Mountain range. Granite. Nature. Biodiversity.
The huge granite outcrops dominate the inhospitable landscape of incredible scenic value at the top of Serra da Estrela. The granite massif, which, at Alto da Torre, rises to an altitude of 1993 meters, is the highest point in mainland Portugal. Integrated into the Natural Park of the same name, this is the motherhouse of the Mondego and Zêzere rivers. Its beauty and magnificence can be seen from one of the most emblematic places in the country, Covão da Ametade, located in the Zêzere Glacier Valley, where the river begins to take shape.
With its lagoons – Comprida and Salgadeiras – Serra da Estrela is the starting point to discover Beira Interior. This region, located in the Centre of Portugal, covers the border districts of Castelo Branco – to the south, with Vila Velha de Ródão and the Tagus River – where the Zêzere flows – delimiting the border with Portalegre, in Alentejo – and Guarda – with Vila Nova de Foz Côa demarcating, further north, alongside the Douro River, the terminus of Beira Interior. Add the district of Viseu, which borders those of Vila Real and Porto, to the North, and the South, with Coimbra. Its historical narrative highlights the figure of Viriato, the warrior who revolted against the Romans in the name of Lusitania, and his deep connection with the Christian religion, proven by the austere and, at the same time, unique architecture, in contrast to the urban art route, which encourages you to tour the city of Viseu, but also the historic centre of Covilhã, in the Castelo Branco district.
Shaped by successive mountain landscapes, this territory is intersected by winding roads, which lead us to discover eleven of Portugal's 12 Historic Villages – Idanha-a-Velha, Castelo Novo, Monsanto and Belmonte, in the Castelo Branco district; Sortelha, Linhares, Castelo Mendo, Almeida, Trancoso, Castelo Rodrigo and Marialva, in the district of Guarda. The singularities of the architectural heritage extend to the Schist Villages. Of the 24 marked, eleven belong to eight municipalities in the district of Castelo Branco – Sarzedas and Martim Branco (Castelo Branco), Janeiro de Cima and Barroca (Fundão), Álvaro (Oleiros), Fajão, Janeiro de Baixo (Pampilhosa da Serra), Figueira (Proença-a-Nova), Pedrógão Pequeno (Sertã), Água Formosa (Vila de Rei) and Foz do Cobrão (Vila Velha de Ródão). The gastronomic tradition is touching and determined by an almost unknown lexicon. Stun goat, maranho, plangaio are examples of this and reflect, at the same time, respect for a preserved heritage.
The particularities of this region are divided into important centres, such as the Dão wine region, concentrated in the district of Viseu, where the culture of vines and wine is constantly growing. Or the fact that Beira Interior is the name given to the homonymous wine commission. The scenery continues, with almond trees blooming in spring, sausages and typical sweets, further North, and Queijo da Beira Baixa PDO, to the South. In between, there is Cova da Beira, with the municipalities of Belmonte, Covilhã and Fundão to present, locals and visitors, of olive oil and cherry, among an immensity of fruit, in addition to the Serra da Estrela Cheese, with the epicentre next to the mountain massif that gives it the name, a monument created by nature and spread over the municipalities of Celorico da Beira, Gouveia, Guarda, Manteigas and Seia, from the district of Guarda (in Beira Alta), and Covilhã, the latter part of the geographical area of the district of Castelo Branco (in Beira Baixa).
Let's also talk about the Tagus International Natural Park, with more than 26 thousand hectares. Predominantly by schist soils and covered by wild nature, this open-air paradise brings together fauna and flora in a mantle of unique biodiversity. Added to this, is the Serra da Malcata Nature Reserve, a protected area, which covers the municipalities of Penamacor, a village belonging to the district of Castelo Branco, and Sabugal, in Guarda.
Out of respect for biodiversity and the sake of sustainability in the interior of the country, João Valente, the face of Monte Silveira Bio, at Herdade Monte da Silveira, in Malpica do Tejo, bets on precision agriculture and animal husbandry, or it wasn't all a nature's gift. Integrated into the Naturtejo Geopark, Nature Fields focuses on producing organic meat, work carried out in-depth by Arlindo Cardoso. Both are in Idanha-a-Nova, land of the adufe, a percussion instrument typical of these ancestral lands, including Idanha-a-Velha, with its granite formations, which extend and give a rare beauty to the village of Monsanto.
Good environmental practices are also ensured in Beira Alta, by Klaas Zwart and Francien Nijhof, a Dutch couple who, in the village of Tábua, established their business focused on mushroom production, as well as by Jorge Pena, who, in the parish of Póvoa de Midões, founded Yacon, asserting himself in the exploitation of fruit and vegetables, in Quinta Vale de Camba. Meanwhile, in Oliveira do Hospital, the Dutchman Peter Herman Raphael created Germisen, a company with organic certification in aromatic herbs, asparagus, vegetables, and seeds.
Everything is done in the name of the environment and natural resources, an example to follow and to reflect on, in favour of the future.