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My Travel Notes: Arouca, my Love Arouca

My Travel Notes: Arouca, my Love Arouca

May 19, 2014

Discover the beautiful and hidden Region of Arouca. Arouca is Nature, is History, is Culture, is Gastronomy. Follow our suggestions!

Arouca is a beautiful and a hidden little world. With so many treasures to see, so many thing to do, so many stories to tell… Arouca is the Nature, is the Culture, is the History and is the Gastronomy. Arouca is everything in one single place.

Discover this incredible Region and follow our suggestions for a marvelous journey through Arouca!

The beginning of a long journey

Arouca was a completely unknown place for me. Arouca isn’t a common tourist destination and so it doesn’t often appear on the most popular tour maps. And seriously, I do not understand why... I discovered Arouca by chance and I’m glad for that. Nowadays, I am a true lover of this region. And today I will share some suggestions about this beautiful and hidden little world, which is an ode to Nature and Tradition. Welcome to Arouca!

To explore Portugal, I usually follow advices and travel reviews. I like to discover what is different in Portugal. Therefore, this time I followed an advice of a travel lover and I just went. I put the bags on my back, the map on my hand and I was ready to explore another Portuguese destination.

After roads with twists and turns I arrived to Arouca. There isn’t a very direct access and probably you will think that the road is a little bit boring. But, in fact, is not far away. From Porto, I arrived in less than an hour. And I was entertained by the wonderful landscapes that I saw on my way to this paradise.

The medieval and beautiful town of Arouca

Arouca definitely deserves a visit. Arouca is not only its beautiful town. Arouca is the history of its villages, the history of its people. Arouca is the Nature of its rugged hills and its glassy rivers. Arouca is the Science and the Past of its heritage. Arouca is its Cuisine, its Religion and its Culture. Arouca is all of this and it is unique!

Let’s start at the beginning. The town is my first stop. In this quiet town, the monastery stands out. It is notable. It is superb. The Monastery whose patron is São Pedro dates from the tenth century and it was rebuilt over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Inside it we can highlight the Church, the Choir of Nuns, the Cloisters, the Refectory, the kitchen and, of course, the Museum of Sacred Art. This museum is an icon of the Iberian Peninsula, with rare and valuable pieces. And during a nice walk through the historic center of this town, time to visit the Church of Mercy is mandatory.

The notable monastery of S. Pedro, the patron of Arouca

This monastery is one of the most amazing monasteries of the Iberian Peninsula

The next stop is the Center for Geological Interpretation of Canelas where I found fossils over 465 million years. A true remarkable trace of the Past. Besides its extraordinary paleontological heritage known worldwide, everyone highlight the collection of Trilobites, which is the biggest benchmark of these species in the whole world.

The Center for Geological Interpretation of Canelas is an icon. It has fossils with over 465 million years

Then we went through the mountains. The Arouca Geopark is shrouded by the famous mountains of Freita and Montemuro. This territory is based on schist and granite, surrounded by the clear waters of the Paiva River, and it shines with its unique flora and fauna. Here lives the Iberian wolf and the eagle of the round wing. Here is the home of holly. Here we find the purest side of the Nature...

In touch with the Nature

Wear your best tennis shoes, bring a picnic basket and go up and down slopes, find and explore small medieval villages and lunch behind the shadow of large trees. A lovely family tour, indeed. Or try a walk through the mountain trails or with some radical activities. Everything is absolutely outstanding.

I decided to "Feel the Nature", the route proposed by the Arouca Geopark. Two stunning days. Prepare yourself to wake up early and to walk hard. But it will be incredible. On the first morning, we explored the Mountain of Freita. It's a huge mountain and some of its peaks can reach over 1000 meters. One of the most important points of this mountain is the “Frecha da Mizarela”, a waterfall of Caima River, over 60 feet tall. The other astonishing point is the fantastic phenomenon of "Pedras Parideiras".

Pedras Parideiras, a world rare phenomenon which can be seen in Arouca

It's hard a literal translation of the name of these stones, but explaining the phenomenon becomes easier to understand. This is a rare phenomenon in the world. And that’s why it is so eccentric and famous. Decades ago, people probably thought it was magic or a work of the Gods or Devil, but today there is a scientifically explanation. These stones are granite rocks with numerous golden nodules that, with a specific temperature, pop out from its rock “mother” and fall on the surrounding floor.

Therefore, people from Castanheira called them something like stones/rocks which give birth. The House of Pedras Parideiras - Interpretation Centre, is an old house nicely restored and it is located near the main outcrop.

We continue with the chosen plan and begin the route “Through the Scarps of Mizarela", a journey through this Geopark with a very high difficulty level: 8000 meters through mountain paths. This is a route that you can try during all year but you should pay attention to the low winter temperatures in that Mountain.

The landscapes of Arouca Geopark are fabulous

From this route, I can highlight the beautiful villages of Ribeira and Castanheira and the cascade of Ribeira. After a nice lunch in the middle of the mountain, I visited the friendly villages of Alvarenga, Noninha and the Mountain of São Pedro. I also had time to explore Paiva River, its river beaches and the Throat of Paiva. A stunning late afternoon, where people can relax, make snorkeling, swim and take excellent sunbathing.

On the second day of this route through the Nature, we discovered the traditional villages of Janarde and Meitriz and the its river beach. In Arouca we can’t find the typical Portuguese Atlantic beaches but do not worry. The river beaches of Arouca, its rivers and waterfalls, do not disappoint at all. And after a refreshing lunch, something more radical: a BTT tour through the villages of Cortegaca, Regoufe, Drave and Covelo do Paivô.

In Arouca there are rivers, river beaches and splendid waterfalls

And its mountains have a lot of interesting and amazing path for a marvellous journey

In Arouca there are a lot of radical activities that you must try

The Main Character of Arouca: its “Passadiços”

I love to discover different things, different approaches, different paths. That’s why I highlight the “Passadiços do Paiva” as the great mark of my journey. The people of Arouca built 8 km of wooden walkway, located on the left bank of Paiva River and surrounded by unique beauty of landscapes. Walking through this amazing paths over the mountains, we find brave waters downhills, quartz crystals and endangered species in Europe. Something different that you need to try at least once in your life.

The famous "Passadiços do Paiva"

And after all, also the Gastronomy matters!

And after so many rides, so many walks, so many activities, thankfully the dishes of Arouca are a godsend! You can’t forget that the people of this place have a very refined palate! There are many restaurants where you can enjoy the delicious dishes of the Region. Boost your senses here: start with the spicy sausage, ham and black pudding. Then… the main dish.

This is a hunting region and so I suggest the classic meat dishes. A good good calf from “Arouca” is always a good option. And a great choice for dessert is the delicious sponge cake from Arouca – a different sponge cake, too wet - or other traditional sweets. Believe me! The sweets characteristics from Arouca are superb a monastic delight. Taste the well-known “charutos” (cigars), the sweet chestnuts and sweet back pudding, the “roscas”, the São Bernardo bread or the “pedras parideiras” (cookies inspired in the geological phenomenon). A truly delight!