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Oliveira do Hospital

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As its name indicates, this land belonged once to the Knights Hospitallers and was given to them in 1120 by the mother of Afonso Henriques, Portugal's first king.

The presence of these monks and warriors is recalled at the Mother Church (13th century) and at the tomb of one of the town's founders, Domingues Joanes, surmounted by an equestrian statue.

The town is situated on a gentle slope crossed by the river of Cavalos and from where the snow-capped heights of Serra da Estrela (the highest mountain in Portugal) can already be seen.

Grazing sheep was for long one of the main activities, but over the last decades Oliveira do Hospital has prospered and become a lively industrial town; it is worth visiting the Mother Church, the 18th-century Santana Chapel and the pillory.

At Lourosa (12 kilometres to the south), the famous church of Saint Peter dates from the 10th century but includes features from other periods: the porch is Visigothic, and the ten great arches inside, as well as the cemetery escavated beneath the building, reflect the Roman occupation.

In the region, it is worth exploring the deep valleys dug by the rivers Alva and Alvoco, with unforgettable views of the green and irregular landscape and picturesque villages such as Aldeia das Dez, looking like a Nativity scene with its houses climbing up a hill and streets turned into staircases, or Avô, exhibiting granite houses from the 16th and 17th centuries, an interesting pillory and the remains of a castle.

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