Ancient Village Hike in Portugal
Hiking the Schist Villages of Central Portugal
With increased flying into Lisbon and Porto, incredibly good values, friendly people and raw beauty, Portugal is a must-see destination for everyone. And while most tourists stay in the larger cities, the less-known central region of Portugal is a nature lovers paradise. Rugged mountains, well-paved paths, unspoiled beauty, charming hospitality and best of all... hidden ancient villages.
Discovering and Hiking the Hidden Ancient Villages from Lousã, Portugal
Less than two hours from both Lisbon and Porto airports, Lousã makes a perfect adventure on your trip to Portugal. While Lousã's charm is compelling, you will begin your quest to find the hidden Schist villages from the city's paper mill.
What is a Schist Village?
Schist villages are 27 tiny ancient towns spread across central Portugal. The word schist comes from the stone found in that area and the towns literally are just that: ancient stone structures partially restored for modern living. A decade or so ago, the local community decided to invest and restore these ancient villages with a purpose to renew history, time, community and creativity.
The feeling upon arriving in these villages in incredible - from the outside the ancient ruins seamlessly integrate into the new infrastructure, making it difficult to discern what's old vs. modern. The villages appear completely deserted as you walk along the roads but don't let that fool you. Open a conspicuous door with a painted "BAR" or restaurant sign and reveal swarms of people chatting and sampling local chestnut or honey liquor.
While most hikes or runs open up to incredible views, the Schist villages offer a different experience from awestruck wonder. Instead the feeling turns inward and one gets the sense they haven't arrived at a destination but rather they've become the destination. For the village ignites an understanding that living in the moment, surrounded by history and spirituality, is the awakening we look for when in nature.
But enough about our feelings. Let's hike!
Tip: You could technically drive to visit these villages on a small local road but it's way more fun to walk through gorgeous forest, stumbling across historic castles and old chapels. And don't worry too much, the hike to the first village is only ~2 hours and relatively moderate in ease level. You can then extend your trek to connect onward towards other Schist, making your day as long or as short as you'd like.
How to Get to Talasnal, one of the Schist Villages
Starting from the town of Lousã, head towards the city's paper mill (don't panic, there is only one paper mill). Follow the mill towards the left side, eventually walking alongside running water.
From Lousã, the trail is marked extremely well. Posts and marker trails will be a red and yellow stripe. A red X means wrong way. Keep following the trail to Castelo (the castle) and eventually towards Talasnal, the first schist village. Total round trip from Lousã to Talsnal (plus a bar stop!) was ~4 hours. And a bar stop is definitely needed in Talasnal, regardless if you drink or not. The bar in this village can be entered through a tiny stone doorway, revealing a pub for for those ancient city dwellers. Stone chairs, cobwebs and homemade liquor line the walls. Be sure to try the chestnut (castanha) liquor and the honey (mel) candy while you are there.
Along the way, you will discover amazing gems of central Portugal including waterfalls, crumbled castles, trail of crosses and chapels, as well as beautifully kept gardens.