Porto-North-Portugal.com

The best independent guide to north Portugal

Porto-North-Portugal.com

The best independent guide to north Portugal

The Beira region of North East Portugal

The Beira region of northeast Portugal is one most fascinating areas, but also one of the most undiscovered.

This is a region of hilltop towns, ancient castles and rolling countryside. Being close to the Spanish border, it is heavily defended, and almost every town has some sort of fortification or stone castle.

These defences generally date from two periods; the foundation of Portugal and the expulsion of the Moors (the Reconquista) of the 11-12th century, and later the Restoration Wars of 1640–1668.

Many of these strongholds have barely altered since their construction. There is the medieval walled town of Trancoso, the formidable fortifications of Almeida or the picturesque ruins at Castelo Rodrigo.

The Beira is a region rich in history and tourist attractions, while the intensely hot summers give the region a relaxed and unhurried pace of life.

This is one of Portugal’s least visited regions, but has so much to offer an intrepid visitor.

Highlights of eastern Beira

Trancoso – A delightful medieval town encircled by ancient walls

Trancoso

Almeida – A town with more fortifications than houses, constructed around a star shape layout

Almeida

Castelo Rodrigo – Picturesque hilltop village with castle ruins

Castelo Rodrigo

Castelo de Marialva – A once-mighty castle on a high vantage point

the Castelo de Marialva

Linhares – Charming granite village in the foothills of the Serra da Estrela mountains

the Castelo de Marialva

Note: While exploring north-eastern Portugal you must definitely include Monsanto, the Serra da Estrela mountains and the city of Viseu, but these are not covered by this article.
Related articles: Monsanto - The Serra da Estrela

Touring and day trip ideas for the eastern Alto Beira region

There is actually a lot to see within the eastern side of the Alto Beira region, and could easily fill a trip of six days. A suggested itinerary could include
Day 1 – Trancoso, Marialva and Penedono (optional)
Day 2 – Almeida, Castelo Rodrigo and Pinhel (optional)
Day 3 – Linhares and Guarda (or a drive through the Serra da Estrela mountains following the N339)
Day 4 – Viseu
Day 5 – Vila Nova de Foz Côa and Upper Douro (Pocinho)
Day 6 – Monsanto (a long drive but worth the effort)

Each of the days will see something very different, and misses out the many mediocre stone castles of the region
Note: To get the most from the Beira region you will need a car as there is almost no public transport.
The interactive map below shows each of these day trips:

Note: Zoom in/out to see all of the markers

Where to be based?

There are many towns and optional of locations to be based for a trip to the Alto Beira.

Viseu is a likeable city, which has the largest selection of hotels, restaurants and shops, but it may be too far to the west, and will significantly increase the amount of driving you will need to do.

Trancoso is a pleasant small town and is a good choice of base for a holiday to the region. There are good road connections (the fast IP2 and east-west A25) and within the town is a decent selection of restaurants and shops.

Guarda could be an option, and has a pretty centre, but most of the town has been taken over by spawning apartment blocks and is not as scenic as Viseu or Trancoso.

Almeida is nice for a nights stop but too far east for an entire trip. Pinhel has a (small) pretty historic centre around the castle but the N221 going north is slow. T

he town of Vila Nova de Foz Côa is characterless, and its only a 35-minute drive from Trancoso.

Towns of the Beira region

Trancoso

Trancoso is a delightful medieval town, with a historic centre that has barely altered since its heyday in the 13th century. King Dinis married here in 1288 and presented the town as a dowry to his 12-year-old bride.

As with many hills in the Beira, a mighty stone castle was constructed on the summit of Trancosos hill, and the Castelo de Trancoso is one of the larger and better persevered medieval castles of the region. At the heart of the town is the pretty Praça Dom Dinis plaza, while encircling the historic quarter are ancient walls.

Trancoso is a characterful town, which takes around 2 to 3 hours to explore, and also makes for a great base to explore the Beira region.
Related articles: Trancoso

Trancoso Praça Dom Dinis

The Praça Dom Dinis with the town’s Pillory in front of the Igreja de Sao Pedro church

Trancoso town walls

It is possible to walk around the town walls of Trancoso

Castelo Rodrigo

Rising up from the surrounding plains is the picturesque Castelo Rodrigo. This important strategic setting was bitterly contested between Portugal and the Kingdom of León until it came under Portugal’s control by the signing of the Treaty of Alcanizes in 1297.

Much of the castle and the adjoining palace (Palácio de Cristóvão de Moura) is in ruin, being destroyed by the villagers in 1640. During Portugal’s annexation under Spanish rule, a pro-Castile leader (Cristóvão de Moura) was installed to govern the region. So hated was Cristóvão, that on Portugal’s independence, an angry mob of villages ransacked and destroyed his palace – even though Cristóvão had died 27 years earlier!

Castelo Rodrigo is a delightful place which you will want to include in your tour of Beira. The castle ruins are the main attraction, while surrounding it are pretty cobbled streets and traditional stone buildings. Castelo Rodrigo is tiny, and can be seen in less than 1-hour, but you will want to visit.

Castelo Rodrigo

It is possible to walk around the town walls of Trancoso

Castelo Rodrigo cobbled streets

Medieval stone houses line the cobbled streets of Castelo Rodrigo

Almeida

Almeida is the finest example of the fortified town within the Beira region.

The true extent and ingenious design of the 12-pointed star-shaped defences are appreciated when seen from above (or with a satellite map image)

The medieval castle was incorporated into the town, but was destroyed by a massive explosion when the magazine store blew up in 1810 during the Peninsular War.

Almeida fort and walls

Endless moats, ditches and walls surround the Almeida

Almeida historic town

There is a pretty town to discover once through all of the defences

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