Penha Garcia, a small Portuguese village near the Spanish border is known locally for its trilobite fossils and river beach. Penha Garcia makes a nice add on trip if you are visiting Monsanto for the day – hike up Monsanto in the morning and then relax at Penha Garcia river beach in the afternoon.
Is it worth visiting Penha Garcia?
Penha Garcia is extremely small and I wouldn’t say it’s worth visiting on its own (unless you are specifically looking for a quiet and peaceful place). There is a nice Church and the river beach is very relaxing. I wouldn’t go there as the only place in the region, combine it with a visit to Monsanto or Idanha-a-Velha (or both) and this can be done as a day trip from Castelo Branco.
How to get there
You need a car to get to Penha Garcia and it’s around an hour away from Castelo Branco. I would recommend booking the tour with Get your Guide that includes Idanha-a-Velha, Monsanto and Penha Garcia – you get to see three places all in one day. he tours are run by Francisco from Beira Tours.
History of Penha Garcia
The village is crowned by the castle built by D. Sancho I, the second king of Portugal, which shows us that the area was once part of the kingdom’s strategic defence system. In the 14th century, both the town and castle were given to the Order of the Knights Templar, who fought hard to defend the Christian territory. Prior to that, the land belonged to a certain lord of the manor, D. Garcia Mendes, whose name was given to the village (https://www.visitportugal.com/en/NR/exeres/0B6B86DA-668F-491F-9A81-D5619E5F472A)
The reservoir was dam was built in 1979 on the Ponsul River just before the gorge and this meant that the river beach could form (see below).
The castle is just one tower left standing today. It is worth seeing the Church of Our Lady of Conception and also the pillory post (most old villages and cities had these posts for sordid torture and humiliation!)
Penha Garcia River Beach and Waterfall
The river beach is a really pleasant surprise as it appears to be tucked away, but when you go into the valley you will find a decked area, a natural waterfall and a swimming area carved into the rock. There is also a shaded area to relax with trees and grass. Take a book, swimming costume and beach towel. Be aware that some locals bathe naked – Portugal is very liberal in that respect so don’t let it surprise you.
Trilobite Fossils and Tracks
The rock has been pushed up during the formation of Pangea, and this has revealed the layers in the rock that contain fossils over 480 million years old. During prehistoric times, the waters were full of trilobites (which became extinct over 250 million years ago) and tracks of these creatures can clearly be seen on the rock faces around the river beach and beyond.
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