Northern Portugal has so much to offer! We start our road-trip from the city of Porto, all the way up to the northern border of the country, the Peneda-Geres National Park. Through our trip, we visited the sights following the order below.
We will come across its old name all the time: Oporto is an important economic and commercial center of Portugal. You can get into the city from the airport by bus or by metro, and it is worth looking for accommodation in the central parts, as everything is at a walkable distance. You can find a detailed article about the pearl of Portugal by clicking here!
Our tried and tested option is Madlobos Rent a Car – Porto. In high season, it’s worth booking the car in advance, because they sell out quickly! A 4×4 option is not necessary, the roads are good in the mountains as well as in other parts of the rural areas. It’s worth renting the car with insurance covering everything, so you don’t have to worry about small stones and minor scratches.
It has been reported in our traveling community that tourists’ cars are often broken into around Lisbon, so it is worth leaving the car in a guarded parking lots. The insurance company only pays compensation for stolen goods under special conditions, one of which can be the paid or guarded parking. We have not experienced anything similar in the northern part of the country, the danger is probably low in non-touristy parts, in more touristy parts there is guarded and mostly paid parking everywhere (National Park, Paiva Trail).
Paiva walkways- Passadiços do Paiva
- Route: Porto — Paiva walkways
- Distance: 72 km (1,5 hour)
Sneak some active recreation into the day: the Paiva trail will be on the way to a UNESCO World Heritage site anyway, so it’s just a minor detour! Tickets can be bought from here.
Arouca-híd — the world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge
- Route: Paiva-trail — Arouca-brigde
- Distance: 800 m, walkable
The world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge close to the Paiva trails. Unfortunately, it was opened after we were there, so we didn’t had a chance to try it. It is more than 500 meters long, across the Paiva Gorge.
Douro-valley: world-famous wines (UNESCO)
- Route: Arouca-bridge — Pinhão — Miradouro de Casal de Loivos — Miradouro Filoxera
- Distance: 80 km to the Douro river to get to the region (1,5 hours)
The most anticipated part of the trip: meandering through the valleys of the Douro River in northern Portugal in search of wine! Our car rolls along narrow mountain roads, through small villages, up the mountain and then down into the valley, again and again. The highest peaks of the area north of the Douro River appear on the horizon, which are only 1,200-1,500 meters high, although they seem huge.
- St. Leonardo de Galafura
- Miradouro de Casal de Loivos
- Miradouro Filoxera
- Tours from Porto: you can choose and book here
- Organizing for yourself: the keyword is “Quinta”, which indicates villas and wine estates, you can click here to select according to opening hours and price.
When we read about the region, we also come across Hungarian-related information: the Douro Valley is the third regulated wine region in the world, after Italy’s Chianti and Tokaj. Tokaj has been regulated since 1737, while the Douro Valley was designated in 1756, with 334 rocks covering a total area of 24,600 hectares. I would show you the beautiful, typical vine terraces, but most of them are hidden under the fog, so we don’t see much of them.
Amarante: fairytale town
- Útvonal: Miradouro Filoxera — Amarente
- Távolság: 65 km (1 hour)
In the small town of Amarante, you will find everything that is stereotypically Portuguese! Narrow streets with colorful medieval houses, churches of different ages and a charming river with a picturesque bridge.
Things to see
- Sâo Goncalo church: Built in 1540, it is a baroque style church.
- Ponte de São Gonçalo: beautiful arched granite bridge over the Tâmega river. You can walk along the banks of the river around the old town.
- Séta az óvárosban: the central parts are worth a walk on the cozy cobblestone streets.
- Bisalhães: their black pots made with traditional methods are protected as UNESCO intellectual cultural heritage
Guimarães: Cradle of Portugal (UNESCO)
- Útvonal: Amarente — Guimarães
- Távolság: 50 km (40 minutes)
We are in the cradle of Portugal, in the medieval city center of a small town: Guimarães. According to tradition, the Portuguese language and identity were first formed in this region, and it was here that Portugal’s independence was first proclaimed! It also served as the first capital of Portugal.
Portuguese independence, was a glorious achievement, but the region was forced to defend itself countless times, from the Spanish duchies, and from the French conquerors. The city preserves the imprints of different ages, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is worth observing the traditional architectural style of the houses: the lower part was built of stone, while the upper floors were built of logs, and although this solution did not spread in Portugal, it was quickly learned in the colonies!
Things to see
- Guimarães vára
- Centro Histórico: séta a tömeg nélküli, élő múzeum hangulatát keltő központban
- Nossa Senhora da Oliveira katedrális
- Teleférico: felvonóval a 600 méter magasságú Penha hegyre is fel lehet menni, ahonnan panorámakilátás nyílik a városra (Parque Campismo da Penha)
- Padrão do Salado: az 1340 mórok ellen vívott sikeres csatának állít emléket, körülötte kiülős éttermek, középkori házsorok vannak, érdemes itt ebédelni.
