Location: Viana do Castelo, Minho Region, North of Portugal;
Meeting Point: The front of the Sacred Heart Basilica of Jesus of Santa Luzia;
End Point: Meeting point;
Difficulty level: Easy; Length: 10.2 km; Time: 3h 00m; Type: Circular;
Points of Interest: Santa Luzia Sanctuary; Arches of Fincão; São Mamede village; Aldeia Velha (Old Village); Casa do Radar (Radar House); Military Shooting Range; SantaLuzia’s Belvedere and Citânia the old city.
Trail map: PR9 – Trilho dos Canos de Água
Viana do Castelo is an excellent location for those who are interested in living closer to nature, as it bathes both in the Lima river and the sea, and is sheltered from the hardships of the north wind by the leafy mountain of Santa Luzia, that houses a wide variety of interesting monuments. It also offers a beautiful extensive coast of beaches, providing conditions for nautical and mountain sports, and the most qualified expressions of culture in ethnography, folklore, artisanship and gastronomy.
It is in this fascinating scenario, capital of the Viana District, that the Secção de Montanhismo e Natureza da Sociedade de Instrução e Recreio de Carreço (Mountaineering and Nature Department of the Education and Recreational Society of the Carreço village), otherwise known as Amigos do Chão, promoted integrated hiking leading to the markings of two footpaths of small route, in the mountain of Santa Luzia, called PR8 – Trilho do Chão (PR8 – Ground Trail) and PR9 – Trilho dos Canos de Água (PR9 – Water Pipes Trail), giving a strong contribution for tourism and sports in the region. The one covered here is PR9, inaugurated on July 27th 2003, in the annual program of the Federação Portuguesa de Campismo e Montanhismo (Portuguese Federation of Camping and Hiking).
We gathered around a table on an open patio of a little caravan café, feeling extremely lucky as it has been a very rainy spring but the sun came out to allow us on our journey.
After some time, you start to understand the reason of existence of this trail: multiple pipelines that supply water to the city of Viana. We arrived to the Arcos de Fincão (Arches of Fincão), two arcs of parallel aqueduct that catch water from the mountain’s water mines and through which follows the trail.
From the arches, we encountered something completely different: the trail passes over the old granite pipelines! And do these pipes curve!
We decided to take a detour to a water mine, but then returned to the original path.
A dirt road took us to the village of São Mamede, where the Festa do Mel (Honey Fest) takes place during the month of August, next to the chapel.
A signboard indicates the direction of Aldeia Velha (Old Village), the place where São Mamede had its origin.
On arriving to Alto do Frade, we found a peculiar Plane Maisonette, called Casinha dos Aviões (Little House of Planes) or Casa do Radar (Radar House). This is an unfinished building that was built during World War II to control air traffic. Unfortunately for the contractor, the war ended leaving the construction with no purpose. It is worth climbing to the top of the tower to admire the landscape.
We even made a friend along the way! Since ancient times Santa Luzia was used for grazing of cattle, and where scrub and gorse were extracted, required to produce manure for agriculture. (Sometimes, you can catch wild horses as well!)
Isn’t he adorable??
The prelude of the return to the asphalted road, past the Carreira de Tiro Militar (Millitary Shooting Range), took us back to the starting point, past the Water Tank Tower, a belvedere, and the Citânia de Santa Luzia, the ruins of the old city. The Citânia, an archaeological site of Castro culture, is one of the most important for the study of Romanization in the North of Portugal.
Nearing the end, just behind the Basilica stood three big stones with engraved messages about the site. Since I am familiar with a bit of this city’s history these messages were a great addition to the end of our adventure. Although they are much more meaningful and poetic in Portuguese, I thought it would be nice to translate.
A welcoming location where visitors encounter peace and tranquility, in association with its history and culture.
Santa Luzia is a natural beauty!
Unfortunately, we did not have more time on hands, but I recommend complementing this trail with a few other of the landmark’s great experiences, although additional, symbolic, but well worth costs apply:
– You can reach the Santa Luzia Sanctuary by riding the yellow electric funicular;
– If you wish, you may raise the difficulty level of the trail by climbing the stairway, parallel to the funicular, made up of 659 steps;
– Visit one of the many Pousadas de Portugal (Portuguese Lodges) at the Santa Luzia Hotel and indulge in a good Portuguese coffee whilst contemplating the scenery;
– Climb up the Basilica’s Zimborium to hace upon a clear panoramic view of this lovely city; – Visit the Citânia de Santa Luzia; the ruins of the old city.
For dinner we treated ourselves to Sushi! We had a really nice time and were still feeling that extra Serotonin, thanks to the lovely sunshine.
A perfect day to my 28th birthday!