Located in the center of Portugal, the Schist villages (Aldeias do Xisto) are one of Portugal’s hidden secrets (well, not anymore). This network of villages, where the schist is predominant, is charming, rustic, and an award-winning destination. In this post, we are exploring the best schist villages in central Portugal, because you won’t be able to visit them all.
We will explore our favorite schist villages, explaining why they are worth the visit, the attractions, and where to stay in each of the best Schist Villages.
The “Aldeias do Xisto” network project
The “Aldeias do Xisto” / Schist Villages network includes 27 schist villages, and many river beaches spread through 21 municipalities in interior central Portugal with more than 100 private and public entities.
We can divide the 27 villages in 4 regional clusters:
- Lousã Mountains – The biggest and most important with 12 villages
- Açor Mountains – The most northern core with 5 villages
- Zêzere River – these 6 villages are located along the Zezere river
- Tejo-Ocreza – the most southern ones with 4 villages
The main goal of this network is to promote and value the architectonical heritage, to support the traditional arts and crafts, and ultimately stimulate the local economy. These small villages have a significant touristic potential coming from their traditions, gastronomy, cultural elements, architecture, and pure natural beauty.
The villages are the gateway to a destination perfect for active tourism with close contact with nature. With more than 600km of pedestrian trails, dozens of river beaches, and many BTT centers there are plenty of things to entertain even the most active traveler. Yet, there are also the Schist villages shops traditional and gourmet products and the many local restaurants with hearty and tasty regional dishes. After all, this is Portugal, great food is always around the corner!
Some of the Schist villages are truly magical, where time seems to slow down while one enjoys their food, heritage, and beauty. Here we will explore our favorite schist villages, either because of their beauty or the things to do closeby.
Best Schist villages in Portugal
Talasnal is the main village in the cluster of Lousã. It’s possibly the most famous, the most popular and the most beautiful of all the villages in this network. So, in case you only have time to visit/stay in one schist village, this should be the one.
Despite no one living there permanently anymore, the conservation and reparation made it lovely. All the houses are built with schist, the little pedestrian roads, the main square… everything really. There’s also a small schist shop where you can buy local art and a few gourmet products.
Talasnal also has one of the most famous local restaurants in the area, Restaurante Ti Lena. Unfortunately, we can’t say if it’s as good as its reputation because when we stayed in Talasnal it was fully reserved for the next 4 days… So if you want to go there, book in advance 🙂
What we did try (we bought in the schist shop) was the talasnico, the typical pastry of this village. It’s made with local honey, chestnuts, and almond. It’s very different from most of the Portuguese sweets and pastries, but it’s good, very good.
Finally, there’s a trail linking Talasnal with Casal Novo (another village in this list) and Lousã Castle and River beach. It’s circular, and only 6 km long, though at least 3 hours of hiking. This is possibly the best activity to do in Talasnal, both because the hike is great, and it takes you to many of the best attractions in the area.
Talasnal is located only about 12 km from the main city of Lousã, but it takes about 25 minutes to reach it. The pavement is actually good but it’s a mountain road with curve after curve.
Where to stay in Talasnal
There are several accommodation options in Talasnal, though our favorite is Casa Princesa Peralta. A beautifully renovated house, fully built in schist giving it a very rustic charm. With 3 bedrooms, you can rent per room or the whole house. Despite the rustic exterior, the interior is very comfy and cozy with a fireplace and a kitchen fully equipped.
Talasnal Montanhas de Amor is another good option. They have several houses, with different sizes, so it can be a good option for different kinds of travelers.
Casal Novo is right next to Taslanal, but it’s an amazing village on its own. It has more unrenovated houses, but it’s almost as nice as Talasnal. So, if Talasnal is full, but you still want to stay in the area, this is a great option. The village developed along a descending pedestrian trail that goes to Lousã Castle.
