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A Road Trip Through Northern Portugal

A Road Trip Through Northern Portugal

by Emily Mudge

Northern Portugal is beautiful, and you’ll want to make sure to get the best experience during your trip there. Check out our guide on the best week long road trip through Northern Portugal, and learn how to make the most of your time.

Day 1 – Porto

To kick your trip off right, you should fly into the Porto airport and get a rental car. In Porto, you will want to visit the Cathedral District and Zona da Ribeira. Here, you’ll get to take in the spectacular architecture and history. If you’re interested in Port wine, you’ll also want to cross the Dom Luis Bridge and stroll along the main promenade in Vila Nova de Gaia. This district is home to many of the cellars that store Port wine. Today, lots of tourists visit the cellars and enjoy sampling the delicious wines.

Day 2 – Guimaraes

Guimaraes

Head out of Porto to the nearby town of Guimaraes, which is about a 45 minute drive. Your first stop should be Guimaraes Castle. Built in the 10th century, this castle once protected the local monastery from attacks by the Norse and Moors. Your next stop should be Paco Dos Duques, a palace that served as the residence of the Dukes of Braganza. Lastly, visit Largo da Oliveira, a centuries-old olive tree planted in the center of Oliveira Square.

If you’re up for a little adventure, head further inland from Guimaraes to the Pena Aventura Park. Here you can tackle a ropes course, ride an alpine coaster, and even conquer the largest zipline in Europe. Their Fantasticable zipline is over 1.5km long, and goes up to 130km/hr.

Day 3 – Viana do Castelo

Drive an hour out of Porto to visit Viana do Castelo, a 13th century town in Northern Portugal. Here, you’ll want to walk around the Praca da Republica. This plaza shows off the old city hall and a Renaissance fountain, both built from granite in the 16th century. If you’re interested in history or fashion, you should check out the Museu do Traje, showcasing traditional clothing from Northern Portugal.

 Before you leave Viana do Castelo, be sure to go up to Monte de Santa Luzia to enjoy the Basilica and the stunning view. The best way to get to the top of the mountain is on the Funicular de Santa Luzia, the longest hillside tram in Portugal. 

Day 4 – Heading Inland

When you’re ready to head further inland, we recommend staying at the Quinta de Casaldronho Wine Hotel. It’s about an hour and a half’s drive inland from Porto. On your way, you’ll drive through scenic Peso de Regua, where you can go on a wine tour, learn about the history of the Douro River Valley, and take in the breathtaking scenery.

The beautiful Douro River

Day 5 – Vila Real 

One of our favorite day trips from Quinta de Casaldronho is through Vila Real, Sabrosa, and Pinhao. The drive through all these towns and back will probably take 3 to 4 hours, so it’s best to plan a full day excursion. Vila Real is full of beautiful castles, churches, and botanical gardens. The Sabrosa district and the nearby town of Pinhao are full of exciting history and delicious wines. 

Day 6 – Vale de Coa

 

Another great spot in Northern Portugal is the Vale de Coa Archaeological Park (Parque Archeologico do Vale da Coa). It is home to the world’s largest collection of open-air Stone Age rocks, estimated to be about 20,000 years old. It’s about an hour and a half away from Quinta do Casaldronho, so it makes an excellent stop for your second day trip. You can also take a guided tour, which departs from Vila Nova de Foz Coa. 

If you choose to take the guided tour, you should also plan for time to explore Vila Nova de Foz Coa, and the nearby Castelo Rodrigo and Pinhel. Vila Nova de Foz Coa is a beautiful town where you can learn more about the Archaeological Park and the discoveries that have been found there. Castelo Rodrigo is a beautiful medieval castle, and Pinhel is home to Catholic history you won’t want to miss.

Day 7 – Back to Porto

By this point, you won’t want to leave Northern Portugal behind. The scenery, food, wine, and history will make you want to stay forever. However, if you absolutely must leave, take this day to drive back to Porto, where you can catch a flight home or travel down the coast to Lisbon. Grab that last sip of wine (or a bottle to take home), and start planning your next trip to Portugal!

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