On the second day of our adventure-packed Porto to Lisbon road trip we set off from Figuera do Foz for the city of Alcobaça, where we had booked accommodation. To put it simply, we ended up taking the “scenic route”; forgoing the direct route down the coast for a jaunt inland to hike and explore the mountainous district of Lousã. Lousã is home to a few dozen remote, mountainside hamlets that are collectively referred to as the Schist Villages. Schist is a stone that is abundant in this region and serves as the main construction material shared by these charming, centuries-old settlements. We mapped out a solid half-day hike that would take us through 3 somewhat adjacent villages. We left the car near the Castle of Lousã and embarked on our big looping route through forested hillsides of cork oaks, pine trees, chestnuts and oak trees perched above fairytale creeks and waterfalls. When we reached the first mountain schist village of Talasnal we were struck by the pleasing aesthetic of the dwellings’ stone exteriors. Around the mid-twentieth century farming and pastoral activity in this area was largely abandoned, leaving many of these villages sparsely occupied. Though a portion of the villages’ buildings were abandoned and decaying, we found plenty of well-manicured homes and delightful cafes, bars, shops tucked into maze-like alleyways. After satisfying our exploration bug, we descended back into the valley and hopped in the car to go grab lunch and then finish our drive for the day.
On a whim we hopped off the highway when we saw a sign for Batalha Monastery. We happened upon a small family-friendly town fair in progress in the shadow of a jaw dropping building decked out to the nines in Late Gothic style accouterments. The Monastery was built over more than a century from 1386 to 1517 to thank the Virgin Mary for the Portuguese victory over the Castilian during the battle of Aljubarrota. We meandered through the stalls of vendors selling their crafts before entering the building and enjoying the light-show put on for us by the late afternoon sun and the building’s gorgeous expanses of stained glass. Pleasantly stunned by the awe-inspiring edifice that is Batalha Monastery, we finished our drive to Alcobaça and enjoyed some supermarket wine and a relaxing evening in our home-away-from-home for the night.