Northern Portugal: Discovering the Terra Fria Route
It is perhaps one of the most forgotten regions in terms of tourism in Portugal. But there's a tourism product, formatted, offering accommodation and tourist activities: the Trás-os-Montes Terra Fria (literally Cold Land) Route.
The region of Terra Fria is located in northeastern Portugal (Trás-os-Montes), and includes five municipalities: Bragança, Miranda do Douro, Mogadouro, Vimioso and Vinhais. This region has benefited in recent years from new road infrastructure, so it is possible to get from Porto to Vinhais in about two hours.
The Montesinho Natural Park is an authentic jewel of the region, a protected area characterized by great geological and climatic diversity, and therefore habitat for many plant and animal species. And speaking of weather, here you can experience extremes, with a very cold winter (and spring and autumn) and a very hot summer, so the words "nine months of winter and three of hell" we heard more than one person say, fits like a glove. However, the cold that qualifies this land is only physical. Here we feel embraced by the warmth of people, who are welcoming, kind and genuine, with their house doors open to everyone.
Tourism, especially linked to nature, ecotourism and rural tourism, has growth potential in these areas, as part of the space is protected area (about 55% of the territory), but also cultural and event tourism can expand. The monumental and ethnographic heritage, along with a schedule of events, festivities with great connection to the traditions and characteristics of this region, have brought more people to this geography.
Rio de Onor and Montesinho Villages
It is often said that travellers look for experiences. Rio de Onor is an experience in itself. This is because this is the last stronghold of community life in Portugal. Here villagers still share ovens and farmlands, where everyone works in turns. Being a border area, it is not uncommon to hear Spanish, because communities in both sides of the border are almost one and only community. Montesinho is one of the most typical villages in Trás-os-Montes and one of the gateways into the Natural Park. As a curiosity, it was the first village in the North to be entirely lit by LED technology.
If there is anything unquestionable to Portuguese people is that in Trás-os-Montes you eat well. The offer is wide, of high quality and varied, with a strong focus on meat and smoked sausages. Especially because this region has a large swine and traditional smokehouse production. Also noteworthy are the dishes based on chestnuts, a very important product in the region. In conclusion: a paradise for those who love the small pleasures of life.
Where to stay?
The Terra Fria Route online platform (www.rotaterrafria.com) combines various possibilities with respect to accommodation. A very interesting alternative is to stay in Vinhais Biological Park, right in Montesinho Natural Park. The equipment, whose main function is that landscape interpretation, is owned by the city. It also offers comfortable bungalows (with two, three ou four rooms) and a range of facilities and activities for tourists: swimming pool, playground, bicycles, equestrian centre, hiking, donkey rides, among others. You can also be in contact with the various park animals: cows, wild boars, pigs, donkeys, roe deer, among many others. Another lodging solution is the Hospedaria do Parque, but it is more suitable for groups, although it has two double bedrooms. There is also offer in terms of local accommodation, including several options in Montesinho Village.
Events and entertainment
The Vinhais Festa do Fumeiro (Smokehouse Feast) is probably one of the events that brings more people to the area. Since 1981, it takes place on the second weekend of February and is a show of smoked sausages and other reginal products, crafts, etc. There are still lots of music and various activities.
The Chestnut Fair, also in Vinhais, is set to market the product directly, but also as a means of promoting the many different uses of these nuts.
But the most traditional festivals in this region are the Carnival and the Festa dos Rapazes (Boys Party). The latter is an initiatory rite of passage for young men into adulthood. The boys wear colourful masks - examples of these masks can be found in the Museu Ibérico da Máscara e do Traje (Iberian Museum of Masks and Costumes) in Bragança - and involve all the people in their celebration, which takes place between Christmas and 6th January.
Four formatted getaways
They can be found at www.rotaterrafria.com, an online platform where you can customize your stay according to your needs. There is a specific programme for each season, with appropriate activities for each time of the year.
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