In Portugal’s Alentejo region, near the Spanish border, Natural Park of Serra de São Mamede surrounds two of Portugal’s most appealing towns for family travel. The park itself offers hiking and walking trails to challenge teens, with features to spark the interest of budding naturalists and historians.
A 4.5-mile circuit of footpaths connects Portagem, in the valley below Marvão, with two other villages through forests of cork and chestnut trees, over a Medieval bridge and road, and past old chapels and two Medieval tombs cut into the rock. At Portagem, kids will want to explore the ruins of the Roman city of Ammaia, where they can see the excavations in progress.
An easy 3.6-mile loop trail, Rota Circular de Galegas, begins right along the Spanish border at Santa Maria de Marvão. A more challenging trail leads between the region’s two most popular towns, Castelo Vide and Marvao. Just more than 6 miles long, the trail takes hikers through forests of pine, wild hazel and oak, and along ridges where you might spot rare birds of prey such as vultures or eagles.
Even if Marvão did not have one of Portugal’s best castles to explore, the walled town on top of a pinnacle would still be worth visiting to wander down the narrow stone lanes between whitewashed houses with carved windows and wrought-iron balconies.
The castle at the highest point is one of Portugal’s best, its walls still intact and overlooking Spain almost directly below. Along with ramparts to walk, the castle has a giant oven and an immense cistern where enough rain water was stored to withstand a siege. Even teens can’t fail to be impressed.
Tourist offices in any of the towns have maps of trails and brochures with information on the sights and wildlife.
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