The village of Agua Formosa is documented as one of the oldest in the region of Vila de Rei. The region
was created by royal charter of King Dinis on September 19, 1285, with very old
records of its foundation remaining. From the fourteenth century, the Knights
Templar and the Order of Christ contributed to the settlement, defence and
development of these lands. Later, in 1513, King Manuel I renewed the charter.
The Celts and later the Romans were the first known inhabitants, who were particularly
engaged in gold mining as a most profitable activity. The traces of this can
still be seen today until today now, in the many quarries throughout the region.
Yet the region and Vila de Rei, zone is geologically very old, and it is possible find fossils and
other prehistoric remains. This suggests that peoples lived here even before.
More recently, in 1950, the largest dam in the country, Castelo do Bode, was constructed
taking advantage of the river Zêzere and the surrounding country side. Through
this some villages were submerged and some historical connections were
interrupted or diverted. The landscape adapts.
The people who settled in Agua Formosa had always been in plenty of water – their greatest
asset. The spring which gives its name to the village is just a stone’s throw
from the center and has been a meeting point for many generations.
The village lies at the convergence of two streams. Indeed the fact that all the base of the
village was rocky allowed the houses to be built in very resistant stone, but
at the same forced the villagers to channel the water beneath the streets and
houses as it could not drain naturally. This also meant that stone walls had to
be built above to hold fertile soil which was brought in to make gardens near
A notable detail of this village is the existence of shared threshing area for drying various
cereals and pulses (chickpeas and beans). These were left over a flagstone facing the sun which would continue to release heat at
Another aspect of the communal practice in the village was the use of ovens and sharing water from
wells, mines and dams with strict rules, which in the summer forced families to
water their crops to water even at night.
The Ribeira da Galega that crosses the village became the driving force of the the livelihoods of the inhabitants. It
allowed numerous gardens to be created and cultivated along its banks. For this
large walls were built in shale to control the force of the water and at the
same time cultivate more land, using soil that was brought from the surrounding
forests for the cultivation of vegetables and cereals.
The water of Ribeira da Galega was dammed and channelled
though ditches, sometimes carved in rock, helping irrigate gardens and and power
water mills for milling cereals to make flour from corn flour, rye, wheat and
North of Agua Formosa there is the Lagar de Água Alta (high
water mill), and to the south of the Lagar
da Ferrugenta (rusty mill) which was renovated in 1953 for a hydraulic press.
Along the river there are numerous weirs; small dams that are known as ponds. There's Otter Pond, Hunter
Pond, Mill Pond, among others. Their role was to raise the water level and
drive it further, while creating a small reservoir which served as a water tank
in the summer. At the same time the effect
Of waterfalls created water reserve that served for watering, washing of clothes and baths.
Within a few hundred meters
mines full of water can be found in the hillsides.
Fauna and Flora
Along the river one can see large numbers of birds and a fish that can only be found in Portugal,
the Boga (Rutilus lusitanicus), but
also other more common species like the Mediterranean turtle (Mauremys leprous)
which attests to the purity of the water. Recently otters (Lutra lutra) have
been sighted again which is sign that wildlife is recovering its territory, in
balance with the human population which has declined.
In the forest, as well as the predominant wild pine (Pinus pinaster), many other species of
tree can be found. We highlight the medronheiro
(Arbutus unedo), elsewhere known as the "strawberry tree", which
continues to be used to make a splendid traditional spirit.
In addition, the pleasant smell of rosemary, rock rose, heather or even eucalyptus, make walks
into moments of pure pleasure for body and soul.
Agua Formosa being located in the geographic center of Portugal (Vila de Rei) makes it the
most southerly shale village of Portugal. It is closer to the capital makes it
the gateway for those coming from the South to meet the network of 27 villages,
or to finish off a trip for those who come from the north.
Whatever direction one may come from, a great visit to this charming Village is