This is the trail we mentioned earlier in Talasnal that also goes through Casal Novo, so you can as easily do it from Casal Novo as from Talasnal, and still visit Lousã Castle and Senhora da Piedade River Beach and natural pools. It’s also on walking distance from another good Schist Village (though not on this list), Chiqueiro. Near Chiqueiro there’s the very cool, “Isto é Lousã” (this is Lousã) sign.
In a hindsight, it’s as rustic as Talasnal and similarly well-located. The main difference is that it isn’t as beautiful but it’s a bit less touristic. Yet, they are so close to each other that you really should visit both and make your own mind about it.
Where to stay in Casal Novo
We haven’t stayed in Casal Novo, but there are a few good looking lodge options. “Refugio da Serra da Lousã” looks particularly nice. It’s a double room schist house with an amazing view and perfect for a family with children.
Cerdeira is also in the Lousã cluster and very close to Talasnal, though not as close as Casal Novo. From Lousã to Cerdeira is less than 10km (about 20 minutes) but it feels like a world away. The road leading to Cerdeira is very steep and winding but the pavement is good and safe.
Cerdeira calls itself the home of creativity. It is a village where art and creativity helped refound the village with international art residencies, workshops, and creative experiences and refuges. The natural beauty, the silence, and the infrastructure make it a perfect retreat destination. Plus, it’s such a great idea, isn’t it?
The village is completely built with schist, on a steep rocky crest, where the dark color of the stones contrasts with the lush green of the surrounding forest, taking us to a magical place. It’s as beautiful as it gets!
Where to stay in Cerdeira
Completely rebuilt with a concept, Cerdeira obviously has the possibility of spending the night there. The place to stay is Cerdeira Home for Creativity which has both mixed dormitory rooms and complete schist houses for rent. This makes it a good option for any kind of visitor.
Candal is located relatively close to Cerdeira but it couldn’t be more different. It’s the biggest village in the Lousã cluster. Candal grew on the edge of a national road; it was a popular shelter for anyone trying to cross the Lousã mountains.
The village has a Schist shop, a restaurant, and many lodging options. Besides this, the village has mills, oil presses, and even a fountain. The village was built along a sunny slope, almost like an amphitheater. It’s enjoyable to walk in its many steep, pedestrian streets with schist houses. From the top of it, you have a fantastic lookout to all the houses, streets, small alleys, and all the valley. It’s lovely.
You can easily visit Candal from Cerdeira, Lousã, or even any other village close to Lousã. So, you can easily make it a base for a few days in Lousã. Candal is also only a few minutes away from the popular Trevim swing, on the top of Lousã Mountain.
Where to Stay in Candal
Casal de São Simão
Despite being considered part of the Lousã cluster, Casal de São Simão is actually closer to Zêzere and Pedrogão Grande than Lousã and the other communities of that cluster in this list. Casal de São Simão is very easy to reach, as it’s only 2 km from the A13 highway and even less from IC8.
With only one street, Casal de São Simão was built on the flank of quartzite crest leading to the famous cliffs. It ends only when it simply wasn’t possible to continue building. Casal de São Simão is one of the best-preserved villages in the project, with all the houses already rebuilt with traditional architecture and materials.
Despite being very small, today Casal de São Simão has a restaurant (we heard it’s very good), a Schist shop, many visitors, and even new residents. It’s the second life of this beautiful village that has more to offer than its architectonic beauty.
Visiting Casal de São Simão is a full day trip. Besides the village, there’s the Cliffs São Simão and the River beach and the small cascades. Furthermore, you have one of our favorite trails linking it all. Check everything about PR1 – FVN, the São Simão trail. It’s surely the best way to fully enjoy all the attractions in the area!
Where to stay in Casal de São Simão
Casal de São Simão has several options for you to stay, but curiously none at booking.com. The best and easiest option is probably “Casa Amarela”, a renovated Schist house with very high ratings on Airbnb. It’s a charming double room house with a lovely balcony and a fully equipped kitchen. Perfect for small families or a couple, looking for a romantic escapade.
Part of the Tejo-Ocreza, Água Formosa, is the southernmost of the Schist villages project, yet it’s located only 10km from the geodesic center of Portugal in Vila de Rei.
