The historic frontier town of MONTALEGRE – 45km west of Chaves, and a ten-kilometre detour off the N103 – is the entry point to the eastern stretches of the Peneda-Gerês national park. It’s a side trip worth making even if you go no further, not least for the sudden looming of its dramatic medieval castle as you approach town, commanding the surrounding plains. You can walk up to the surviving keep and ruined walls, and then saunter through the few immaculately restored old-town streets below, and while this takes just twenty minutes, Montalegre is charming enough to stretch your visit to lunch or even overnight. Around 8km south of town, a road leads to the huge Barragem do Alto Rabagão, around which you can pick up signs to swimming spots, old villages and walking trails.
The town’s restaurants are big on the local Serra do Barroso produce, namely its huge steaks, smoked meats (fumeiros) and ham (presunto). There’s even a whole festival dedicated to the products, the annual Feira do Fumeiro e Presunto (fourth week of January).Read More
Montalegre is one of the Serra do Barroso settlements where you’ll come across the so-called Vinhos dos Mortos – Wines of the Dead; try asking in local bars and restaurants. This is basically wine that matures in bottles buried underground, a practice that originated in 1809 when villagers, keen to protect their wine stocks from the invading French hordes, hid their bottles. When they dug them up again they were delighted to find that the contents tasted considerably better.