Last week we stayed in Portugal for one week in the district of Castelo Branco. We were visiting my brother-in-law who has moved to an offgrid farm in Vale de Prazeres. Not too far from the centre of Castelo Branco is an absolute gem of a place called Penha Garcia.
If you want a holiday with a difference then I’d recommend looking at villas in Portugal and getting off the beaten track to explore some of the incredible inland landscapes. We discovered rugged mountains, stunning wild swimming spots and old worldly Portuguese villages.
The best part about visiting parts of Portugal beyond the well-known beaches and tourist hotspots was just how quiet it was. We had many of these places to ourselves and rarely saw another person.
Read on to learn of the historic mountain houses, rocky fossil mountains and castle of Penha Garcia with lots of our travel photos!
Penha Garcia with kids
Travelling and taking trips to mountains and wilder places is getting so much easier now our children are seven and almost five. As babies it’s easy to carry them in a sling, but once they get to the age they want to walk by themselves (or demand it) then it makes it impossible to take long adventures up mountains as it’s too much for them.
I think this was the first travel experience we’ve had where Reuben who is four years old (five next month) was steaming on ahead of us up the mountains eager to explore, rather than saying he didn’t want to walk, was tired or having a tantrum!
It’s amazing how much easier the whole trip was with kids wanting to explore and climb mountains! It makes me excited for all our future travelling as we enter this chapter of having children and not babies/toddlers/preschoolers anymore. The world becomes our oyster yet again 🙂
War memorial in Penha Garcia
As we drove to meet my brother-in-law our in-car sat nav decided to try and take us up the narrowest Portuguese streets which we simply could not drive down! We had to reverse out and parked up to find another route. It was actually good we got a little lost as we parked by a kids play park and saw an amazing war memorial of a tank and wire soldiers and poppies.
Fossil mountains of Penha Garcia
We parked up on a cobbled street and walked a short distance before we were amazed by the incredible rock formations of the mountains in Penha Garcia. They are incredible to see. Really dramatic and picturesque.
We walked past lots of old stone Portuguese houses, climbing stone paths and reached the swimming lake. It was very quiet and empty for February and we were the only people there.
There a little wooden bridges across streams and small rocky paths to climb – great fun for the kids!
Apparently it’s more bustling in the summer as the Portuguese and tourists come to swim in the lake and sunbathe on the surrounding rocks. Amazingly we had the whole place to ourselves.
Just the other side, a short walk away, is a beautiful lake and not so attractive dam! We crossed the dam to continue our walk up the mountain to the castle at the top.
On the way are great views of the old Penha Garcia village, a cave and some stone seating areas that are perfect for a quick rest or picnic spot.
Once at the top of the hill there’s the ruined remains of a castle with great views looking over the beautiful white and terracotta Portuguese houses.
With children and dogs we were there for perhaps two hours to complete the walk, stopping along the way to take in the views, but in the summer it could easily fill half a day or more if we had stopped to swim in the swimming lake, walked around the larger lake behind the dam and taken a picnic.
It’s close to Monsanto mountain which we visited next and I’ll share in my next blog post!