São Simão trail has everything we love on a trail. It has the right distance, it is circular, and has several attractions spread along the way, it has some people but never too crowded, and most importantly an extraordinary natural beauty.
This is a trail that can be done both ways and it has two possible starting points, the schist village of São Simão and the cliffs/ river beach. We decided to start in the village and do the itinerary counterclockwise. So, that’s the trail we will describe below.
Trail quick information
- Oficial Name: PR1 FVN
- Start – Casal de São Simão (39° 55′ 1″N 8° 19′ 22″W)
- End – Casal de São Simão
- Distance – 5.1 Km
- Time required – 2 to 3 hours
- Difficulty – Easy
- Max/min altitude: 319/195 meters
- Altitude gain: 276 meters
- Type – Circular
- Signalization (1-5) – 5, very good
- Highlights: Schist village of São Simão, São Simão cliffs and cascades, River beach
- You can download the official map here (in Portuguese)
Note: There’s a variant, the PR1.1 FVN, which is much shorter. It works as a shortcut where you go directly to Além da Ribeira. This alternative course has only 2.7 km and it’s perfectly signed.
Casal de São Simão
The small village of Casal de São Simão is located in Figueiró dos Vinhos in the center of Portugal. It not only is a member of the “Aldeias de Xisto” (Schist Villages) network, as it one os the most beautiful and most charismatic. One can perfectly see that the village was recovered and preserved with love.
This is a typical one-street village where the traditional houses are very close to each other and built along a quartzite crest. This will be our starting point.
Trail of Casal de São Simão
The trail starts in Casal de São Simão village, and still in the village you have to choose if you want to do it clockwise (turn left) or counterclockwise (continue in front). We did it counterclockwise and suggest you do the same. That’s the itinerary we will describe below. While you leave the village you immediately enter a lush green forest and continue descending until reaching and cross the small stream Ribeira de Fato.
From now on, the trail follows the stream continuing descending while you get to enjoy the many small cascades, the “veredas” (old paths), and most importantly the rich riparian vegetation. The green from the vegetation completely floods our eyes.
After about one km descending you’ll reach the cutting point, where you need to choose if you want to continue on the main path or cut directly to Além da Ribeira. This is perfectly signed, as it is most of the path. If you turn left you’ll go on the cut, if you turn right you’ll continue on the main path.
As we are describing the complete itinerary, we suggest you turn right and continue descending (mostly). The path continues more a less like this for another Km, following the stream and then the bigger river. There are some very short and easy climbs, but nothing hard really.
After about 2.4km since the beginning, you’ll reach Brás Curado Bridge, where you’ll cross the river and start heading back. There you’ll take an old levada (mini water canal) until reaching Além da Ribeira. Besides the traditional levada this part of the path itinerary doesn’t have many attractions, but it’s really pleasant to hike.
After reaching the village of Além da Ribeira, you need to head to the picnic area and then to São Simão cliffs. The cliffs are really impressive and they also host the river beach. It’s the perfect place to rest, eat something and if it’s hot, dive into the clear water of the river beach. Oh, and take lots of pics.
After this, you are very close to the final destination, the schist village of Casal de São Simão. It’s less than 1 km, but it’s always climbing. It’s the hardest part of the whole trail. During this final stretch, take time to notice the many cork trees along the way.
São Simão Lookout
Besides the Schist village, the river beach, and the cliffs there’s one final destination that you cannot miss, São Simão lookout. This is slightly outside the trail. You can easily go there by following the road that leads to the beach until you reach the wooden pathways. There you can go on the pathways or continue on the road, it’s the same as they both go to the lookout.
Or you can simply drive there after returning to the village. That’s what we did because from the lookout you have to return to the beach. There’s no short way of going from the lookout to the village on foot.
On the lookout, the view is beautiful, both to the village and to the cliffs. It’s clearly the best place to appreciate the schist village and the quartzite crest where it was built.
The new São Simão wooden pathways
A new wooden pathway is being built connecting the lookout and the beach. These pathways will open during 2020 and in a second phase, they will connect the beach to the schist village.
In general, we enjoy the pathways concept, and really love doing hikes on wooden pathways, but these need to be useful, whether it is accessing an area that otherwise would be impossible or allowing visiting a sensitive area.
Unfortunately, what we saw in these pathways didn’t match our criteria. The itinerary of the built pathways could be perfectly done without pathways, using the road that links the lookout and the beach. So, now the only thing these walkways bring is visual pollution in an area of rare beauty. but let’s wait to have the whole project is completed to have a final opinion.
Is the trail family-friendly?
The whole area is perfect for family travel, both with children and the elderly. The village, the cliffs, the lookout, and the beach are all very easy to reach and walk around. The beach even has a lifeguard.
The trail isn’t technically difficult, neither has very long climbs. The worst is clearly the last part of the trail between the beach and the village, but if you take it easy it can be done by almost everyone. We even saw a few families with children doing the trail. Plus, if you think it’s too much, you can always take the cut and make it much shorter.
What to take?
- Water (a least a 1l per person);
- comfortable hiking or running shoes;
- comfortable clothes;
- rain jacket if it’s winter;
- sunglasses, hat, and sunscreen if it’s sunny;
- Swimsuit if it’s warm to dip into the beautiful river beach;
- camera and smartphone, there are plenty of photo opportunities there;
- A daypack to take everything with you;
As always, please do not make any trash. Bring back everything you take with you.
How to go to the trail?
Despite looking and feeling very secluded, Casal de São Simão is very easy to reach. It’s only 2 km from the highway A13. From there you need to use exit 24 to Castelo Branco, and then turn to Aguda/Fato. Afterward, you just need to follow the signs with Casal de São Simão and you’ll be there in 2 minutes.
Or, simply insert “Casa de São Simão” in google maps or GPS and let it take you there directly.
Where to stay?
The schist village of Casal de São Simão is a great option. It’s rustic, typical and very charming. You can see the lodging available there in the village’s site.
Besides this, there are plenty of options in the cities and villages surrounding Casal de São Simão. Hotel Rota Malhoa in Figueiró dos Vinhos is a good option for those looking for a budget hotel, or Hotel da Montanha in Pedrógão Pequeno if you prefer a little more confort.
We ended up staying at House of the Three Marias, in a small village next to Pedrogão and very close to Mosteiro (another schist village with a nice river beach) and the experience was very pleasant. The place is really calm and the English owners are very nice. We will stay there when visiting this area again.
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