Northern Portugal is full of places that are guaranteed to amaze. Thanks to its natural beauty and unique characteristics, the Douro Valley is one such place. This charming journey will take you along the River Douro, now on the northern bank, now on the southern.
From Barqueiros to the border with Spain, this region is a gift of nature but one that also bears the signs of having been shaped by the force and energy of man. With its vineyards, which paint an extraordinary and absolutely enchanting landscape, the cultural and architectural heritage of its villages, and, of course, its wine and superb food, the Douro valley is a destination that could not be any more romantic.
In Amarante, cross the 17th century bridge over the River Tâmega and visit the São Gonçalo Church and Convent, which began to be built in around 1540. The tradition of asking the santo casamenteiro, or holy matchmaker, to bless your love is still popular. Also, make sure not to leave this charming place without having tried one of the famous Amarante desserts, such as lérias, papos de anjos, foguetes or brisas.
In Peso da Régua, visit the Douro Musuem and discover a different side to the region’s wine culture. In Lamego, on the southern bank of the Douro, visit the Sé Cathedral, which imposes a striking sense of beauty and monumentality and has a façade that mirrors the styles of different eras. Also, take time to appreciate the tower’s windows, its columns sculpted in the Romanesque style of the 12th century and, inside the temple, the frescoes by Nicolau Nasoni. Afterwards, climb the staircase of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, a rocaille sanctuary erected in the mid-18th century in homage to the saint of the same name.
Also, pass by Tarouca to visit the São João Monastery, which was built in the 12th century and was the first to be founded in Portugal by the Cistercian Order. Nearby is the medieval bridge of Ucanha and an old village farmstead located on the idyllic banks of the River Varosa.
Before arriving in Pocinho, make a detour along the southern bank to visit the Numão Castle and enjoy views of the distant horizon. A little to the east lies the Foz Coa Archaeological Park, an open-air rock art gallery listed as a World Heritage Site, while in Vila Nova de Foz Coa you will find a museum.
As you arrive in Barca de Alva you enter the International Douro Natural Park, which has this name due to the fact that from here to Miranda do Douro the river runs along the border between Portugal and Spain. The river’s route tightly hugs steep slopes until it reaches a small border town as it enters Portugal.
Throughout the route you can follow the river by car and spend your time leisurely travelling along the winding roads, while making sure to stop at the various lookout points along the way to take in views of the landscape, farms and manor houses. If you visit the Douro region between March and June, you are sure to enjoy the blossoming almond trees, wild flowers and budding grapevines.
The route, which will take you two or three days to complete, will, without doubt, make you want to experience some of the fabulous hotels to be found along the way. You can find the best options here. We are here to help and we will be delighted to make this wonderful journey even more special. Get in touch!