After attending the Travel Bloggers Unite 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.
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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