On the Road – 7 days in Northern Portugal

You wouldn’t believe how much there is to see and do in the region north of Porto.  It mightn’t look much on the map but its quite a whirlwind to fit everything into a week.   However,  with 7 days,  you can do more than sample wine and admire the Douro!

Our wish list:

The Douro

The mountains

Some medieval towns

   Vale do Coa archaeological site



Start / Finish:  Porto Airport.

The Route:   We traveled anticlockwise from Porto – a rough circle with some detours and add-ons.   While we had prebooked accommodation,  our plans had to be tweaked several times – e.g. unsettled weather meant rescheduling vineyard and river trips while the archaeological site was not available at the time we had originally planned on visiting.   I’d shirked on my prep in spots and some mountain routes didn’t actually exist (but I know I saw a line on the map!!) while hoteliers and tourist office staff suggested detours and landmarks we would have missed on our travels.

So -as for all trips of course – allowing for flexibility eases pressure and adds to the overall pleasure of the trip.


Summary and Highlights

Day 1

Late arrival into Porto airport

Overnight Amarante




Day 2




Mateus Estate, Vila Real


Palácio de Mateus

Overnight Peso da Régua


Day 3




Mosteiro de Sao Joao de Tarouca



Pass through mountain villages



Drive along by river





Overnight Pinhao


Day 4

Parque Arqueologico do Vale do Coa


Parque Arqueológico do Vale do Cóa

Douro river Trip




Douro Valley – 10 Things to Observe in the Landscape

Wine tasting


Overnight Pinhao


Day 5

Vineyard tour



Parque natural do Alvao


Parque Natural do Alvao




Overnight Chaves


Day 6




Pitoes das Júnias


Pitoes das Júnias

The countryside is dotted with canastros or old granaries



Across the mountains towards Geres





Overnight Geres


Day 7




Change in the landscape



Rush hour!



Ponte da Barca



Ponte de Lima


Ponte de Lima




Overnight Braga


Day 8


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Back to Porto


If I ever go back…

Parque Nacional da Peneda-Geres

The city of Guimaraes

Explore south of Porto



Less time?

Concentrate on the Douro Valley and leave the border region for another time.

10 Days?

Spend a few days exploring and walking in Parque Nacional da Peneda-Geres


Enjoy a few days in Porto.

2 Weeks?

Add 3 nights in Porto and 4 nights at a coastal resort


Car Hire and Driving

There has been a lot of bad press about car rental companies in Porto airport,  including the more ‘reputable’ established businesses.   Make sure to examine the car thoroughly for scrapes and scratches and photograph everything you find.   You’ll probably be given a list of existing damage so if you notice anything extra tell the staff before you leave.   We dealt with Europcar and had no problems.

Local drivers tend to pull up very close behind you but otherwise driving was fine.   Fuel is relatively expensive.



We found accommodation to be very reasonable (2nd half of June).   Some of the towns along the river will be busy in high season so book rooms there as soon as possible.   Hotels/ hostels etc. in town centres might not have parking facilities so check before paying anything.   It is lovely to stay in a quinta (wine estate) for a night or two but they are more expensive and if you are out and about all day you won’t get value for your money.   We stayed in a very nice quinta near Pinhao for 2 nights but didn’t dine there,  or do a wine-tasting there and as we had bad weather at the time,  we couldn’t enjoy the pool and grounds.

Most places will have someone who speaks English

Just to note (because I heard it discussed while we were there) – in some of the older hotels the shower is in the bath so keep that in mind if you are mobility-challenged.

Where we stayed:

Amarante –  Des Arts Hostel and Suites

The Positives: Good value with breakfast included (€62) / no problem with late arrival / great location close to the bridge / big communal kitchen and sitting room / nicely decorated.

The Niggly Bits: Can be a bit difficult to find by car / parking is on street so you will have to pay if staying a while.

Have a look at their website


Peso da Régua- Hotel Columbano

The Positives: €59 / good breakfast / free access to lido next door / Lidl close by for drinks and snacks / plenty of free parking.

The Niggly Bits:  About a 20 minute walk into town.

Have a look at their website


Pinhao – Hotel Rural da Quinta do Silval

The Positives: Beautiful setting / offers the full ‘quinta’ experience (wine tasting,  dinner,  etc) / pool / good breakfast / free parking.

The Niggly Bits: 8km out of town / a bit expensive (€105) if just using it to sleep! 

Have a look at their website


Chaves – Forte De Sao Francisco Hotel

The Positives: Fabulous setting within the walls of the fort / great value (€63) / right beside the town centre / lovely pool area /  good breakfast / plenty of free parking space.

The Niggly Bits: Can’t think of any!

Have a look at their website


Geres – Moderna do Geres Hotel

The Positives: Good value(€50) / close to town centre / nice breakfast / free parking

The Niggly Bits:  It is situated on a narrow winding one-way road – if you miss the car park just pray there’s no one coming up behind as you reverse!!

Have a look at their website


Braga – Hotel Dona Sofia

The Positives: Good value (69) / free parking available / fantastic location

The Niggly Bits: Could do with more parking spaces.

Have a look at their website


Food and Drink

Food and drink is generally of very good quality and reasonably priced.   You will have to queue for popular restaurants.   Most tourist venues will have someone who speaks English.   Off the beaten track might be more of a challenge.   For us,  this tended to happen at lunchtime where we might be in a remote location en route to our next destination.   However,  everyone recognised ‘omelette’ so we didn’t go hungry.   On a few mornings,  we were able to stock up on picnic lunch items in supermarkets which was a nice option – especially in the mountains.

Best Lunchtime Award!

Codfish gratin at the cafe across the road from Mateus Palace – Yum!



Best Dinner Award!

A shared veal platter at Lurdes Capela in Geres – well worth the 40 minute queue!



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