The PAVC contains thousands of engravings on several hundred rocks, a good number of which are clustered around the four major sites. The engravings are of horses, deer, goats and other animals, as well as later, Neolithic, images of people – many are quite hard to make out, as unlike cave art they are not painted but were scratched or chipped with stones. Night visits are sometimes possible, out of the sun’s glare, when you can see more easily. If you only have time to visit one site, Penascosa is considered the most interesting.
Canada do Inferno – close to the abandoned Côa dam – was the first site to be identified. It contains a wide variety of engravings, from bison to horses, some very close to the current water line and many more underwater since the construction of the Pocinho dam upstream raised the level.
Trips to Ribeira de Piscos head out from Muxagata, 1km off the N102 to Guarda, which has a bar beside the visitor centre. The engravings are spread out along the eponymous ribeira down to its confluence with the Côa – a beautiful place, but there’s a lot of walking involved. The highlights are a tender engraving of two horses “kissing”, some fine engravings of auroch bison (now extinct) and an exceptionally rare Paleolithic engraving of a man. The newest site is Fariseu, which features another Paleolithic human figure. This site is closed more regularly than the other three, though if you get the chance to visit, you’ll also start from Muxagata.
The starting point for Penascosa is the visitor centre in Castelo Melhor, just off the N322 to Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo. Penascosa’s highlights include an engraving of a fish (one of very few such depictions worldwide), and a rock containing over a dozen superimposed animals, the meaning of which archeologists are at a loss to understand. The village itself has a gorgeous ruined castle and a couple of café-restaurants.
There’s also a private site at Quinta da Ervamoira, a secluded vineyard on the west bank of the Côa, accessed from Muxagata. It’s owned by the Ramos Pinto port wine company, whose granite estate house is now a museum housing finds from Roman and medieval times.