Beira Baixa is one of the most incredible regions in Portugal, especially if you are a nature lover. Here you can find extraordinary natural monuments, super exciting hiking trails, as well as beautiful fluvial beaches that make the best use of the rivers that cut through this territory.
This is where I spent two days. But, of course, it could have been a whole week, and even then, there would still be places left to see.
But if, like me, the weekend is the time you have to spend, get ready because it can be full of great adventures and breathtaking views.
If you don’t believe me, take a look at this itinerary.
- Day 1 – VILA VELHA DE RÓDÃO
- Day 1 – PROENÇA-A-NOVA
- Day 2 – OLEIROS
- Destination: Beira baixa
Day 1 – VILA VELHA DE RÓDÃO
Knocking at the Portas de Ródão
I woke up in Herdade da Urgueira, 15 minutes away from Vila Velha de Ródão, and the thermometer was already around 26 Celsius.
“Around here, when it gets hot, it’s scorching,” says the staff member, while at the same time she serves me for breakfast the first figs I’ve eaten this year.
For those who come from Ericeira, where the sweater is always with us, the temperatures in Beira Baixa make me feel that I’m really in summer and that I couldn’t have chosen a better weekend to come and discover the fluvial beaches of the region.
With the car window open and the warm breeze flowing between my fingers, I head for Vila Velha de Ródão’s pier, the starting point of the boat ride that takes us to the Portas de Ródão. This is the name given to the natural monument that results from a narrowing of the Tagus River, flanked by two large cliff walls that reach 170 m in height.
“What you see here was millions of years ago a great waterfall,” explains Eduardo, our guide on this trip. However, the Tagus waters force dictated the erosion of that rock to what stretches out in front of us today.
I also learned that the largest colony of griffon vultures on the Iberian Peninsula has chosen Portas de Ródão as its home. “There are about 70 pairs, and most of them are monitored so that we can see how the species evolves here or where they go to look for food”.
But it wasn’t only the griffon vultures that were attracted to this place. Archaeological records and ancient structures show other occupations. One example is King Wamba’s Castle, which can be seen over the wall to the north.
When Portugal didn’t yet exist as a nation, the fort dates from Visigoth times and tells the legend of forbidden love between a Christian queen and a Moorish king.
Back to the dock in Vila Velha de Ródão for a meal at the Vila Portuguesa restaurant. The boat trip is also organized here and the accommodation, in case you want to spend the night in this village.
You will find dishes that take their main elements from the river at this restaurant’s table: fried pike-perch and barbell, as a starter; achigã à brás, as the main course. All river fish, with a sweet flavor, so different from the sea fish I usually eat.
From the beach to the belvedere
With lunch all done, it’s time to leave the village to visit other attractions, and the first stop is Foz do Cobrão.
The small village of narrow streets was born next to the Talhadas mountain range and the Ocreza river and is on the path of hiking trails to be followed in the Vila Velha de Ródão area. However, it’s its river beach that attracts visitors… and me.
This kind of natural pool lives off the waters of the Cobrão stream, which flows into the Ocreza and stands out because of the enormous rock that composes the landscape and makes it even more special. Had I not had a full belly, I would have been the first to go swimming. But that was not the case, and I went on my way to the Portas de Almourão viewpoint.
Only ten minutes by car from there (maybe not even that), we arrive at a viewpoint that reveals one of the most beautiful landscapes of Vila Velha de Ródão.
The Portas de Almourão, like the Portas de Ródão, is a narrowing of the river, a gorge made up of quartzite cliffs that narrow the waters of the Ocreza, making it a classified geosite in the Naturtejo Geopark.
The view is truly unique, and I couldn’t close my visit to Vila Velha de Ródão in a better way.
Vila Velha de Ródão Guide
Herdade da Urgueira
Vila Portuguesa Restaurant
- A boat trip to Portas de Ródão Natural Monument
- Take a swim at the Fluvial Beach of Foz do Cobrão
- Take pictures at Portas de Almourão Viewpoint
Day 1 – PROENÇA-A-NOVA
From river beach to river beach
Portas de Almourão also marks the border between Vila Velha de Ródão and Proença-a-Nova, my next destination.
With the afternoon still to be enjoyed on this first day of my trip through Beira Baixa, I set course for the fluvial beaches of this new municipality.
The first stop was the Praia Fluvial da Fróia… and how I loved this beach!
The calm and fresh waters (which on a hot day felt really good) extend along a branch of the Fróia stream and give you room for a good swim.
This area couldn’t be better taken care of, full of vegetation and spaces to spread a towel or to take shelter in the shade of the various sun hats placed there for those who want to use them.
Maybe I was lucky with the time of year, maybe August is different, but the atmosphere was calm and inviting to relax.
Had I not decided that I wanted to visit another river beach by the end of the day, I would have stayed there for hours, just listening to the sound of the water moving or the wind blowing through the treetops.
But there was still another destination in Proença-a-Nova to visit: Praia Fluvial do Malhadal.
