Introducing Monfortinho Holidays
Portugal certainly has a beautiful and popular coastline but there are great reasons to visit the rest of this beautiful country, too. Monfortinho is right on the Spanish border. For centuries visitors have been enjoying its thermal baths, while today’s tourists enjoy fantastic adventure sports, beautiful mountain villages, grand manors and gardens, and wild, wide open spaces.
The baths here may have been in use since Roman times, and Monfortinho is still a major spa and beauty centre.
This is an isolated, sparsely populated area, and nowhere is that isolation more splendid than in the Tejo Internacional Natural Park to the south of Monfortinho, where eagles and vultures soar over the mountain tops and kingfishers feed in the Tagus River.
What towns there are are beautiful, traditional and historic. Castello Branco was founded by the Knights Templar; Covilha, to the north-east, is a culturally rich university town. Sortelha and Monsanto are amongst the most beautiful of the region’s hilltop villages.
Top Attractions in Monfortinho
Ask a Portuguese local about Monfortinho and they’ll think first of thermal baths, which have been busy here since at least the 17th century. The spas there these days are exclusive and expensive, but worth experiencing. The waters were historically known for treating skin, respiratory and digestive problems.
Now a pretty little village, Idanha-a-Velha was once an important Roman city. There’s still a lot of evidence of its more prestigious past, including Roman remains, Templar towers and impressive fortified walls. If history has now passed it by, Idanha-a-Velha, today feels pleasantly like a place where time stands still.
Ignore the name’s modern connotations, Monsanto is one of the most beautiful of central Portugal’s mountain villages, perching on imposing slopes over plains crowded with cork oaks. It’s a beautifully built little place, merging perfectly with the rugged scenery, and is best seen – along with views into Spain - from the castle that stands even further up the mountain.
Monfortinho is right in the heart of great walking country (though be aware of the heat in summer), and the tourist authorities have designed and promoted a network of hiking trails around the region. In fact, a major programme of works is improving both the walking network, and the historic villages it connects.
Tomar is as beautiful of any of central Portugal’s little towns. An added attraction is the Sete Montest National Forest, a 39-hectare expanse of woodland that winds around some of the city’s best historic sights. As well as archaeological and architectural attractions, the forest is also a great walking and cycling challenge, and adventure tour companies make great use of the river that runs through it.
In Castelo Branco, take in the main tourist sights, but don’t neglect the Jardim Do Paco Episcopal, one of the best preserved Baroque gardens in the country. It’s a beautiful oasis of – very formal – greenery in the heart of this beautiful old town.
Jump in the car for a couple of hours to drive north to Almeida, a fortified village right on the Spanish border. In fact, Almeida is a village within a fort, a maze of historic streets enclosed within an elaborately designed defensive structure that enjoys majestic mountain views.