Two things catch your eye on the approach to Belmonte: the ancient castle and the church. (There's also an ugly water tower, a reminder that the town is now a major clothing-manufacturing center.) Belmonte's importance can be traced back to Roman times, when it was a key outpost on the road between Mérida, the Lusitanian capital, and Guarda. Elements of this road are still visible.

Ask someone from Portugal—or better yet, from Brazil—what Belmonte is best known for, and the answer will undoubtedly be Pedro Álvares Cabral. In 1500 this native son "discovered" Brazil and, in doing so, helped make Portugal one of the richest, most powerful nations of that era. The monument, in the town center, is an important stop for Brazilian visitors.

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