It is said that this village in the municipality of Terras de Bouro, Braga district, was founded in the first century during roman times. Located downstream from the Rio Homem, it became a peaceful place to live over the years, until 1967 when the construction of a dam began.
It was clear that if the dam were to be built, the village would flood and hundreds would lose their homes. So the Portuguese Electricity Company (Companhia Portuguesa de Electricidade) offered a small amount of money to each of the about 300 villagers to pack up and move away from what was soon to be Portugal’s very own Atlantis.
For every square metre of land they received half an escudo, which Wikipedia tells me, is equivalent to the price of half a sardine. For a square metre of structure, the company paid the villagers five escudos.
Left with little choice, one by one they packed their belongings and everything that could possibly be detached from the houses was taken with them, including roof tiles, windows and doors. By 1971 the last villager bid farewell to what he used to call home, which now was just a bunch of barren walls that resembled a ghost town.
In 1972 the village and all of its history and memories were submerged in water.
Vilarinho Das Furnas - SCUBA DIVING - Submerged village visit
Now to actually see this magical place, you have to be smart about your timing. Only during a particularly dry season will the historic ruins of the drowned village show their full beauty to the people visiting.
If you do end up going to Vilarinho da Furna, you will notice that multiple efforts have taken place to commemorate this unique village. A museum, that opened in May of 1989, in São João do Campo, was built out of stones from two of the houses from the village and inside you can find tools, clothes and paintings from inhabitants showing what life there looked like. Alternatively you could also rent a boat with a transparent bottom to go and explore the area.
The former villagers grouped up in 1985 to create the Association of Former-Inhabitants of Vilarinho da Furna (Associação dos Antigos Habitantes de Vilarinho da Furna) to promote and defend their collective and cultural heritage. Among the goals that this association has successfully reached are the creation of an animal reserve, reforestation, and the development of an underwater museum.
I think this place is a great addition to anyone’s travel list as long as you make sure to go at the right time of year, otherwise this exceptionally well hidden gem, will stay exactly that, hidden.