At all times, only one person lives in the village of Vale de Poldros. But the spirit that is lived there and the landscape that is reached are amazing.
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Vale de Poldros is a one man village. But the truth is that you are rarely alone in this little piece of paradise, nestled in the mountains of the Alto Minhostill within the limits of the municipality of Monção.
This is easy to explain. The village once had particular importance in the agricultural economy of the region. During the summer, the space was occupied by shepherds and farmers, becoming, for a few months, a true mountain housing cluster.
Currently, Vale de Poldros is a tourist attraction, boosted by the restaurant that Fernando Gonçalves, the only permanent inhabitant of the village, decided to open there.
It’s called Val de Poldros and it’s already the target of some gastronomic pilgrimages to try a regional cuisine that insists on not disappearing. And still good.
This could be the starting point for a tour of the region, with breathtaking landscapes and many signs of the traditions of a nomadic economy, which were at the base of the many brandas (small stone shelters) that can still be identified by the surroundings.
Vale de Poldros: the village of the “hobbits”
The Branda de Santo António de Vale de Poldros is, even so, the best preserved in the vicinity of the Alto Minho, looking over the river Vez at something like 1200 meters above sea level. Hence the views over the entire surroundings are absolutely fantastic.
The advent of tourism rescued many of these spaces from anonymity and even final ruin. Vale de Poldros is no exception to this rule.
The cozy atmosphere of the small shelters benefited from the resemblance to a scenario from the well-known trilogy “The Lord of the Rings” and the village ended up being informally named “Village of the Hobbits”. It’s not in New Zealand, but somewhere between Monção and halfway to Melgaço.
The houses, or cardenhas, built in shale and granite, became a space of great heritage value, bearing witness to a cultural and social experience that has now disappeared. Progress was relentless with the way communities came to view farming and grazing activities.
The ancient transhumance in search of the best vegetation has almost disappeared, replaced by modern machinery and industrial rations.
But let’s go back to the only inhabitant of Vale de Poldros. Fernando Gonçalves made his living in emigration (he was in Andorra) until he returned to his natural environment in 2004, when he decided to open the restaurant. The idea was to help stem the unstoppable depopulation of the region.
The word spread from mouth to mouth and the Restaurant and Bar Regional Val de Poldros entered the Alto Minho routes, with the hardness of its stone walls and the picturesque country decoration involving the traditional food that is still prepared there, such as kid or the saramagos soup. Don’t miss it, but don’t forget to reserve a place.
If you want to head to the village with milder weather, but with more excitement, the month of June is ideal. It is the time when Saint Anthony is celebrated, with hundreds of pilgrims walking the hard road to venerate the patron saint.
The future seems to be assured for Vale de Poldros. According to the Municipality of Monção, the great heritage value of this settlement and many of its constructions justifies an effort to safeguard and enhance it.
In addition to their importance, from a cultural point of view, these areas play an important role as an engine of economic and tourist development.
Poldros Valley: what to see in the surroundings
Being in the region, there is a lot to see, if you have time. O Sanctuary of Our Lady of Penedalocated in the parish of Gavieira, is a secluded place of unique beauty and one of the most important and popular sanctuaries in the North.
You shouldn’t miss a visit to a temple whose construction began at the end of the 18th century. Highlight for the staircase, with about 300 meters, and the 20 chapels, with scenes from the life of Christ.
Still close to the shrine, don’t miss the Druids Lagoon. Located in the village of Tibo, it offers those clear, cold waters that only Minho can provide.
And since you have both feet inside the Peneda-Gerês National Park, you cannot miss the opportunity to discover what is, without shadow, one of the most fabulous landscapes in the country. Depending on time and availability, you can go to Vilarinho da Furna, discover the seven lakes or admire the fabulous Mata de Albergaria.
To round off such a beautiful journey, there is nothing like a visit to Melgaço or Monção, enjoying the local cuisine and, of course, tasting the magnificent Alvarinho wine that makes those lands justly famous.