avó Chiquinha
One of the top-rated hotels in the area, this hotel is conveniently located just 50 meters (150 ft) from the bus station and boasts free WiFi, a swimming pool, and large lawn space with sun loungers. The rooms overlook the rolling hills and small village while the hotel is in walking distance of the town centre.
Book your room here.
Casa de Campo O Castelo
This charming hotel offers direct views of the Montalegre Castle while located just steps from the centre. Guests can enjoy rooms with a private balcony overlooking the castle in addition to daily breakfast and housekeeping services. The hotel also offers the option to help guests book hiking, cycling or local tours in the area.
Book your room here.
Casa Santa Catarina
Just over a kilometre from the famous Montalegre Castle, this hotel appears to be a charming house from the outside. It contains an expansive garden and outdoor terrace for guests to share.
Book your room here.
Casa dos Casais
This country house is located on the outskirts of Montalegre in the mountain foothills of Larouco. Also, it is close to Peneda-Gerês National Park. It provides amenities including an outdoor pool, free WiFi, a garden, and a shared lounge in addition to a daily continental breakfast.
Book your stay here.
Porto is not very far from Montalegre and is totally worth a visit, check out our list of best luxury hotels in the northern capital.
How to get to Montalegre?
Depending on which direction you’re coming from, there are many options when it comes to transportation. In general, public transportation in the form of a train or bus can be taken from almost anywhere in the country to the town of Montalegre, while the main highways are fast and easy to use if travelling by car.
A bus departs from Lisbon Sete Rios Station and travels to Braga. There, it is necessary to take a second bus into Montalegre. The total travel time is about 8h 30min and costs between €24 and €25.
Another option is to take a train from Santa Apolonia station in Lisbon to Braga and then switch to a bus to travel the remaining distance to Montalegre. Total travel time will be around 7h and cost from €28-€56.
Is it worth the visit?
For those interested in a quiet town? Far from the main tourist attractions in the country, yet surrounded by history, culture, and beautiful landscapes? Montalegre is the place for you. Don’t miss out on this little bit of magic in the north of Portugal and book your trip to Montalegre today.
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