Circular Routes Stage
5 / 8 / 13 Km
Located near Ribeira do Seissal de Cima, at the top of a hill with a magnificent view, the Hermitage of Nossa Senhora das Neves is a holy place, dear to the local population. The path alternates between fresh valleys and narrow footpaths, traveling through ridges where the hiker’s gaze gets lost in the vast distance.
Surrounded by hillsides with magnificent cork tree forests, it is in the valleys (Vale de Figueira, Vale Fojo de Baixo and Vale do Poço) that the fertile lands of this route lie. At the summits (Senhora das Neves and Serra da Estrela) rare plants can be found, such as the Centaurea vicentina, endemic to southwestern Portugal. In numerous springs, tanks and wells, the abundant water gives life to the soil of these valleys. On the well of Vale Figueira, one can read the verses written by the people, showing their gratitude for this fertile land – “May God maintain your purity, in this valley of enchantment, you are a well of richness… “.
This route is rich in wild plants, which bloom throughout the year. In the winter you can find the hyacinths or the Iberian Milkvetch. In the spring, lavender, brooms, gum rock-rose, sage-leaved rock-rose, purple phlomis and hawthorn flourish. In May comes the sea squill, the oregano, the Cardoon, the Lady’s glove and the Mediterranean Fleabane. The strawberry tree, calamints and Lithodora prostrataare almost always in bloom. The heaths are especially abundant. The white heaths dominate the shrubs when they are in bloom. They include the Portuguese heath (Erica lusitanica), which flowers from December to March, after which the flowers of the tree heath (Erica arborea) appear and bloom until June. Tree heath is rare, so make sure to take the opportunity to appreciate it along your winter walks. Don’t forget to look for some of the most common birds along the route – the corn bunting, the blackbird, the great spotted woodpecker, the partridge, the cirl bunting, the european robin and the shrike.
It’s said the Virgin Mary once appeared at the top of this hill, so the people built a little chapel at the foot of the hill to worship her. The story goes that they had been gathering stones to build the chapel, when one day the stones miraculously appeared at the top of the hill. So that is where they ended up building the little chapel. In this sanctuary, probably built during the eighteenth century, vestiges of ancient defensive walls can be found from a once fortified settlement from the High Middle Ages – Islamic Period. A rectangular tank dug into the rock, with channels for directing water, is quite intriguing. Did the tank relate to the worshipping of water or other religious purpose? Could it have been a small grave? To this day it remains a mystery.
Where to start
Ribeira do Seissal
Between Seissal stream and the path ascending to the Chapel of Senhora das Neves, in a parking area with a Rota Vicentina information board and sign plate.
Rules and Recommendations
You can also start the hike in the village of Monte da Estrada.
Refreshments along the way
In Monte da Estrada or Ribeira do Seissal.
This course has three options, so be aware of the different markings.
Caretaker of this trail
Paula e Alexandre (Figueirinha Ecoturismo)
Padrinhos desde 2019
"Taking care of the Circular Route of Senhora das Neves is, for Figueirinha Ecoturismo, a natural activity within the scope of its sustainability policy. Environmental protection is essential for territory enhancement and a condition to improve the attractiveness of the interior. Since some years, we have ensured the maintenance of a walking route which was for discovering the area surrounding Figueirinha Ecotourism. Part of it integrates this Circular Route, guiding hikers through the cork oak and holm oak trees of Vale Figueira."