A popular river bank, beautiful waterfalls and an ancient fossil
We visited this extraordinary river bank near Vila de Rei and thus near the geographical centre of Portugal on a holiday in the middle of summer. A first stop at the Miradouro do Penedo Furado viewing platform gave us a spectacular view of the river beach, the beautiful Ribeira do Codes valley, through which a wooden walkway has been running since June 2019, and the Zezere River, dammed by the Castelo do Bode dam. Unfortunately, from up here, we could already see that many cars and other people had also gathered here on this hot summer day.
When this land was still united
with all land at the South Pole,
waiting for its great endless journey,
a tribolite crawled through the mud,
leaving behind an ancient trail
that, seen from countless eyes,
has never revealed its secret.
This river bank is easily accessible by car, which certainly explains its popularity. There is a large cafe, a picnic area with barbecue ovens and toilets. The beach itself consists of a long and not very deep swimming pool that replaces part of the river’s course. It is situated in the shade and is therefore very suitable for bathing with small children. However, during our visit, this part was more or less overcrowded and loud music was heard from the boxes we brought with us.
That being said, you can use the newly built Passadiço and walk for a few minutes into a beautiful valley with waterfalls and small lakes, where you can enjoy a more relaxed swim. You can also jump into the wonderfully refreshing water or to extend the hike a little.
Before you reach the beginning of the wooden walkway, you can climb a few metres up the slope on the right side of the somewhat-dilapidated stairs and reach the Bicha Pintada, the painted snake. Scientists believe that this is the 480 million year old fossilised trail of tribolites, the long extinct arthropods of the Palaeozoic era that were at the top of the food chain at the time and populated the oceans of the entire earth. However, there is another legend about the painted snake in the surrounding area.
The Legend of the Bicha Pintada
In this valley, a poor shepherdess met a beautiful, rich Arab woman singing a sad song and combing her hair with a golden comb and was promised the golden comb and a golden lamb in return for a kiss and the conversion to Islam. As the shepherdess was confronted with her own poverty, the Arab suddenly turned into a big snake and only the sign of the cross that the shepherdess made out of fear at the last second drove the angry snake into her cave. She left the trace in the rock. Supposedly, she comes out every now and then and still tries to outwit the people.
This typical Portuguese legend may not convincingly explain the fossilisation, but it gives you an impression of the fears, worries, desires and fantasies of the local rural population over the past centuries.
The river bank at Praia Fluvial do Penedo Furado has a lot to offer: a large, shady natural swimming pool, a beautiful wooden walkway, a mysterious fossil, spectacular waterfalls and small ponds connected by streams where your children can play extensively. Avoid visits on weekends or holidays.
Take exit 10 to Vila de Rei on the A23, then follow the N2 for about 17 km to Milreu and follow the signs to Peneda Furado.
GPS (Parking area):
A small road leads directly to the river bank. There are some parking spaces there.
Protective bathing shoes are highly recommended for a relaxing swim on the river beach and in the small ponds by the waterfalls, as well as in the brook. For small children who aren’t swimming yet, wings are also useful.
Right next to the river bank, there is a bar offering drinks and snacks. Directly adjacent is a picnic area with barbecue facilities.