The northern regions of Portugal are world-renowned for their port wines and vinhos verdes. The region is dotted with stunning landscapes and thousands of vineyards, between which the Douro, the "golden river," meanders its way.
The green, fertile Mino region is the cradle of Portugal. Braga, the capital of this region, is not called "Portuguese Rome" without good reason. Here you can admire one of the absolute best of Portuguese Baroque. And Guimarães, the first capital of Portugal, is still one of the most attractive places in northern Portugal and classified as a World Heritage Site.
More top attractions during this experience trip include the Palácio de Mateus, which, by the way, is on the label of the famous Mateus wine. But also the Parque Natural do Alvão, a stunning nature reserve, or the invaluable collection of prehistoric finds and wall drawings in the Côa Valley.
Finally, you will head to Porto, where all the highlights are within walking distance. Explore the beating heart of its historic centre and cross the Douro to Vila Nova de Gaia, the centre of port wine.
Day 1 : Departure to Porto - Viana do Castelo
Pick up your rental car and depart for Viana do Castelo, where you will stay for 2 nights.
Day 2 : Viana do Castelo
This important seaside town in the Minho region is charmingly located on the Atlantic Ocean. The centre of Viana is the Praça da Republica, the central square full of beautiful buildings, Manueline and Renaissance style that reflect Viana's glory days to the fullest.
Day 3 : Along vineyards to the Spanish border - Guimarães - Amarante
Via Vila Nova de Cerveira and Valença do Minho to Monção, a typical Minho town and spa, in the middle of a landscape of the famous alvarinho vineyards. Continuing via Ponte da Barca, from where in the 15th century pilgrims sailed to Santiago de Compostela, to Guimarães or Amarante. Stay for 2 nights at an accommodation in Guimarães or drive on to Amarante where you will stay at the Monverde Wine Experience Hotel.
Day 4 : Braga or the Peneda-Gerês National Park
Visit Braga, capital of the Mino region. Devout Braga ("Braga prays, Coimbra sings and Porto works") is also called the "Portuguese Rome" for its numerous monasteries and churches. The absolute best of Portuguese baroque is the staircase of Bom Jesus do Monte. Are you more of a nature fan? Go explore the for the Peneda-Gerês National Park. No less than four mountain ranges cross this park: the Peneda, the Soajo, the Amarela and the Gerês.
Day 5 : Guimarães and Amarante
Guimarães was the first capital of Portugal and is one of the most attractive towns in northern Portugal: thanks to its great architectural homogeneity, it was listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site. You will continue to Amarante, a picturesque provincial town terraced against the banks of the Tâmega River. A scenic drive along the winding Douro River, with its impressive landscapes and vineyards, will bring you to your hotel where you will stay for 2 nights.
Day 6 : The 'Solar de Mateus' and the Parque Natural Alvão/Marão/Côa
The top attraction in Vila Real is and remains the Palácio de Mateus, located about 3 km from the centre. It is one of the jewels of Portuguese baroque, described as 'the most fantastic country house in Portugal' and featured on the label of the famous bottles of Mateus rosé wine. For beautiful natural surroundings you can visit the Parque Natural do Alvão, a magnificent nature reserve of 7,220 hectares, or the Serra do Marão. One of the objectives of this natural park lies in the preservation of the local village architecture. For example, the houses of the villages of Olo, Dornelas, Anta and Ermelo with their granite or schist stone are beautiful examples of traditional architecture. The park has a huge variety of plants and animals, with many protected species. OR you will visit from Lamego/Cotas the archaeological park in the Côa Valley, with its impressive Museum of Art and Archaeology, designed by the famous architects Camilo Rebelo and Tiago Pimentel. Here you will not only discover an invaluable collection of prehistoric finds and outdoor wall drawings, but you can also delve into the life and art of our prehistoric ancestors. To the northeast are the plateaus and mountain ranges of Trás-os-Montes, "behind the mountains”...
Day 7 : Douro Valley - Porto
You leave the mighty Douro Valley towards Porto. You will spend 2 nights in a hotel of your choice.
Day 8 : Porto
Porto's historic centre is quite compact, giving you the advantage of easily visiting all the major sights on foot. Best start your exploration at the city hall, from where a few steps will take you to the famous São Bento train station, with its impressive azulejos scenes as the main eye-catcher. From here, take a stroll down Rua das Flores, a stately street with numerous historical buildings from different style periods, including the beautiful Igreja da Misericórdia do Porto. Near the train station, on the city's highest hill, enthrones the Romanesque cathedral Igreja da Sé, rebuilt several times over the centuries to create an interesting mix of architectural styles. A walk up to the Douro inevitably brings you to Ribeira, 'the bank', the beating heart of the historic centre. Crossing the Douro will lead you to Vila Nova de Gaia, the centre of port wine. Originally the port houses were located in the city, but when the bishop of Porto once demanded a monopoly on the proceeds, traders moved to the river's south bank. Hence the numerous wineries and cellars still present today, including big names like Taylors, Sandeman and Ramos Pinto.
Day 9 : Going home
On day 9, it is time to return you rental car and to catch your flight back home.
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