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Brandas and Inverneiras in Peneda-Gerês: the weather and village changes.

Brandas and inverneiras are part of a very old transhumance system used by the villages of the Soajo and Peneda-Gerês Mountains.
They are an age-old tradition, an important testimony to the ethnological heritage of this region and to the community life of other times.

It was essentially a survival system in which, in summer, the shepherds would go up to the mountain villages, the brandas, with their cattle and live there and cultivate the land as long as the weather was favourable to grazing at altitude. In autumn and winter, the shepherds would return to the inverneiras, villages sheltered by the high mountains that made it possible to withstand the harsh winters.

The “inverneiras” functioned as more permanent dwellings, while the “brandas” were considered seasonal dwellings and were generally located above 600m altitude, on plateaus or in high plains.

Transhumance is increasingly rare in the villages of the National Park of Peneda-Gerês but in some localities, such as Fafião, this tradition is still kept alive.

Nowadays most of these villages no longer serve this purpose and in some of them, only the buildings remain to compose a rural landscape that takes us to other times and other experiences.

The “brandas” and “inverneiras” are a reflection of the unique lifestyle of this region based on survival and subsistence and it is still possible to visit these villages and even stay in some of the houses that have been restored for rural tourism keeping the original features.

Brandas and Inverneiras: the 3 villages you must really visit:

1. Branda da Aveleira – Melgaço

Located in Gave, belonging to the municipality of Melgaço. This summer settlement is a small paradise located at an altitude of 1000m. It is believed to have existed since the 12th century and was active until the 60s/70s of the last century when the rural exodus left the villages almost deserted.

Currently, this farm has several houses dedicated to local accommodation and rural tourism and also a restaurant where the best of local gastronomy is served.

The essence and soul have been preserved and it is a place of unequalled beauty in pure communion with nature. Here you can visit the “cardenhas” – shepherds’ shelters with a typical stone construction – you can see the stone walls and the granite houses overlooking the meadows where the cattle graze and the cranes run or you can venture along the footpaths that leave from the village.

The sheer, stunning views and tranquillity are its best attributes.

imagem: CM Melgaço

2. Inverneira de Pontes – Melgaço

This wintering house is located 10 minutes’ drive from Castro Laboreiro, in the heart of the Peneda-Gerês National Park. Pontes is a traditional wintering house that was uninhabited for about a decade and was recently renovated to receive visitors in a Rural Tourism regime.

This is a family project that has brought life to this once-forgotten wintering area. More than just restoring the houses, it aims to be a tribute to the Castro culture, and to tell the story of the people who carried the “house on their backs”.

In this picturesque village, it is possible to experience the way of life of other times and visit the heritage built in communion with nature, from the typical houses, the mills, the community ovens, the aqueduct and the leafy waterfall. Feel inspired to visit this wintering place.

imagem: CM Melgaço

3. Branda (Scientific) of São Bento do Cando – Arcos de Valdevez

This village located in the parish of Gavieria, in Arcos de Valdevez, is known for the pilgrimage to São Bento and to this day it is an important place of pilgrimage. The chapel with the same name is very old and probably dates back to the foundation of the Ermelo monastery, and one of its current bells dates back to 1751.

With a typically Minho landscape framing this village, this hamlet still has about 10 inhabitants.

In 2023 the Arcos de Valdevez City Council plans to create a scientific research station in this slum, using the houses as dormitories, laboratories and workshop spaces.

The project of the São Bento do Cando Scientific Brandas will support research in the areas of restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems in Europe, as well as the sustainable management of natural resources, particularly mountains, “which are veritable sentinels of climate change”.

imagem: CM Arcos de Valdevez

Would you like to visit or stay overnight in one of these villages?

The watchword is quiet. Staying overnight in these villages you will have the opportunity to wake up to the sounds of birds or the rattles of the cows. You can stroll through picturesque streets and breathe in the fresh mountain air. And if you like nature, you can also venture out on trails which take you to lakes and waterfalls of crystalline water and get to know the autochthonous fauna and flora.

At Go2Nature we take you to get to know the corners of Peneda-Gerês in a genuine way, where we always try to create a symbiosis between visitors, nature and the local population by promoting authentic products and experiences.

We have guided programmes in which we take you to get to know every corner, accompanied by guides who know the territory like the back of their hand. Or, if you prefer, we can create tailor-made programmes so that you can enjoy your trip in the best possible way at your own pace.

Discover all our travel programmes here and don’t hesitate to contact us.