Photo Tour of Northern Portugal
After attending a travel blogging conference in Porto, Portugal, Andy and I had the opportunity to take a two day tour of the northern region of the country. Two days is not nearly enough to explore this diverse region, but I enjoyed seeing the highlights and getting a taste of the area. The part I remember most about our time there was how gorgeous northern Portugal is and how much it has to offer. Many of these towns and areas would be great day trips from Porto if you’re basing yourself in Porto for a few days.
The Douro Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage sight and the oldest demarcated wine region in the world. This is where the famous Port wines are produced, and our trip started with a drive through the valleys where the grapes are grown. (Some photos were taken from a moving van and/or with my iPhone.)
After the scenic drive, we arrived in the town of Pinhão where we took a cruise on the Douro River in a Rabelo boat. These are traditional boats that were once used to transport Port wine from the Douro Valley to where the cellars are located.
Before hopping back in the van, we stopped at the Pinhão train station, known for its blue tiles from 1937.
We were supposed to have a tour of the town of Guimarães, another UNESCO World Heritage sight, that afternoon before dinner. Unfortunately our van broke down, and we ended up hanging out on the side of the road for around two hours. Eventually another van came and brought us to our hotel, and our guide rearranged a few things so we could do the tour in the morning and not miss anything.
We spent the first night on our tour at Pousada de Santa Marinha da Costa, a former 12th century convent. It was up on a hill with views of the town below, and the building was definitely not your standard hotel.
In the morning we wandered through the streets of the medieval town of Guimarães and saw the castle. I love castles, and this one is exactly what I would’ve pictured for a medieval castle.
Braga is the oldest city in Portugal, and one of the oldest Christian cities in the world. At the top of a hill sits Bom Jesus do Monte, a church people used to go to as a pilgrimage. They would have to climb up a long staircase as a penance in order to reach the church. We got dropped off at the top and walked about halfway down, although we did see plenty of people walking up.
Afterwards we explored the historic city center, saw a few churches, and some gorgeous gardens.
Ponte de Lima
Once we arrived at the site of this ancient Roman bridge, we were on our own for a while. It was a nice change of pace to be able to relax and admire the scenery.
Viana do Castelo
Late in the afternoon we arrived at our last stop on the trip, the city of Viana do Castelo in the Minho region, and explored the historic center.
Just before checking into our hotel, Pousada de Santa Luzia, another former convent, we stopped to see the Basilica de Santa Luzia. Not only was the basilica beautiful, but it offered gorgeous views of the ocean.
The best part was checking into the hotel and realizing it overlooked the basilica and the ocean. We were there just in time for sunset, and luckily there as enough time before dinner to sit out on the back porch and watch the sky change colors.
Two days was not nearly enough time to see all that northern Portugal has to offer. Small towns, vineyards, churches, beaches, food, and of course the friendly people are all great reasons to visit. The landscapes alone are enough for me to wish I could’ve spent longer exploring this area. Portugal has definitely left me wanting more.
Thank you to Visit Porto for showing us northern Portugal! All opinions are my own.
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October 22, 2012 @ 8:18 PM
October 23, 2012 @ 4:03 PM
October 22, 2012 @ 10:37 PM
so beautiful hope to visit one day
October 23, 2012 @ 4:03 PM
Thanks Rebecca, I hope you do!
October 23, 2012 @ 10:27 AM
The landscapes are quite appealing. Not at all what I expected them to be. Great photos as well
October 23, 2012 @ 4:04 PM
Thanks Natalie! It really wasn’t what I expected either. Gorgeous area!
October 23, 2012 @ 6:00 PM
These are wonderful photos, Ali! I wish we’d gotten out of town a bit when we were in Porto – such fantastic countryside
October 24, 2012 @ 5:11 PM
Thanks Andrea! It was such a beautiful area, maybe you’ll get a chance to go another time!
October 30, 2012 @ 9:56 PM
Love your van pics of the Douro valley from above. Pretty wild ride and also amazing how much of each hill is terraced.
October 31, 2012 @ 9:02 PM
Thanks! Yeah, I loved that area with the wine terraces.
Ruth (Tanama Tales)
November 1, 2012 @ 8:07 PM
Everytime I think about Portugal. I think about Lisbon and the South. I should start to dream with the north more. You photos are so beautiful. I loved the Douro Valley and the blue tiles.
November 1, 2012 @ 11:29 PM
Thanks Ruth! I didn’t know much about northern Portugal before this trip, but it’s definitely a gorgeous area to explore.
November 2, 2012 @ 9:56 AM
I fell in love with Porto and the Douro in the way that you did with Lisbon. We had 6 nights in the area and it still wasn’t enough. We stayed at Regua for 2 of them, and managed a long stretch of the river, and a side trip to Guimaraes, but I need to go back.
As part of a group it would be a very different experience, but fun I’m sure.
November 2, 2012 @ 2:39 PM
We had even less time in northern Portugal, so I have to agree, we needed more time. Group travel isn’t usually how we experience places, but we did still enjoy it. There is so much to see in that part of Portugal, and we loved that castle in Guimaraes. I’m glad you enjoyed the region too!
November 9, 2012 @ 9:29 AM
Wow, I love the pictures and I’m definitly bookmarking this post for when I plan our trip to Portugal!
November 9, 2012 @ 3:08 PM
Thanks Sofie! Great towns, I just wish we had more time in each one.
November 12, 2012 @ 12:06 AM
I would love to go back and see more of northern Portugal at a slower pace. And I was just dying to check out that beach! Great photos and it was a lot of fun traveling with you and Andy for those couple of days.
November 12, 2012 @ 4:23 PM
I agree, I’d like to go back some day with more time. We really enjoyed hanging out with you too!
December 3, 2012 @ 8:56 AM
Northern Portugal was for me the best experience i had in this Country. When people think about Portugal they use to imagine a Mediterranean landscape and sunny beaches.
Although this is manly what we can find in the South, the North is much different.
All the region is mountainous and full of vibrant vegetation. There is a lot of human density there so, anywhere you go, you will find towns, villages and cities.
Historically, this is the region were Portugal was born from. Northern Portugal, once part of the Galician Kingdom, eventually separated themselves form it and made Guimarães the first capital of this country. Then, Nobles from this region conquered the lands of the South.
What amazed me the most about Northern Portugal is the immense cultural resources that they have witch is completely different from the south.
In the North, every town center is made from granit, religious monuments are everywhere (Braga was one of the first and most important Catholic centres of the early middle ages), mountains overlook vast valleys until they spot ocean and the food & wine are amazing and cheap.
Portugal is one of the best countries to eat. But Portuguese people will say that in the North is where you eat the best. And they are spot on.
The cultural diversity of this region also made me a total fan. Porto is the capital of the North and is in a category by itself. Then, in the Minho, main cities are Guimarães, Braga and Viana do Castelo. Each one different but every single one stunning. Minho is also where the only National Park of the country is.
A mountain range relatively near the ocean turns this region 1 of the most rainy in Europe. And that’s why this region doesn’t look anything like people think of when they imagine Portugal.
The South was ok but i loved the north.
December 3, 2012 @ 5:22 PM
Wow, thanks for all the great info! Northern Portugal really was beautiful. I’d love to go back sometime when I can explore at a more leisurely pace and really see what it’s like. We heard a little bit of the history on our tour, but I’m sure I’d learn more if I could travel slower through the area. Thanks for sharing, I’m so glad you enjoyed Northern Portugal so much!