This is a village marked by the silence only broken the water flowing in the small creek that runs right in the middle of it. This is still a living village. In fact, it’s a village that’s reliving. It used to have only 4 inhabitants and now has 9. Plus, all the temporary ones that only go there on weekends.
Besides enjoying the rural life in this charming village, Água Formosa has another great advantage. It’s very close to Penedo Furado – an area that has a few magnificent lookouts, one of the best river beaches, and wooden walkways that take you to a few small but marvelous cascades.
Where to stay in Água Formosa
Água Formosa is a perfect place to relax and forget about the problems of the world, but to achieve that you really should at least spend the night. There are two nice lodging options in Água Formosa, but they are very similar. Both Casa da Eira and Casa Nascente have 3 bedroom houses and are great for bigger families.
Aigra Nova is our favorite schist village in the small subcluster of the municipality of Gois, which also includes Aigra Velha, Pena, and Comareira. All four are tiny villages with few things to do and see, but that’s part of their charm.
These four villages are so close to each other that you can visit them through a 9 km circular trail. It’s a wonderful way to visit them and the surrounding places. Plus, this is a much less popular area, so it’s more probable to get lucky and see live deers and wild boars.
With three small streets, Aigra Nova is the most well conserved of the four. It even has one Schist shop selling local products and arts. Finally, Aigra Nova and the other three villages host the Eco-museum, a project to revitalize the traditions and culture of the region while protecting the environment.
Where to Stay in Aigra Nova
Aigra Nova has one nice house to rent, with two bedrooms and a small functional kitchen. Though we have never stayed there, the reviews are excellent, and it looks like a good option for two couples or a family with 1 or 2 children. If this is already booked, there’s also accommodation in Comareira, Casa da Comareira.
Janeiro de Cima
Janeiro de Cima is a schist village in Fundão, in the Zezere cluster. Located on the left bank of the River, this village takes a unique approach to the Schist. The schist houses are like no other that we have ever seen. They are built both with schist and round pebbles from the river, giving the village a unique design.
This is a lively village with roughly 300 inhabitants, several restaurants, cafes, lodges and a wonderful river beach. Yet, it’s the design of the traditional houses that really sets it appart.
Janeiro de Baixo is very close to Janeiro de Cima, so you can visit it too. We didn’t find it as unique as Janeiro de Cima, but the river beach is really good. It has sand, beach chairs, lifeguard, a bar and even a camping park next to it.
Where to stay in Janeiro de Cima?
As we said earlier Janeiro de Cima is bigger than most other villages in this list, and it has quite a few options of lodging, all of them in traditional houses converted um local lodges. Our favorite option for couples or groups of up to 4 people is Casa de Janeiro. The house has been beautifully rehabilitated and now has every comfort you may need.
If you are traveling in a bigger group, then we suggest Casa da Avó Amália, which can lodge up to 10 people.
Fajão is our favorite schist village in the Açor group. It’s located in Pampilhosa da Serra municipality, and it was a big surprise when we visited. Honestly, we weren’t expecting much, and up to arrival, it didn’t seem to have anything special to offer.
However, Fajão is a much bigger and better-maintained village than we credited it for. Similarly to Janeiro de Cima, it has a lively community with actual people living there (more than 200) and with plenty of traditional schist houses well maintained. It was a pleasure to wander around its steep, narrow streets with schist houses, pavement, and walls.
Fajão doesn’t have a river beach, but Ponte de Fajão closeby has, and it’s pretty nice. the only downside is that you’ll probably need a car to go there. The road is very steep, and during the hot summer days, it’s painful to hike there.
Where to stay in Fajão?
We have never stayed in Fajão, and when we were researching for it we couldn’t find anything there. Nevertheless, in Ponte de Fajão, about 2 km from Fajão there are Casinhas do Ceira. These are absolutely lovely and have an incredible rating from previous reviews. It’s on our list of places to stay when we return to this region. Have a look at it yourself.
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