I don’t know if it was because I arrived at the end of the afternoon. Still, Malhadal was given over to tranquility and silence… Well, not so much silence if you count the group of friends who were in the picnic area, happily chatting as if they had been eating their lunch there for more than three hours.
But this beach has incredible potential, especially if you go there with your family or a group of friends. First, because it has a water park with a structure of inflatables for fun dives into the water; second, because the extension of the Ribeira da Isna (an affluent of the Zêzere River) allows for other water sports, like kayaking or paddleboarding.
This was my excuse to put the paddleboard in the water and paddle a little in those waters.
If you notice, I’m only just coming to the end of the first day, and I only got a glimpse of some of the things that these two municipalities of Beira Baixa have to offer.
So much more could be done, but it was time to head back to Proença-a-Nova for the night with the day ending.
The place of choice was the Amoras Country House, a four-star hotel that offers super-comfortable rooms and decoration very focused on organic elements such as wood. In a region where nature screams out loud, the accommodations seem to be associated with this more natural approach. And just as well!
Although the hotel restaurant also enjoys a good reputation, my choice for dinner was Täscá. This restaurant in the center of Proença-a-Nova not only allowed me to walk all the way from the hotel and go through some of the town’s most rustic streets and stairways but also offered five-star service and a bull’s-eye steak to die for.
Amoras Country House
- Diving at Praia Fluvial da Fróia
- Paddle board at Fluvial Beach of Malhadal
Day 2 – OLEIROS
On the road to the Appalachians
New day, a new destination in Beira Baixa, this time: Oleiros.
From Proença-a-Nova to Oleiros is about 30 minutes by car, but my destination was going to take me further, to the Cascata da Fraga da Água d’Alta.
The winding roads across the mountain give us a real sense of the immensity of this territory, with the road dotted with small villages and indications on the map that rivers run close by.
The Fraga d’Alta waterfall is one of the natural attractions of Oleiros and is on the path of several hiking trails that extend through there, including the famous Appalachian Trail.
Located near Orvalho, this is the highest waterfall of the Naturtejo Geopark and Beira Baixa, reaching 50 meters.
To access its base, you have to go down a wooden walkway that follows the irregularity of the terrain. Once down, the sound of the water veils flowing down the slope and the water cuticles being dragged by the wind up to our faces engrave this moment in our memory even more.
Flavors of Beira Baixa
Oleiros is a beautiful land, not only for its natural beauty but also for its tradition and gastronomy.
I called the Adega dos Apalaches the day before I arrived in Beira Baixa to reserve a seat for Sunday lunch. “Are you coming for the cabrito [lamb]?” they asked right away on the other end. “Cabrito? What cabrito?” I replied, “We do cabrito estonado. It’s a typical dish of the region”.
Of course, I immediately booked, and at the scheduled time, I was there. Me and dozens of other customers. The Adega dos Apalaches serves lamb only by order. In fact, what started out as a winery serving meals only for friends, today is a trendy restaurant to try the local delicacy, the same one that has won culinary awards.
It’s a roasted lamb, prepared with its own skin (which is very similar to the skin of roasted suckling pig). But the most curious thing about this dish — which is otherwise delicious! — is its history.
Cabrito estonado dates back to the Middle Ages, with the first references to this dish appearing in a 13th-century recipe book. Later, its confection was also mentioned in the 17th-century by Father António de Andrade, the first Westerner to arrive in Tibet.
It is said that this is the “lamb of peace.” Because, since its origin, it has been consumed by the followers of the three religions: Christians, Jews, and Muslims.
Last dive in the Zêzere
You shouldn’t go into the water on a full stomach, but how could one resist the Praia Fluvial de Álvaro?
This was the last stop on this two-day tour through Beira Baixa. And what a finish!
Of all the fluvial beaches I visited, this one is, without a doubt, the largest. Here we embrace a branch of the Zêzere River and let ourselves marvel at those waters.
Unlike the others I’ve already talked about, the Praia Fluvial de Álvaro doesn’t have such green margins, but it offers excellent conditions for those who are a fan of fishing.
On the other hand, it has a floating pool that allows you to go swimming safely and a white sand area to spread your towel and relax with the Zêzere insight.
(I didn’t stay here, but they have nice bungalows)
Adega dos Apalaches
- Visit the Fraga da Água d’Alta waterfall
- Dive in the floating pool at Praia Fluvial de Álvaro
This is how I ended my two-day trip through Beira Baixa. There wasn’t a dull moment, and I feel that so much more was left to see. From natural monuments to incredible beaches, this territory has a lot to offer to nature lovers.
And you? Did you already know about Beira Baixa in Portugal? Did you feel like visiting or coming back? Share in the comments box what you think about this article and if you have more valuable tips for those who want to go there for the first time.
Destination: Beira baixa
Note from Marlene
I made this visit to Beira Baixa in partnership with the Intermunicipal Community of Beira Baixa. I can’t help but thank all the friendliness and hospitality I received in all the places I passed through. But, as always, all photos and opinions are my own, reflecting the whole experience sincerely.