The historic frontier town of MONTALEGRE is the entry point to the eastern stretches of the Peneda-Gerês national park – though you’d really need your own transport as there are no onward buses into the park. Even if you go no further, it’s worth making the trip – 45km west of Chaves, and a ten-kilometre detour off the N103 – not least for the sudden looming of its dramatic medieval castle as you approach town, lording it over the surrounding plains. You can walk up to the surviving keep and ruined walls (always open; free), 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 take in lunch. There are half a dozen restaurants in town, most near the dinky pelourinho square, just below the castle. All 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).
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.