12 Best Activities in Macedo de Cavaleiros (Portugal)

Macedo de Cavaleiros is a town that preserves its ancestral traditions in the historic Transmontano region of northeastern Portugal. Some local rituals are so ancient that they date from pagan times. That goes for “Caretos,” an oddly mischievous character who takes to the streets at Carnival in bright woolen costumes and masks.

If the traditions are ancient, so is the terrain, as one corner of the landscape is on rocks that are hundreds of millions of years old. There is so much scientific interest in this environment that entire cities have been labelled “geoparks.” You can learn more about the folk traditions of those Caretos and the fine art of beekeeping in the museum. On long sunny days, one of Portugal’s top inland beaches is nearby.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Macedo de Cavaleros:

1. Sacra Art Museum

Sacra Art Museum

One of the town’s exquisite mansions, the 18th-century Casa Falcão is home to the Macedo de Cavaleiros’ Museum of Sacred Art.

The building is half the fun, with a stone coat of arms on its facade and a local tourist office.

As the exhibition goes on, you can’t tell what you will find when you come.

The museum has amassed a vast collection of liturgical treasures from chapels and churches across the city.

This may be a painting, a colored statue, a vestment, a reliquary, a vessel or a tabernacle.

2. Albufeira do Azibo

albufeira do azipo

The Azibo River was blocked by a dike in the early 1980s, creating a reservoir that is a regional source of drinking water and irrigates local farmland.

Over the past 35 years, the lake and its shores have become an oasis that attracts large numbers of birds.

Some stay for a while, such as storks, sandpipers or Montague harriers, which usually wander around in spring and summer.

While others like herons, cormorants and eagles are year-round residents.

The verdant banks are protected land with trails where you might spot deer in the woods or otters at the water’s edge.

Wild orchids also grow in the park, and the trails faintly echo prehistoric and Roman settlements

3. Azibo Beach

playa azbo

The Blue Flag beach on the reservoir has won national acclaim: in 2012 it was named one of the best beaches in the country at the “Seven Wonders of Portugal” award.

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It’s not a mystery either, as the beach has stunning golden sands lapped by clear lake water.

The real fun of this place is in all the amenities: there’s a floating platform for swimmers, a station where you can rent boats or pedal boats, playgrounds, restaurants, a large green space for picnics and rows of summer shade umbrella.

4. Aldeia de Chacim

Real Filatório De Chacim

At the eastern end of the Serra de Bornes, Chacim is a quaint old village on the slopes of vines, pine forests, olive trees and grazing cattle.

There used to be a silk processing factory with royal authorization in the village.

Real Filatório de Chacim was founded in 1788 using Italian silk spinning technology.

The factory flourished for a century, but was abandoned when the local silk industry collapsed in the 1800s.

Among the ruins is an interpretive center that revives the now-forgotten silk trade.

Set aside some time to visit the Convento de Balsamão, an 18th-century Immaculate Conception monastery set in a medieval fortification on a hilltop.

5. Museu do Mel e da Apicultura

Museu Do Mel E Da Apicultura

Taking advantage of the region’s beekeeping heritage (the only one in Portugal), this museum has two branches: near the old train station there is an exhibition of artifacts showing all the applications of beeswax, as well as antique equipment for work such as beehives, Suit and smoker.

You can also taste five types of honey and discover surprising differences depending on the type of plant the nectar comes from.

If you’re ready for more, there’s a “living museum” in a separate location where you can observe the hike behind a glass case.

You can also play the role of a beekeeper, put on a suit and open the hive to observe the process of making the hive.

6. Casa do Careto

casado cato

Probably the oldest tradition still observed in Portugal today is the “Careto”, a Celtic pagan ritual performed in the northeast of the country during Carnival.

The Caretos are a group of young people who wear fancy suits of black, yellow, green, blue and red quilts with wooden, brass or leather masks and rattles on their belts.

They all came out to wreak havoc on Shrove Tuesday and the previous Sunday.

