Portugal: Elevated Walkways Open in Serra da Estrela
“The interior of Portugal is a treasure of landscapes to discover and rediscover," said Ana Abrunhosa, Minister of Territorial Cohesion, at the opening. (Photo by Rui Neto/Cm Guarda)
In the heart of the UNESCO Global Geopark of the mountains, Serra da Estrela, Guarda Municipality opened the Mondego Walkways, 12 kilometers of landscape punctuated by views of suspension bridges, waterfalls, dams and windmills.
The Mondego Walkways (Passadiços do Mondego) run along the Mondego River and two tributaries, the Ribeiro do Barrocal and the Caldeirao River, with 6.7 kilometers of them on wooden walkways. The rest of the route comprises recovered trails and paths.
Two bridges, including Ponte do Ribas, have been refurbished and three suspension bridges have been constructed in the Estrela Global Geopark recognized by UNESCO in July 2020.
UNESCO Global Geoparks, established in 2004, are single, unified geographical areas, where landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
At the entrance to the city of Guarda is the Cascata do Caldeirao, a gigantic waterfall, where the waters of the Ribeiro do Caldeirao plunge into a steep abyss.
“The construction of this walkway aims to make known the landscape and the environmental and historical heritage of the surrounding villages, guaranteeing new experiences for visitors, through the creation of points of interest that reveal the best-kept secrets of the Mondego,” according to the Passadiços do Mondego website.
At the opening on November 6, Sergio Costa, president of Guarda Municipality, said that he considers the Mondego Walkways to be an important anchor in the Serra da Estrela, reported SIC Noticias (November 6).
According to Diario de Noticias (November 6), Sergio Costa said:
“The Mondego Walkways are one of the greatest exponents of the country’s natural and scenic wealth. Guarda finally will be the new gateway to the Serra da Estrela and its natural park. The Mondego Valley and our Serra da Estrela finally are being valued.”
The Mondego Walkways start in Videmonte and extend to the Caldeirao Dam, passing through the parishes of Videmonte, Maçainhas, Meios, Aldeia Viçosa, Trinta e Corujeira, Mizarela, Pero Soares and Vila Soerio.
Os Cobertores de papa, traditionally worn by shepherds, are waterproof, warm and fuzzy. They are made in white and several colored patterns. During the summer, the long, thick wool of local sheep is spun and woven on a handloom. Then, it goes to the scouring machine, where it is washed and pressed into felt. Afterwards, it moves to the carding machine, which aligns the fibers, and then it is stretched and left to dry in the sun.
“The route passes through geosites such as the Miradouro do Mocho Real, heaps and gravel pits, the Alto Mondego and the traces of industrial heritage of old factories and mills for wool or electricity production in the Thirties, testimonies of a past linked to the textile industry of this territory, where the famous (blanket), cobertor de papa, originated, as explained by the municipality,” according to Expresso (October 31).
(Cobertor de papa is a traditional blanket handmade from churra wool, taken from the native sheep of the Mondegueira breed. On the initiative of the Marquis de Pombal (1699-1782), a Portuguese government project boosted production in Maçainhas, according to A Vida Portuguesa: Desde Sempre.)
“The Mondego Walkways are one of the greatest exponents of the country’s natural and scenic wealth. Guarda finally will be the new gateway to the Serra da Estrela and its natural park. The Mondego Valley and our Serra da Estrela finally are being valued," said Guarda Municipality president Sergio Costa.
The full route of 11.5 kilometers from Caldeirao Dam to Videmonte takes 4 to 5 hours, is of medium difficulty and linear typology, according to the Passadiços do Mondego website.
There is a 2-kilometer family path of linear typology from Açude (Weir) dos Trinta.
A reduced mobility path of 2 kilometers from Vila Soeiro to suspension bridge (Engenho do Pateiro) also is described as linear typology.
Serra da Estrela now has one more reason to be visited again, said Sergio Costa, president of Guarda Municipality, at the opening ceremony, held next to the Caldeirao Dam.
According to Diario de Noticias (November 6), Ana Abrunhosa, Minister of Territorial Cohesion, who attended the ceremony, said:
“We are dealing with a project of international tourist interest. The interior of Portugal is a treasure of landscapes to discover and rediscover for us Portuguese because often foreigners discover our interior more quickly and value it in another way, which we don’t. We have parts of our territory that have been recognized by the outside world as exceptional.”
Global investment in the Mondego Walkways amounted to 4 million euros, reported SIC Noticias. Eighty-five percent was co-financed by European funds within the scope of Centro 2020, FEDER (Fundo Europeu de Desenvolvimento Regional), reported Expresso.
The Fundo Europeu de Desenvolvimento Regional aims to help correct the main regional imbalances in the European Union and reduce disparities between the levels of development of different regions, according to the European Union.