There is even in the centre of Portugal a territory that is like a peninsula: Vila de Rei. The county that is also the geographical centre of Portugal is surrounded by water on three sides. It is one of those geographical accidents that only the administrative division explains. Vila de Rei is a peninsula situated right in the centre of Portugal and this is largely due to the Castelo de Bode reservoir and the Codes stream.
Of course, with so much water at hand, the river beaches are one of the attractions not to be missed when visiting the territory. And there is one for all tastes. But we’ll get to that.
Let’s start with what brings fame and outsiders to Vila de Rei. The county is right in the centre of Portugal and 2 kilometres from the county seat, in the Melriça mountains, we find Picoto, the geodesic landmark that marks the centre of the country. This is one of those places that we cannot miss.
It would already be good for the simple fact of knowing that we were there, but on top of that it has a breathtaking 360 degree view. With clear weather, we can even see the Serra da Estrela, which is 100 kilometres away. It is also possible to visit the Geodesy Museum, with a thematic exhibition room and a small bar with a large window.
Vila de Rei
Now, let us move on to the seat of the municipality. Small and peaceful land, Vila de Rei has more to see than at first sight may seem. The suggestion is to leave the car and follow the houses up the hill. It is in the oldest part of the town that you will find its main points of interest.
Going up to the end of the road, we find the old Mother Church, burnt down by the French invaders. But until we get there, we have the houses and streets with personality where we should pay attention to details such as a niche or a lantern and even some alleyways.
Since we are here, let us enter the Municipal Museum. The space shows us how were the interiors and experiences of a wealthy family of farmers in the late nineteenth century. It is an interesting museum that deserves a visit. Here we can see the living room, the bedrooms, the pantry, the kitchen and even the wine cellar, all carefully presented with a profusion of artefacts.
Not to be missed is the Museum of Fire and Resin, a space awarded by the Portuguese Museology Association which was born after the great fires that devastated the territory of Vila de Rei and which explains the relationship between man and fire throughout the millenniums.
And while we are here, let us take the opportunity to eat in one of Vila de Rei’s restaurants. The Cobra is the most emblematic and its codfish combat dish, but the land is known for its maranhos and stuffed bucho, which we can taste in the Alma Rei restaurant, the village hotel, the Churrasqueira Central or in Tasquinha da Vila.
The water and the beaches of Vila de Rei
But it is when we leave the urban centre that Vila de Rei appears to us in all its splendour. The county has been ravaged by major forest fires, and this can be seen in the landscape, but the hills and valleys of the territory continue to dazzle.
First of all, the Castelo do Bode reservoir. The waters that supply Lisbon spread here for kilometres, creating an immense lake that is used for the most diverse recreational activities. First of all, for good bathing in the warm water enjoyed by all those who go to the river beach of Fernandaires. Here, it is also possible to do wakeboarding, a course with jumps (for the more daring) of aquatic sky from land. But besides this one, there is another river beach, Zaboeira, near the typical village of the same name.
But there are more bucolic beaches, such as Pego das Cancelas, near the beautiful bridge of the three concelhos, the beach of Bostelim – the only one with an Aul Flag in the whole Castelo Branco district and where there is a camping site – or Penedo Furado. Let’s dwell on this for a while. The heavily forested beach is located at the end of the Codes stream and the water is clear and transparent. A pedestrian trail takes us to an area of waterfalls where a good swim is possible and halfway we find the painted rock, where you can see the fossil of a trilobite trail that inspired one of the best known local legends.
The tour of Vila de Rei cannot end without a trip to Água Formosa, a beautiful Schist Village halfway up the slope, and to the conheiras, the remains of the old Roman gold exploitation that was strong in this municipality.