Nestled in a verdant valley in the Magic Mountains of northern Portugal, the small village of Covas do Monte clings to a traditional pastoral lifestyle, where people and animals live side-by-side. Goats and chickens roam the steep and narrow cobbled lanes that weave between traditional schist cottages with slate roofs, whilst cattle and herds of goats are out grazing on the surrounding mountains.
Walking through the lanes of the village feels like stepping back to a simpler time. The cobbled lanes are too narrow for cars and the straw and goat droppings testify that they are a thoroughfare for the village’s animals. Hay-lofts and animal pens adjoin homes, with no clear distinction between them. Whilst some brickwork and plaster has crept into the construction of village homes, the majority are made of the local schist, giving it a very traditional feel.
As well as raising animals, the villagers cultivate crops in the surrounding fields, irrigated by a mountain stream. The village association operates a restaurant in a former school building that attracts visitors, particularly on weekends, to enjoy the local meat specialties. But, like many rural villages, it seems to be struggling to maintain a viable population, with younger inhabitants moving out to live in the bigger towns and cities. There were only 33 inhabitants in 2016, managing about 500 heads of livestock. It could now be less!
I had made Covas do Monte a destination point for a ride out from Porto. I had expected to enjoy some lovely mountain vistas along the way. Unfortunately, I’d picked a cloudy day for the trip, so low clouds at higher elevations totally obscured the views. They also significantly reduced driving visibility in the mountains. At least there were nice views at lower elevations, beneath the clouds.
One of the views that I had planned to see was the Portal do Inferno (Hell’s Portal), but that was a total white-out due to the clouds. I’ll return another day to see this, and more of the villages in the area.
It was an enjoyable ride and visit. The region is easily accessible from Porto. This particular trip lasted 4.5 hours and covered 113 miles (181km). I’m keen to revisit the area, as there is much more to see.
For the official site for the Montanhas Magicas, click here.