We've chosen the town of ARCOS DE VALDEVEZ and the village of SISTELO as "Where to go in October 2019", not only because they have a handful of characteristics that make them a complete destination but also because they have a special charm during this time of the year.
When the green shifts to warmer colours and the leaves start to cover the pavements and paths, these hidden gems in the north of Portugal are a perfect hideaway. Below we gather some of the must do's when around.
Discover the historical and cultural heritage
Arcos de Valdevez is a town located in the northern part of the country, right at the heart of the Minho region. It has a rich history, which is noticeable when walking along the main streets: manor houses, towers, medieval bridges and religious buildings with different styles can all be found through the old part of town.
It is believed that in 1141 Arcos was the battlefield where the knights led by D. Afonso Henriques fought against the Spanish troops under Afonso VII. This episode was the last stage of the birth of Portugal (pretty much as we know it), which took place 2 years later.
Half an hour driving north from Arcos de Valdevez is Sistelo. Apart from the long history, the village keeps old traditions which revolve around agriculture and farming.
Explore the beautiful surroundings along Ecovia do Vez
Apart from the historical and cultural legacy, the natural scenery around Arcos de Valdevez and Sistelo is stunning. The area was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO due to the variety of animals and plants it comprises, mainly inside the incredible Peneda-Gerês National Park, which is a short drive away.
Sistelo was considered one of the 7 Portuguese Wonders in 2017 and classified as a National Monument because of the cultural heritage. At the time it was even marketed as "the Portuguese Tibet" due to the terraces where locals grow their vegetables.
The marked trail Ecovia do Vez has 32,63 km in total and links Jolda de S. Paio, a small village between the towns of Ponte de Lima and Ponte da Barca, to the village of Sistelo. The path goes through beautiful green forests and follows the river, so the landscape is luxurious and inspiring. The trail is divided in 3 stages, being the last one the most beautiful one, particularly when you get a glimpse of Sistelo.
Visit a wine making estate and try vinho verde
The demarcated region where vinho verde is produced can be found in the northwest of Portugal and is the biggest one in the country and one of the biggest throughout Europe.
The climate and soils are ideal for the production of excellent quality white wines, but also sparkling wines and brandies.
Arcos de Valdevez is part of the sub-region of Lima, where the main variety produced is Loureiro, a delicate wine with subtle aromas that range from citrus fruits to floral notes.
Late summer and early autumn means it's harvest time. When the grapes reach their maturation peak they're picked from the vine and the anticipated wine making process starts. This is the perfect time of the year to visit a wine making estate and to do a wine tasting in loco, where you can witness the daily routine of the winemakers. Read the journal post about the grape harvest here.
Taste food that warms up the soul
Gastronomy in the Minho region is quite heavy when it comes to main courses and the desserts are only for those with a sweet tooth. Arcos de Valdevez and Sistelo are no exception to the rule and they're heaven for foodies, especially for those who dismiss fancy restaurants and are eager to dive in comfort food and typical rustic taverns.
Apart from our beloved codfish and lamprey, which is a seasonal local delicacy, here meat is the star.
The main types of beef come from indigenous species that graze freely in the mountainous regions of the north. In Sistelo the mouthwatering steaks are frequently served alongside rice and local beans, which are rich in fibre and nutrients.
To end a meal it's worth trying the famous charutos dos Arcos. This cigar shaped dessert is made with a thin dough and filled with a custard made of eggs, almond, sugar and lemon.
Arcos de Valdevez and Sistelo are a great base if you intend to spend your holidays exploring the Minho region or a destination in itself if you're looking for a chilled weekend break.
During Autumn the river streams are running at full speed and the colours of the landscape are gorgeous, being the perfect place to get immersed in the natural scenery.
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