Shortly after arriving in Portugal, the Tagus River enters a narrowing that seems carved by hand. Find out more about Portas de Rodão.
Nature really knows what it does and the Rodão doors are a good example of that. A simple narrowing that is far from being a mere geological accident: it is rather a place that houses an impressive rocky gorge that crosses the Tagus River already in Portuguese territory.
This geological formation is considered one of the most beautiful and curious spots in the Vila Velha do Rodão region, in Central Portugal.
The name was not attributed to it, then, by chance: the huge rocks really seem to rise up as if simulating gates that guard the river and the village, only letting in those who are worthy of it.
It is not difficult to be impressed by this fabulous natural viewpoint, whose view is truly breathtaking. And even the animals seem to understand that even at Portas de Rodão.
After all, several rare species of birds nest there, but there is also an abundance of wild animals, such as wild boar, deer, fox, horse rider, hare, rabbit, mongoose, wild cat and otters
how were the Portas de Rodão formed?
Right next to the Tagus River, halfway between Portalegre and Castelo Branco, accessing the A23, passing through Abrantes and exiting at the Vila Velha de Ródão junction; or coming from Alentejovia Nisa, heading north along the N18: these are the paths to take if you want to discover Portas de Rodão.
The rocky area resulting from the intersection of the hard quartzite relief of Serra das Talhadas with the course of the Tagus river is formed by two steep walls, with a height of 170 meters.
This natural design is really reminiscent of the existence of two gates, one further north, in the municipality of Vila Velha de Rodão, and another in the municipality of Nisa, which narrow the river.
To arrive at this impressive result, 2.5 million years of erosion were needed, visible to the most experienced eyes and most evident on the right bank upstream of this place that is considered a Natural Monument.
On site there is a viewpoint for enjoying the entire area, in safety, as well as a free car park.
From the Gates to the Castle: The Legend of King Wamba
Legend has it that surrounds Portas de Rodão – how many popular tales don’t start like this after all – that once upon a time, King Wamba, the Visigoth King of Hispania, lived there, whose reign lasted between 672 and 680, and whose life was marked by constant combat to the Moors.
By bad luck, King Wamba’s wife fell in love with the Moorish king. To experience requited love, the Moorish king tried to kidnap her, making a tunnel that would pass under the Tagus. But when they say that love is blind, they don’t seem to be wrong, because the calculations for the tunnel were poorly executed and the hole came out at water level.
As soon as he discovered the hole, King Wuamba decided to “offer” the woman to his arch-enemy, but he didn’t do it in a good way. He tied it to a millstone, which he rolled down the slopes to the Tagus River. Legend or not, what is certain is that the places where the millstone with the woman passed never grew again – you will be able to confirm this even when you visit the region.
To remember the past, what was once King Wamba’s castle, located at the top of the north gate, is now a small watchtower that has recently been the subject of restoration works, serving as a point of observation of birds and the landscape.
To get there, you must first take a deep breath – the journey is long and demanding – and then cross the small level crossing on the north side of the bridge and go up the road that goes on for about three kilometres, then take a small road to the left.
A paradise for birds
Portas de Ródão is a highly privileged place for the investigation of fauna and avifauna, where more than one hundred species of birds can be observed, many of them considered endangered and some rare:
- Waterfowl: white-faced cormorant;
- Large land birds: black stork, griffon vulture, Bonelli’s eagle, green woodpecker;
- Passerines: white wagtail, alpine wrasse, blue thrush, black-headed warbler, crested tit, coal tit, magpie;
- Rarities: Rüppell’s vulture, Kaffir swift.
About Vila Velha de Rodão
Portas de Rodão belongs to the municipality of Vila Velha de Ródão, a region marked by the contrasts of being an inland land bathed by the Tagus River, but also by the stunning natural landscapesfull of natural resources, which makes it a great attraction for various species of fauna and flora, but also for civilization.
It was this same wealth that ensured the survival of the first human populations that, since prehistoric times, settled in the region.
In addition to the referenced Portas de Rodão and King Wamba Castle, the existence of the Tagus Valley Rock Art Complex in the region is also noteworthy, considered one of the most important post-Paleolithic art collections in Europe.
It consists of more than 20,000 engravings and its discovery led to several archaeological rescue campaigns until its almost complete submersion, in 1974, due to the construction of the Fratel dam.
When on vacation or even for a getaway weekend, this is a destination to take into account to discover calmly. You will especially appreciate the fact that you can live calmly, leisurely, while delighting your stomach and appetite with the gastronomic delights of the region.