The Transmontana tourist area is basically a region covering the north-east to the central-east part of Portugal, and covering areas know as the Trás-os-Montes, Beira Alta and Beira Baixa. The main towns of this vast Transmontana area are Bragança, Castelo Branco, Chaves, Guarda, Vila Real and Viseu. Most of these towns are close to the Portuguese border to Spain and have been historically much involved in defending the kingdom. The only other main town in this region is Covilhã which was a popular settlement for shepherds and was granted its status as a town in 1166. It later developed as a centre for the textile industry but in more recent history was a health resort due to its good air and waters.
Together, they represent most of the mountainous areas of Portugal to include, Serra de Aço, Serra de Alvão, Serra de Bornes, Serra da Estrela, Serra da Lapa, Serra do Larouco, Serra da Leomil, Serra do Mogadouro, Serra de Montezinho, Serra da Morofa and Serra de Reboredo.
Of all these mountain ranges of the most prominent is the Serra da Estrela that rises to 1.993 metres (6.539 feet).
During the winter the very top area of Serra da Estrela provides a ski resort but with somewhat limited runs for any experienced ski enthusiast.
The past weather conditions have not been sufficiently reliable to create a large resort for this sport. The bare granite of this range of mountains has virtually insufficient vegetation to support more than the grazing of sheep. These sheep provide the most rated cheese of all in Portugal and is known by the trade name of "Serra".
Like most mountain areas this is a popular location for walkers offering fascinating flora and panoramic views. The area has also developed a special breed of dog after which it is named. These dogs are generally prove to be very intelligent, brave and loyal to their owners. Their thick heavy coat helps as a natural protection to survive the regions cold winter climate.
This Transmontana area also abounds in historic castles which acted from medieval times as a line of defence against the often invading Spanish and French armies. In many town visitors can find castles and forts that have for the better part withstood the results of battles and misfortune. Many of these monuments are associated with small medieval villages and even standing alone in the countryside.
Starting from the northern boarder the most interesting locations are Montalegre, Chaves, Monforte de Rio Livre, Bragança, Algoso, Ansiães, Numão and Freixo de Espada á Cinta. Moving further south there is Penedono, Marialva, Castelo Rodrigo, Trancoso, Pihel, Almeida, Celorico da Beira, Linhares, Belmonte, Sabugal, Sortleha, Penamacor, Monsanto and Idana-a-Velha.
Economically this whole area is generally considered the poorest in Portugal and it has been a tradition for many of the younger people of this area to emigrate to other countries in order to make a sufficiently good living to be able to send funds back to assist their families.
An exception to this situation can be found on the lower slopes of mountain ranges, and in the valleys where the locals reap their living from forms of agriculture.
A particularly richer region is to be found in the middle River Douro area which has concentrated for some centuries on the maintaining of vineyards for the important production of some of Portugal's fine wines and the even more famous "port wine".
Visitors may visit or join conducted tours of most of these vineyards and sample their produce. An interesting historical fact is that in 1756 the foundation of the "Companhia da Agricultura dos Vinhos do Alto Douro was the first demarcation of wine areas introduced in the whole world.
An very interesting way to see and feel the true culture and history of this region is to stay in one of the many Pousadas, most of which are heavily steeped in local atmosphere and with historic architecture of the region.