Return to the Magic Village

Drave is nicknamed the Magic Village (Aldeia Mágica) and sits within the Magic Mountains (Montanhas Mágicas), which is a term given to a mainly mountainous territory, consisting of two large massifs: the Gralheira massif, which includes the Freita, Arada and Arestal Mountains; and the massif of Montemuro, dominated by the Montemuro Mountain, the eighth highest elevation of Portugal and the third largest south of the Douro river. [source]

The village sits in a valley at an altitude of 600 metres, protected by the Freita, Arada and São Macário mountains. Three rivers spring from the mountains above, and flow down on each side of the village, converging to form the Drave River. The Drave River feeds into the Paivô River which, in turn, joins the Paiva River further downstream. A soothing sound of cascading water bathes the village of Drave, thanks to the rivers that flow and fall around it.

It is an idyllic location and feels like the land that time forgot, as the village has been abandoned by its former residents. The existence of a population in Drave dates back to the 14th century. The Martins family were the most influential family in the village, dating back as far as 1700. The Martins were instrumental in establishing a path from the village to Regoufe in the 19th century, and building the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Saúde in 1851. [Wikipedia]

For most of its history, the village existed without amenities such as electricity, gas, sanitation, running water, telephones or mail service. But in 1993, the Martins installed a telephone line and solar electricity – a milestone that is announced on a plaque outside the largest building in the village. It seems that the Spartan existence eventually caused families to move elsewhere, where they could enjoy more modern amenities. There are differing reports on when the villagers finally abandoned Drave. Wikipedia claims that Joaquim Martins, the last inhabitant, left in the year 2000. The Arouca Geopark website, on the other hand, claims that it has been uninhabited since 2009.

Whilst the villagers have long gone, Drave has a second lease on life, having become a Rover Camp Centre. The national scouting organisation has acquired a significant part of the village and has refurbished some of the old schist buildings, converting them for camping use for their members. The village is also a popular destination for hikers, with the PR14 hiking trail connecting Regoufe to Drave.

I previously made a solo visit to Drave, during the summer heat of August 2018, when I rode my motorcycle along the rough track, to reach the rocky footpath above the village [2018 post].

For this return visit, Bev and I joined Paul and Angela, in their car, so that the three of them could experience the magic of this special location for the first time. I was happy to enjoy another visit, at a different time of the year, when the temperatures were cooler and the rivers were flowing higher.

Our route from Porto got us up on the Serra da Freita mountain within an hour. As we were passing by the Detrelo da Malhada viewpoint, we stopped briefly and took the opportunity to enjoy the panoramic view.

We continued along the narrow EN1123 mountain road until we reached the turn-off for the village of Gourim and Drave. Almost immediately after leaving the EN1123, the road becomes a rough, unpaved rocky trail. Part way along the track, it branches into two directions, to the left for Gourim and straight ahead for Drave. But with a standard car, we didn’t have the ground clearance to even get that far. The descent to that Y-junction was very rough, so we parked at the top of the hill and walked the rest of the way – approximately 3.5km. Those with better ground clearance, such as SUVs, can drive most of the way to Drave, parking at the end of the rough road and then just walking the final section, where there is a rocky footpath. An Opel Frontera made it the full length of the trail without a problem.

With the car parked safely at the top of the hill, we enjoyed a very scenic walk along the trail, until Drave began to pop into view.

The trail above the village provides a good overview of its layout, separated into two distinct parts. The majority of the buildings are on one side of the river, with the white-painted chapel standing out amongst the brown schist structures. A single-arch schist bridge crosses the river, with a footpath leading uphill to a smaller grouping of buildings.

When the rough road ends, a steep rocky footpath begins to head downhill. It is the final leg to get to the village. Part of the way down, a small river flows across the footpath and then cascades down the steep drop on the opposite side. There are some strategically placed stepping stones, to avoid getting wet feet.

Here is a short video clip of the river crossing the footpath.

The footpath gets less steep from that point, as it follows the river downhill to the outskirts of the village. We were already hungry, so we first made our way to the other river that passes between the two parts of the village. There was a much stronger flow of water compared to my previous visit. The crystal clear water passes over several small waterfalls as it makes its way past the village. A couple of those waterfalls can be seen in these two video clips.

We wandered along the river bank, enjoying the views, and found a nice tranquil spot where we could enjoy our picnic lunches. Simply wonderful!

With our lunch taken care of, we spent some time wandering through the nooks and crannies of the village. Several of the buildings had signs on their doors, identifying them as the property of the scouts. But others were in a derelict condition with falling walls and missing roofs.

We enjoyed our time in the peaceful village, with only the sound of crashing water and surrounded by scenic mountains. After wandering around for a while, we began the trek back up the footpath and along the rough road.

By the time that we got back to the car, we had walked for a total of 7.86km. We had thoroughly enjoyed our time on the mountain and felt refreshed by nature. Another excellent day out with friends.


  1. Looks amazing. Thanks for alerting me of it’s existence. So envious of you being on what seems like a permanent holiday. You got it right. 😊

  2. Very interesting and great photography, thanks Craig. Sad, really, to think that ‘modernity’ strips places like this of their viability as communities, especially when one considers how well such little villages and communities blended with the ecosystem as it prevailed for thousands of years.

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