I’m continuing to share my Road Trip in Portugal: Lamego, Guarda and Sortelha. This is the third post in this travel series about my visit to Portugal.
I mentioned this in my first post, but I’ll share again in case you’re new to following along. Portugal is a country that I have talked about visiting for a long time. I have some interesting family roots there. My Mom and Aunt visited Portugal about 20 years ago, and did a lot of research on our extended family. They had been encouraging me, my sister and cousins to plan a trip, and we finally did. We traveled to Portugal at the very end of March. It was a good time of year to do so– very few tourists were in most of the places we visited, and the weather was perfect. Many of the photos shared here were taken either by my cousin Paula, who shares her travel experiences on her Instagram account: Sweet Spot Travels or by my sister Susie, who writes a book review blog at NovelVisits.com.
We began our journey in Lisbon, rented a car, and then we drove immediately to Óbidos and Aveiro. We continued on to the larger city of Porto and toured the smaller town of Braga. Then we made stops in the small towns of Lamego, Guarda and Sortelha. These three places were all visited in one day on our road trip. They weren’t a final destination for lodging for us. My cousin’s husband helped create our itinerary by researching all of the regions of Portugal. That’s how we discovered these smaller towns that were all worth visiting while on a road trip!
About Lamego, Portugal:
Lamego is a town of about 26,000 people, 80 miles from Porto. Its history dates back to the Romans. It has been said that the first King of Portugal (Alfonso I) was crowned in Lamego. There are two churches in the town worth seeing. There’s a castle too, but from what we could tell online… it’s not as impressive as other castles in Portugal so we skipped seeing the castle.
We parked easily on the street in the Lamego town center, and took a peek at the Lamego Gothic Sé (cathedral). It was built in the 12th century by Portugal’s first King.
It was pretty inside- painted ceilings from the 18th century. The cloisters and chapels are from the 16th century.
I also grabbed my very first Pastel de Nata (custard tart) while in Lamego. These are delicious. Fair warning: they sell Natas everywhere in Portugal… literally everywhere. We saw them in pastry shops, restaurants, coffee shops and even very small gas station type stores. I located this one in a bar– there happened to be a snack shop that sold candy bars adjacent to the bar, and they sold a few pastries too. So bizarre! It was amazing!!
It’s kind of hard to see in this photo, but if you look closely… you can see that there is a very long (686 steps) stairway that goes all the way from the town center to the the church at the top of the hill. There are fountains, sculptures and hedges adorning the stairway all the way to the top. It took 100 years to complete this– starting in 1777!
You can certainly walk to up the steps to reach the church at the top. We opted to drive to the top, where I spotted more of these craggly-branched trees that we saw all over Portugal.
The church itself: Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios was built between 1750 and 1761. The exterior is very impressive and picture-worthy as are the grounds and stairway. The interior is not as impressive as other churches.
This is my “I’m a World Traveler” selfie, that seemed appropriate to share. I think I was having a moment of… appreciation for where I was and the experiences I get to have!
An impressive sight, isn’t it?
About Guarda, Portugal:
Founded in 1190, Guarda sits on a hilltop, and it acts as the entrance to Portugal from Northern Europe (not too far from Spain). Guarda is known as the city of five “f’s”: fria (cold), forte (strong), farta (well-fed), and fiel (loyal– resistance to Spanish invaders). The final “f” is either formosa (beautiful) or feia (ugly) according to the eye of the beholder! The center of the city is anchored with this Gothic cathedral (Praca Luís de Cam?es)- with stone houses and narrow alleys surrounding. This is a city that was guarded by stone walls- some of the remains of those walls still stand today.
Guarda was an important stop for us since we have some family roots here. Our Great Great Grandfather was a priest and a teacher of theology in this cathedral.
This is the interior of the cathedral. I loved the vastness of the height of the ceilings with the carved design and the massive columns.
Every chapel within the cathedral has its own amazing design details.
We climbed the very steep and narrow, interior winding stone stairway to access the roofs of the church. I recommend doing this only if you don’t have any trouble with walking or balance. It wasn’t easy but it was well worth the view and sights to see at the top.
Halfway up, you can sneak out an opening onto the “mid roof.”
I’m always so amazed at how much work has gone into the design of the stone of these very old structures. Can you imagine how long it took to carve these??
Impressive bells on the roof too!
And here is the view from the rooftop… onto the town below.
This is what the surrounding narrow alleys in Guarda look like. It was a good stop- a quick stop, and I feel like it’s worthwhile if you’re driving through the area anyways.
About Sortelha, Portugal:
Sortelha is a sleepy little walled village with the ruins of a castle being a highlight to explore. In the 13th century King Sancho used the village of Sortelha as part of a line of defense against invaders. It caught interest again in the 16th century when King Manuel I had more structures built. Not much happened in Sortelha after that. It was selected as one of Portugal’s historical villages in the 1990’s. These tiles vases seen above were just planted alongside the road among others on our way to Sortelha.
This is a view of Sortelha from the air, which give you a better idea of what this walled city looks like! Photo borrowed from http://www.portugalnotavel.com/aldeia-historica-de-sortelha-sabugal/.
Enter this walled village (a bit of a ghost town) and just start exploring. Hopefully, you remembered to wear sensible shoes! You can climb up precarious, old stone steps to reach the tops of the castle. The views to the valley below are spectacular.
Wander the cobblestone alleyways and take a peek at the rest of the village- lots of granite houses. The whole village feels like a museum.
The village is pretty void of people, and you’re free to roam wherever you want. If you happen to show up when there’s a festival, you might observe actors re-enacting old times.
Obviously, people were a lot smaller way back when.
Wild cats were spotted all over the village, making themselves comfortable on window ledges.
There is a cemetery adjacent to the castle wall. Modern day residents of Sortelha utilize this cemetery, and you’ll spot graves from long ago too.
The views to the valley below are gorgeous. Lots more to come from the beautiful country of Portugal!