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For anyone interested in folk culture, the village of Podence has a museum that showcases this tradition.

There is a mannequin wearing a historic rattle, suit and mask, while the museum traces the origins of this prehistoric custom.

7. Terras de Cavaleiros Geopark

Terras De Cavaleiros Geopark

Geologically speaking, Macedo de Cavaleiros is an exceptionally rich area, and the entire city has been designated a “Geopark”. The stones in this area are very old, dating back 540 million years.

The Morais ophiolite complex is an epic wedge of rock that was forced to rise from between the crust and mantle.

There are 42 locations of scientific interest throughout the realm, and terrain to conquer on 24 short walking trails.

One of them is Percurso Pedestre Geológico, where you will venture five kilometers across the ancient seabed.

You can learn more about Rota Geológica, connecting all the most fascinating sites.

Get facts about the environment, starting at the Interpretive Centre in Maciço de Morais.

8. Museu Municipal de Arqueologia – Coronel Albino Pereira Lopo

The town’s archaeological museum opened in September 2016 in the primary school building in Macedo de Cavaleiros.

It is named after Coronel Albino Pereira Lopo, a regional pioneer in the field of archaeology.

At the beginning of the 20th century, he wrote, he carried out the first archaeological survey of Bragança and established the city’s municipal museum.

Covering 5,000 years of the region’s history, this attraction recreates scenes from prehistoric and Roman times through scenes.

Behind the glass are fragments of prehistoric pottery, skeletons from Bronze Age tombs, and tools recovered from a Roman forge.

9. Igreja Matriz de Lamalonga

Igreja Matriz De Lamalonga

You can learn a lot about a town or village from a parish church.

Perhaps the prettiest in the Transmontano area is this one in Lamalonga.

According to the inscription on the front, it was consecrated in 1767, while the interior was installed a year later.

The great thing about the work being done is that in such a short time, the decoration is consistent and will be done by the same artist.

The carvings of the choir, the arches between the sanctuary and the nave, the windows, doors and altars are all superb.

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But the biggest resistance is the coffered ceiling, which has 55 lacquered panels lined with gilded wood.

10. Museu Rural de Salselas

Museu Rural De Salselas

The village of Salselas has a wonderful museum about the culture of the Transmontana region.

It studies the relationship between people and the countryside, starting with prehistoric hunter-gatherers, to domestication and agriculture.

You’ll follow the evolution of traditional crafts such as grain grinding, olive pressing and winemaking.

You’ll also gain insight into local wool and linen crafts, as well as the skills and tools needed by Transmontana’s blacksmiths, basket weavers, shoemakers, tailors and barbers.

There are historic appliances from every industry, as well as the interiors of pre-industrial family homes, including fireplaces, kitchens and bedrooms, all accompanied by ancient games, musical instruments and folk art.

11. Entrudo Chocalheiro

Entrudo Chocalheiro

Carnival in February or March is a special time for Macedo de Cavaleiros or Podence.

The festival has been dubbed the most authentic carnival in Portugal, and once those Caretos start to play pranks, it’s hard to disagree.

The fun lasts four days, from Saturday to Shrove Tuesday.

The schedule includes concerts, dance and food events.

Of course, Caretos looting the streets, wielding sticks, dancing to traditional bagpipe music and snatching single young women (no joke) is something not to be missed.

It all came to a head on Tuesday night when a huge portrait of Careto was burned on a hillside.

12. Food

steak

The other thing Macedo de Cavaleiros has been lingering with since the early days is the taste for game.

Wild boar (javali) are so popular that there is a small food fair at the end of January.

Fifteen restaurants participated in the event, serving char-grilled ribs and tenderloin, or wild boar in a bean casserole.

Winters can be cold across Montana, and the protein that keeps people going comes from grilled baby goats and chunks of grilled steak.

Turnip greens provide a much-needed vitamin and host its own festival in February, another point of pride for the region.

Finally, finish with something sweet, like rosquilhas, a doughnut with a cute knotted pattern.

Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Macedo de Cavaleros, Portugal
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