Lost between the Gerês and Amarela mountains, in the Portuguese region of Minho, it still emerges from the waters during particularly dry periods, a charming village whose walls, now in ruins, tell a story of 2000 years.
It’s about Vilarinho da Furna (or Vilarinho das Furnas), a hamlet of the municipality of Terras de Bouro in the district of Braga in Portugal. Today, it is defined as “extinct community village“, submerged by the waters of the reservoir of the same name, but it is not exactly like that: in fact, the remains that are still preserved today, doors, windows and ancient walls, keep its memory alive.
The story of the Portuguese village now underwater
There are no certain elements to date the foundation of Vilarinho da Furna, however, oral sources report that the village was founded by the Romans in the 1st century AD and which prospered over the centuries boasting great ethnographic richness.
Then, in 1967, when it had almost 300 inhabitants spread over 80 houses, it began the construction of a dam to provide hydroelectric energy to the entire region. It was at that moment that the fate of Vilarinho da Furna changed radically: amid protests, the electric company paid the residents for abandon their homessince the new basin would have completely submerged the ancient village, flooding the areas of the Homen River.
In 1971, the last inhabitant left their home and the following year Vilarinho was swallowed by the water disappearing from sight but not forever.
From time to time, when the dam is emptied for cleaning and maintenance or the season is very drythe bare walls, the paths and the walls of the old village come back to light showing themselves in all their decadent charm and attracting the attention of many curious visitors.
The families who had to relocate are now scattered across the various lands of the Braga districts and the Vilarinho da Furna properties still belong to their descendants, but the use of the dam is exclusive to the Portuguese state.
The museum that protects its ethnographic heritage
Together with the village, in 1972 a considerable ethnographic heritage was also submerged which today is however protected and represented in the exhibition itinerary of the dedicated museumwith particular regard to agro-pastoral activitiesto experiences, to houses, to community spirit of its people and the countless stories of the past.
The museum, built near São João do Campo using the stones of two houses in Vilarinho and inaugurated by Prime Minister Cavaco Silva on 14 maggio 1989houses an interesting collection of clothes, agricultural tools and paintings depicting the daily life of the village.
The story of Vilarinho da Furna, although buried under water, has not disappeared.
In addition to the museum, during all these years there have been many commemoration initiatives and, as mentioned, when the level of the reservoir drops, the “ghost town” or “Portuguese Atlantis” still shows itself to the joy and surprise of the inhabitants and tourists.
The locals, with boats with a transparent bottomoffer the opportunity to get close to the village to try to see the ruins: however, since the water levels fluctuate, it is dangerous to get too close and it is better to wait for a period of drought.
Furthermore, the area is perfect for walking and trekking along paths that are surprising to say the least.