The Zêzere is the common denominator of the identity of the six Aldeias do Xisto Villages located within its basin. Zêzere River is one of the wildest and most pristine rivers in the country. The landscapes it creates are unparalleled. The Zêzere Grande Route follows the river from source to estuary.
Surrounded by a pine wood and the old Panasqueira Mines, Barroca still keeps its rural environment commanded by agricultural cycles. To stroll through it is to discover the true spirit of Schist Villages at each step you take, as this is the seat of the entire enterprise. The distance between the banks of the Zêzere River and Casa Grande (Big House), the old 18th century manor house where the Boasting Centre of the Schist Villages is currently located, is short. On your way there, you will find the old windmills, moved by wind power, and, when you get to the water mirror, you will find a pedestrian bridge which invites you to discover the rock art site of Poço do Caldeirão where you will be able to admire two decorated rocks with Palaeolithic engravings representing equidae and goat-like creatures which were probably made around 20.000 and 15.000 years BC. When you return to Casa Grande, a visit to the Interpretative Centre will enlighten your questions and challenge you to discover the entire Rock Art Rout at the Pinhal Interior region.
With its plastered and painted houses, Álvaro stands out from Schist Villages in general. In ancient times, this was a town and the seat of the municipality, becoming an important basis for the Order of Malta. Its rich religious heritage includes fifteen chapels, of which eight are within the village. The matriz church dedicated to Saint James, from which processions leave once a month every year, stands out. You should not miss the chapels’ rout which has a wayside shrine in each path and countless surprises among its religious heritage. But this is not the only reason why you should visit this extraordinary place. Pedestrian routes, river beaches, handicraft, food, quality rural lodgings: Álvaro has a little bit of everything.
Janeiro de Baixo
Near the Zêzere River and surrounded by a stunning landscape which harmonizes rocks and valleys with reservoirs, rivers and streams, Janeiro de Baixo is the ideal place to forget the rest of the world. At the centre of the village, brick-built and mortar houses which were built with no specific order, combine with the church and small chapels, offering a pleasant leisure area where there is also a camping park. Here, you can get lost among unique curiosities like a windmill carved on a rock; an old watermill moved by water power, which takes advantage of the escarpment where it was built, or even the curious memory of the Tronco, a place where animals used to be marked. Close by, you should stroll through the old Santa Luzia Dam and be amazed by the Garganta dos Penedos da Foz de Bogas, before you leave to discover the Pampilhosa da Serra municipality.
Janeiro de Cima
You will want to stay in Janeiro the entire year. Thoroughly recuperated, with its plastered and painted houses, Janeiro de Cima combines the best of traditional Portugal with comfortable modernity. Here there are plenty of places to spend the night, taste local food or refresh with a drink at a unique bar. And if you are staying at Janeiro de Cima, you should not miss the chance to visit the Casa das Tecedeiras (Weavers House) where linen is processed in looms which recover ancient techniques and there are countless orders. But beyond traditions, you might also want to explore Nature. Near the village, you can have a picnic in the pine wood, enjoy the fresh water of the river park, take a MTB ride, try canoeing or climbing. Or you can just enjoy the passing of time and do absolutely nothing.
Mosteiro is a small rural place where water and agriculture are fundamental factors that have positively shaped its development – it has the largest irrigated area in the municipality of Pedrógão Grande. The Village of Mosteiro grew on the right bank of the Ribeira de Pera (Pera stream). The fertile lands close to the river bed fostered the creation of vegetable plots and mills that fed the villagers who lived off subsistence farming. For that very reason, must-sees include the mills, the flumes, the olive presses and irrigated fields that for centuries were the basic infrastructures this village depended on for survival and that now serve as tourist attractions.
In places where schist is King, granite is also important. Pedrógão is the outcrop of granite which has provided stones to the stonework of many doors and windows of traditional local houses and has helped baptizing Pedrógão Pequeno. During the 1950s and 60s, the population of the village increased exponentially because the Cabril Dam was built and nowadays it has been revived again. The Cabril Philippine Bridge, the Nossa Senhora das Águas Feras Chapel, the Nossa Senhora da Confiança Mountain and, finally, the Rainha do Zêzere restaurant are some of the attractions which, along with the beauty of this village, where stones hide behind white plasters, justify a visit to this small place in Central Portugal.