Braga: where life slows down
- Útvonal: Guimarães — Braga
- Távolság: 25 km (30 minutes)
The visitor is greeted here by a quiet bustle. Its attractions are located in the central part, which are easy to reach on foot. You should prepare for a leisurely city tour, and early evening dinners with delicious local wines.
The best is Café Astoria where you can try traditional bacalhau and other seafood delicacies. Vino verde from the Minho region complements all.
Things to see
- Braga Sé: Manuelita style, i.e. it has Portuguese style features created from a mixture of late Gothic and early Renaissance
- Museu da Imagem
- Palacio Raio
- Braga tower: the remaining part of the city’s fortress wall is in good condition and is also spectacular from the outside.
- Antigo Paço Arquiepiscopal: flower garden, next to the Bishop’s Palace, can also be visited from the outside, after closing time.
- Palácio do Raio: Baroque palace richly decorated with (blue) azulejo tiles, from 1754.
- Ídolo Fountain and the Roman ruins: the Roman ruins of Braga and the pre-Roman fountain, which was built in honor of the Celtic god Nabia, can be visited together with a combined ticket.
- Capela de S. Frutuoso: It is one of the oldest buildings in Braga and a gem of pre-Romanesque architecture.
- Citânia de Briteiros: settlement ruins with Iron Age and medieval remains, near Braga.
- Bridge between Braga and Amares on the Cávado River
Bom Jesus do Monte
It is located on the outskirts of Braga, but the religious complex deserves a separate title. It is a neoclassical building complex built on a hillside, which became known to everyone for its imposing staircase. With its huge park and churches, it is an important place of pilgrimage for the Catholic religion.
Ponte de Lima (Ponte Romana) — arched bridges from Roman times
- Útvonal: Braga — Ponte de Lima
- Távolság: 40 km (30 minutes)
This bridge across the fast-flowing Limia river in perfect condition. Has survived from the time of the Roman invasion of the Iberian Peninsula. It has been frequently repaired over the millennia, and is now declared a national treasure and is open only to pedestrian traffic.
Things to see
- Alminha de Santo António: the chapel and church at the bridgehead, covered with azulejo tiles
- Torre da Cadeia Velha: the tower that functions as an old prison in the historic part of town, with cafes and restaurants nearby.
Things to see a bit further away:
- Quinta e Paço da Glória: 18th-century, Baroque-style castle, currently only accessible from the outside, privately owned.
- Cascata do Rio Cabrão
- Mosteiro de São Salvador de Bravães: beautiful stone monastery from the 12th century.
- Ponte da Barca: arched bridge, which also dates from the Roman era
Lindoso – the strange sarcophagi of the border settlement
- Útvonal: Braga — Lindoso
- Távolság: 75 km (1 hour 10 minutes)
Lindoso is a lovely little mountain town near the Spanish border in the Minho region. Its outstanding attractions are the castle and the sarcophagus-like stone granaries built in the 17th and 18th centuries. It has a population of around 1,300 who are mainly engaged in agriculture and livestock breeding, so prepare for herds and lone cows grazing along the roads.
Things to see
- Lindoso castle: A stone castle with a drawbridge that had a defensive function, in the border area. Spain can be seen from the castle wall, the border line runs in the middle of the river and the dam.
- Espigueiros de Lindoso: These small sarcophagus-like structures served as seed storage. This is how they protected the crops from rodents and bugs, and the cool wind kept the contents of the “sarcophagi” dry.
- Barragem do Alto-Lindoso: dam on the Limia river, which can also be seen from the Miradouro Meandros do Lima lookout.
- Sra. da Peneda: nearby is the spectacular baroque Via dolorosa and church, similar to Bom Jesus do Monte near Braga
Peneda-Geres National Park
It may sound clichéd, but fasten your seat belts and hold on, we will travel on narrow mountain roads and pass through villages where the locals sitting on the side of the road will look at us like we are lost.
The road between Entre Ambos-os-Rios and Campo de Geres is the most spectacular! In the settlements along the road, you can see traditional stone houses, with narrow streets. In many places we can also see granaries carved out of stone, which were placed above valleys in airy places.
There is a designated tourist trail leading to all the more spectacular waterfalls in the national park, which usually starts from the parking lots. Locals were bathing in the waterfalls and rivers we visited, although the water remained cool even in the heat.
We had lunch at the Lagoa restaurant, easily recognizable by its kiwi tree: coordinates on the map. There are several viewpoints nearby (Miradouro da Boneca), but there will also be many opportunities to see the entire valley on the way.
Things to see:
- Barragem de Vilarinho das Furnas: there is a huge dam on the side of the road, you can walk down to its bottom.
- Fojo do Lobo de Germil: a two-meter-high stone wall with a deep pit at one of its exits, so that the locals who chased the wolves attacking the flocks of sheep could drive the predators into this pit camouflaged with tree branches.
- Cascatas de Fecha de Barjas
- Cascata do Arado
- Ponte da Misarela: beautiful arched bridge
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