Magical "schist villages" of central Portugal

Natacha Costa | Live the World

September 19, 2022

Recently, Portugal has become permanently crowded with tourists, including my hometown, Aveiro. Every now and then it's nice to escape the confusion and re-visit some beautiful but not very touristic spots nearby, such as the forest of Bussaco or Fermentelos lagoon. Besides these, there are other secret magical places around central Portugal that I would like to share with you, and "schist villages" are some of them. 

© Credits to istock / Luis Costa

These carefully restored villages are a perfect place if you are looking for some lush vegetation and a hidden fluvial beach in the middle of the mountain slopes, but also if you would like to spend a weekend full of adventures including swimming, kayaking, hiking, and MTB. All of that while staying in an authentic xisto house in a village of... eleven inhabitants! What I love about these villages and spending long summer days here is that they make me more connected to myself and to the nature. In some of them there is no mobile network coverage, which makes them a perfect place for some digital detox, too. The locals are friendly, the time passes slowly, and gastronomic delights are irresistible. Don't miss their duck rice with orange, the legendary "chanfana" (goat or lamb stew) or "alheira" sausage. There are not that many vegan friendly options, though. 

© Credits to istock / Luis Costa

It was in the medieval times that the people settled down in this area. Some villages were created by religious orders, others by the pastoral activities, or by the commerce. From the mid XX century the inhabitants were migrating to the cities and towns and the villages became deserted. Recently a process of reconstruction and repopulation is undergoing. This has been done thanks to the project "Schist villages" or in Portuguese "As Aldeias do Xisto" implemented by the Central Region of Portugal, supported by the European commission grants. The project started in 2001. In its first phase, 24 villages constructed mostly of schist were chosen, and right now we already have 27 picturesque villages, in 16 different councils. Most of the villages you can find in the region of Lousã - 12 of them. The others are in the area of Zêzere (6), in the region of Serra da Açor (5) and in Tejo-Ocreza (4). The goal of this project is to give visibility to these villages and explore the potential that they have when it comes to rural and sustainable tourism. 

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