Mosteiro de São João de Tarouca

The Douro

The stunning, massive yet skeletal remains of Portugal’s first Cistercian monastery, founded in 1124, stand eerily in the wooded Barosa valley below the Serra de Leomil, 15km southeast of Lamego. There is beauty in the decay, as a stream bisects the walls backed by a bowl of terraced hills. The monastery fell into ruin after religious orders were abolished in 1834.

Only the church, considerably altered in the 17th century, stands intact among the ghostly ruins of the monks’ quarters. Its treasures include the gilded choir stalls, 18th-century azulejos (hand-painted tiles), and the church’s pride and joy – a luminous São Pedro painted by Gaspar Vaz, contemporary and colleague of Grão Vasco.

From Lamego, Joalto/EAVT has several services each weekday (fewer on weekends) to Tarouca (€2.30).