North of Portugal
To the south, it is often joked that the north of the country starts just above Coimbra, as if a single place could encompass such a vast and different region. This is joked about because of the accent and slang, and most of the time it is referring to Porto. But there is so much more worth discovering.
Obviously, Porto is a must-visit stop and the city cannot be fully appreciated in just a short amount of time. You should walk through the streets, discover the snacks that make history in the city’s famous houses, climb the Torre dos Clérigos, visit Livraria Lello, enjoy the gardens overlooking the Douro River, devour a francesinha, and go down to Ribeira, one of the oldest and most beautiful areas of the city. Walking across the D. Luís Bridge, on the other side of the river, is the Cais de Gaia, with many boats inviting you to take a ride on the Douro. A river that deserves to be explored in all its glory in the region that bears its name, the Douro.
It is hard not to feel small in the vastness of the Alto Douro Vinhateiro. Green is the dominant color of the landscape, from the terraced vineyards to the river that surrounds the valleys. Here are some of the largest and most well-known wine estates, almost all of which have visiting and tasting programs. While a boat trip up and down the Douro is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the singular landscape, don’t dismiss a car adventure, driving through viewpoints with breathtaking views. Try driving the National Road 222, between Peso da Régua and Pinhão, along the left side of the river – in 27 kilometers, expect 93 curves, there aren’t many roads like this. If driving is not an option, there is always the train, which follows the course of the river.
But there is more to the north, a land also made of sea, although diving into these beaches can be, for some, almost a radical activity. The waters are cold, indeed, but perfect for water sports. With the advantage of not finding such crowded (and beautiful) sands as in the south. From Matosinhos to Caminha, the difficulty may be choosing where to place your towel, knowing that any area will be a surprise, where it will also be worth reserving a table, whether for eating fresh fish, seafood or even more typical dishes from the region. Viana do Castelo is the perfect example of this: the sea is on one side, the river on the other, the mountain is the background scenery and the dishes are always abundant, like a good goat or Minho-style pork.
Exploring the Alto Minho, there will be no shortage of good traditional cuisine, green wine (especially in Melgaço and Monção), remote villages, mountains, and valleys. In Ponte de Lima, you will discover the oldest village in Portugal; in Paredes de Coura and Vilar de Mouros, two of the music festivals with the most history in the country.
Kilometers on Nacional 222
Curves at Nacional 222
Kilometers on the Douro River
The Peneda-Gerês National Park, in the extreme northwest of Portugal, between Alto Minho and Trás-os-Montes, is a bucolic paradise. It can be a destination for those who want to honor the art of doing nothing, taking advantage of the tranquility of the surroundings, or the right choice for adventure. There are several trails and walks, sports and adventure, and many places to dive, some with surprising waterfalls, not always easy to access. A scenery that, by the way, repeats itself throughout Trás-os-Montes.
From Lisbon, the trip may seem long, but it will be worth every kilometer. Did you know that the easternmost point in Portugal is located in Paradela, in Miranda do Douro? And that in this area you can visit the six castles that formed the old defensive structure of the border? They are located in Bragança, Algoso, Penas Róias, Mogadouro, Miranda do Douro, and Vinhais.
Enjoy the North of Portugal.
Enjoy the experience.