porto.jpgPorto e Norte It was in Porto and the north that Portugal came into being as a country, which is why the region has such a rich and fascinating heritage.

This is a mountainous area with rivers, natural parks and steep, sloping hillsides covered with leafy vegetation. The granite from its mountains was used to build many of the region’s religious and historical monuments, such as the unpretentious Romanesque chapels and baroque churches.

History surrounds you when you visit the region’s castles – the castle at Guimarães was the birthplace of the nation’s founder and first king, Dom Afonso Henriques. And at the countless manor houses and palaces emblazoned with coats of arms, visitors are received with an aristocratic display of hospitality.

However, this region also owes much of its character to the great waterway that cuts it in half, the scenic River Douro, whose vine-filled valley is today classified as a world heritage site.

The river was given the name of ouro (gold) because it brings the water that the sun-drenched vines rely on to produce the world-famous Port wine. But also because this was the place from which ships used to set sail in the great period of Portuguese discovery. Or perhaps the name is due to the carved and gilded woodwork of the city’s countless baroque churches.

The fact remains that this ancient city gave its name to both Port wine and to the nation of Portugal. Much of its heritage is based on shipping and trade, making it a bustling and passionate city. Porto is also classified as world heritage site. Perhaps these are the reasons why Porto finds its way into the hearts of its visitors.

Natural Parks of the North
Reconnect with mother earth and experience all the natural beauty of the parks of the Minho and Trás-os-Montes.

The Peneda-Gerês National Park is a natural jewel of outstanding beauty. Come and discover these wonderful natural surroundings and unique species including wild ponies, golden eagles and the Castro Laboreiro dog breed. Discover the local traditions and customs in the villages Lindoso and Soajo. Visit their castles for breathtaking views out over the hills.

Man and Nature have achieved a fine, harmonious balance in the Montesinho, Alvão and Douro International Natural Parks. They include village communities that have done much to retain the traditions of rural life. There is a range of itineraries to help you structure your visit.

The dams and reservoirs provide further leisure and recreational opportunities. Canoeing, bicycle and horse riding or hill walking are all excellent means of exploring while relaxing.

Be sure to keep the bathing costume handy. There are many rivers and streams to be discovered on your journey and some great spots for swimming in the natural freshness of these waters.

Sport in Trás-os-Montes
Experience activity packed days in the mountains of Trás-os-Montes.

Set out on foot across the North of Portugal along the pathways of the region’s parks. Explore the mountains and deep valleys home to village communities in the Montesinho Natural Park. Get close up to its rare species of fauna and flora. To the south, take an unforgettable journey into the past searching out the pre-historic carvings that time spared on the banks of the river Côa.

Challenge your friends or colleagues to orienteering. Overcome the range of obstacles and lose yourself only to the beauty of the surrounding environment.

The imposing slopes of Trás-os-Montes provide excellent facilities for climbers. And they are also ideal for launching yourself off in a hang glider. And the fast-flowing rivers have stretches perfect for canyoning, rafting and canoeing.

If you prefer your adventure on the softer side, spend the morning out on a bicycle tour of the region, get a game of tennis going, or try your hand at wild boar hunting.

The Minho
With its stunning coastal, river and mountain landscapes, the Minho is the ideal place for a sporting or adventure holiday.

If you love mountain climbing, your efforts will be rewarded in the Minho. Mountain ranges here afford some outstanding views across the region to Gerês, Cabreira and Peneda.

For those of you that prefer a relaxing stroll you can wander along the many pathways in this beautiful landscape. Discover the local dolmens, Roman remains, wild horses and birds of prey.

The regions rivers consist of the Minho itself, the Lima, Cávado, Ave and Tâmega. They are all excellent for fishing or for a simple canoe journey. The more adventurous can try white water rafting.

In the Peneda Gerês National Park, canyoning is an exciting challenge. If you have the courage, you can follow the local streams and jump down their many waterfalls.

The Minho region is home to various adventure sports companies, which provide all the equipment and advice you need. They ensure your full safety as you enjoy your holiday.

Douro is best for couples
The World Heritage Douro valley is a captivating destination for couples.

In the Gaia wine cellars, taste the Port and learn about the stages involved in its production. Old traditions highlight the symbiosis between river, land and this wine, too precious to be fully appreciated alone.

From the S. Leonardo da Galafura viewpoint, the soft smoothness of the river incites warmth and affection. Take the steam train and, with your good company, delight at the beauty of the vines layered down over granite steps.

In Pinhão, enjoy the warm nostalgia conjured up by the fine tiles decorating the station. On the south bank, head into a landscape defined by rocky bluffs and the force of nature. With the most imposing views out over the river, the S. Salvador do Mundo viewpoint is a place for festivity and romance. During the annual festival, girls seeking husbands tie knots in the woadwaxen lining local paths to ensure their beloved find their way into their arms.

