The village of Sistelo, entitled “Little Portuguese Tibet”, has a unique identity mark all over the country. The terraces, shaped for hundreds of years by the force of man with the purpose of transforming hostile mountainous terrain into arable land for the production of grains and pasture for indigenous cow breeds, lead the waters through a specific irrigation system, transforming a mountainous territory in an eco sustainable location for agriculture and livestock.
Seen from the top of the mountain, the village looks like a puzzle where the houses fit into the hostile terrain. The traditional granite houses, the mills and the granaries lose their dimension due to the grandeur of that sloping valley, which is accompanied by the Vez River.
The path of the Sistelo Walkways, and the trail before and after the walkway itself, allows you to see the Viscount Sistelo Castle, the “Tibet” terraces, the laundromat, the Eighteenth Century Bridge, some abandoned mills, ancient, old natural shelters Ranger houses. Along the trail you can also see some of the most iconic spots in the region, such as the Nossa Senhora dos Aflitos Chapel and the Chapels of Santo António, São João Evangelista, Senhora dos Remédios and Senhora do Carmo and climb to the viewpoint of Chã da Armada and admire the panoramic view. At the end of the walkway there is the Sistelo Lunch Park.
The municipality of Arcos de Valdevez and Ecovia do Vez, where the Sistelo Footbridge is located, are part of the World Biosphere Reserve. These reserves are defined by UNESCO as living laboratories for the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems and species and platforms for research, monitoring, education and awareness. Rio Vez and Lima River are also included in the list of Community Importance Sites of the Natura 2000 Network (European Union Ecological Network), due to the importance and rarity of their fauna and flora.
The green terraces of the region, along the river Vez, gave it the nickname of Portuguese Tibet. The terraces are man-made, worked by the population, and representative of their relationship with nature. Of medieval origin, Sistelo soon saw his territory organized by human action, with the man guarding the best insolated areas for the granaries, using the river bank to set up mills, and taking advantage of the mountain heights. to the narrow terraces and levadas where corn has been cultivated since the 16th century.
The cultural landscape of Sistelo Village is classified as a national monument. It was the first recognition of its kind to be awarded in Portugal, justified by the decree that the Sistelo Cultural Landscape is “composed of a natural space of superior landscape, natural and environmental quality, to which is added a remarkable ethnographic and historical heritage whose preservation and authenticity is essential to ensure”.