As winter draws to a close, the banks of the river are enveloped in the white mists of flowering almond trees. The sun’s warmth begins to mature not only the fruits but also lovers’ hearts. And by autumn, with the vines replete in their golden and ruby fruits, the labour and happiness of harvest time bring forth that romance.

Sleep on enveloped in the seductiveness of nature under fabulous views out over the Douro provided by the Vintage House in Pinhão, or the Solar da Rede country hotel near Mesão Frio, while not neglecting to visit one of the estates producing the rich nectars of this region.

Northern Portugal: baroque routes
The arrival of baroque saw granite give way to artistic flourishes, gilded wood carvings and tiles filled with white and blue.

The symbol of the 18th century, baroque art in Portugal became quite distinct from that of other countries, because of its original and peculiar exoticism. Benefiting from the great economic wealth of the time, palaces, churches and monasteries were filled with movement and colour.

In Porto, you’ll find some of the most significant baroque monuments, which should not be missed. Amongst the highlights are the Torre dos Clérigos and the Igreja de São Francisco.

To the north of Porto, on the outskirts of Braga, the country’s ecclesiastical capital, are the Santuário do Bom Jesus and the Mosteiro de Tibães, both of which are also worth a visit.

On your way down the Douro valley, take an unforgettable boat trip up the river and marvel at the sloping hillsides filled with vines growing in terraces. When you arrive at Peso da Régua, visit the Port Wine Institute and taste some of this world famous wine.

Near to Vila Real is the Casa de Mateus, a palace known throughout the world because it appears on the label of Mateus Rosé wine bottles.

The granite work of the Santuário de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios in Lamego and the contrast between the sobriety of the Cistercian order and the explosion of movement and colour to be seen on the altarpiece of the Mosteiro de Tarouca, on the city outskirts, are two highlights that will remain forever etched upon your memory.

Exploring Oporto
Discover the riverside charm of Oporto.

Oporto is one of Portugal’s oldest cities. To find out more about its history and culture you can walk its well-signposted guide route.

Experience a nostalgic journey with an old-fashioned tram ride to Foz, where the River Douro meets the Atlantic Ocean. Or visit the great churches and monuments evoking some of the great personalities and events of Portuguese history.

Explore the riverside neighbourhood of the Ribeira Circuit and discover the Casa do Infante, the Trading Palace, or the renowned Rua Ferreira Borges and the well-preserved Rua de Miragaia.

On a Douro cruise you’ll see the imposing bridges that connect the past and future of the city of Oporto, and also get the best views of the narrow streets leading up from the river.

Just a few kilometres away you’ll discover Póvoa de Varzim and Vila do Conde. Another highlight of the region is Amarante, one of Portugal’s most romantic cities, with its timeless Tâmega river, known locally as the ‘eternal bride’.

Porto and the Gaia wine lodges
In Oporto, toast the ancient and the modern over a glass of one of the world’s most respected wines.

Walk through the historic city centre and discover the strong character of this city and its people.

Take in the bustle of the Ribeira. Look to the skies and discover the towers of the fortress Se looming above.

Visit the Clérigos tower, the fine D. Luís bridge and admire the impressive historic centre, granted UNESCO World Heritage status. Pick out examples of the Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, Neo-classical and Industrial – architectural styles that sit side by side, and are now complemented by the designs of such buildings as the Oporto School of Architecture.

Visit the Serralves Museum and the Faculty of Architecture.

And all trips to Oporto have to involve one of the world’s most famous wines: port. Visit the places that defined the history of port, such as the Vinho do Porto manor house and the Museum.

In Gaia, there are more than fifty companies that make this wine. Visit them and see the aged wooden barrels in which the port is slowly matured. And the best news of all? You’ll even get a free taste or two.

The pleasures of the Minho
Enjoy the pleasures of life in a region of rich customs, good food and excellent wine.

Visit the Minho, experience the festivals and celebrations of summer, discover its age-old customs.

A great way to learn about the traditions of this region is through the handicrafts, artisans and workshops of the Alto Minho. Take a close look at how the rich festival costumes and coloured embroidery of Viana (incorporating gold and filigree) are made. And be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the strange but entrancing clay figures of Galegos – Santa Maria (Barcelos).

Try the slightly sparkling ‘vinhos verde’ wines, which is made only in this region and is an ideal accompaniment to fish and shellfish. Visit Monção and Melgaço, where the most famous example of Portuguese ‘vinho verde’, or Alvarinho, is produced.

The great Minho contribution to the national cuisine is Caldo Verde soup. It remains popular to this day, containing a mixture of corn bread, smoked sausages, Portuguese ‘bacalhau’ cod, lamprey, trout, and shad –cooked in several different ways.

If you like good meat, try the unusual Minho pork speciality ‘sarrabulho’ or the crackling pork of ‘rojões’. Alternatively sample a leg of pork ‘? Clara Penha’ style, Serra goat, or the young goat stew of Gerês.

Good food, good wine, good memories.

Informations provided by ITP – Instituto de Turismo de Portugal – www.visitportugal.com