Portugal was born in the north. It was in Porto and the north that we learned the value of difference but also the complementarity between cultures.
Maybe that’s why, no one is indifferent to Portuguese hospitality. A Portuguese home is one that genuinely loves to receive well, to share its table and its traditions.
From the mountains to the coastal beaches, this is a territory of steep slopes, covered with leafy vegetation, rivers and natural parks. The entire region is still full of elements of cultural and symbolic importance, from the built heritage, to music, folklore and gastronomy.
Beautiful scenery, amazing people.
The north of Portugal is a region of mountains and natural parks. A world apart in which human activity is still harmoniously integrated into Nature, preserving old values and traditions. The Peneda-Gerês National Park, in the extreme northwest of Portugal, between Alto Minho and Trás-os-Montes, is the only Portuguese protected area classified as a National Park.
In the Serra da Peneda, Soajo, Amarela and Gerês, which are part of the Park, rivers and streams run, cascade and then spread into reservoirs. The landscapes are stunning.
Sometimes you can see a roe deer (symbol of the Park) or its predator, the Iberian wolf. Most common are the garranos, small wild horses that run freely through the hills. You can also find barrosã cattle and Castro Laboreiro’s dogs, with dark fur, guarding the herds that, at the rhythm of the seasons, move between the «brandas» and «inverneiras».
These are villages and mountain areas related to the old transhumance, where people today only move cattle: valleys and low altitudes in winter («inverneiras»), higher places in summer («brandas»), according to the existing pasture.
On an itinerary through the Park, Soajo, with its ancient set of granaries made of stone to store grain, can be the starting point to the west. We can also see granaries in Lindoso, where it is worth climbing the castle overlooking the Lima River valley. A little further north, we can take a trip to the village of Castro Laboreiro, where the region’s sheepdogs are raised.
The mountain to the south is Gerês. In this mountain are the reservoirs of the Caniçada and Vilarinho das Furnas dams, the latter having submerged the village that gave it its name, and whose estate is now on display at the Ethnographic Museum of Terras de Bouro. In the vicinity of this town, the Sanctuaries of São Bento da Porta Aberta and Senhora da Abadia are centers of great pilgrimages.
The diversity and abundance of local flora and fauna provide a unique contact with nature and, whatever the option, it is likely that medieval castles, monasteries and traditional villages will be part of the landscape.
The built heritage is spread over castles, shrines and churches, as well as manor houses and stately homes. Several cities have known how to preserve its human scale, such as Viana do Castelo, Braga, Lamego, Chaves or Vila Real.
Portugal is a country rich in gastronomy. From the North to the South of the country you will find various types of dishes, sweet or savory, made with the greatest variety of ingredients and each with its special touch. However, one of the richest areas in gastronomy is the North of Portugal, which has a wide variety of typical dishes, so different that they will please the most varied tastes of anyone who ventures into the flavors of the region.
From sweet to savory, from fish to meat, from the coast to the interior: discover the most typical flavors of the North and get ready to make your mouth water!
Regional cuisine makes use of its natural resources, which is why the «caldo verde», appreciated throughout the country, is a cabbage soup that took root here, thanks to the region’s fertile green fields. In the western part, bounded by the sea, the freshness and quality of the fish has a prominent place, as in all Portuguese gastronomy, which prides itself on having the best fish in the world, in the opinion of renowned international chefs and gastronomes. But in Porto and the North, also in the rivers, fast and abundant, trout, lamprey and shad are caught, which are the delight of connoisseurs.
It is a region of good pastures, so cattle are raised here whose indigenous breeds have Protected Designation of Origin (DOP), as is the case with the Barrosã, Cachena, Mirandesa, Maronesa and Arouquesa breeds. Pork is also present with regional varieties, not only in quality sausages, but also in dishes of «rojões», «sarrabulho» or in «rojões à moda do Porto», Porto-style casings, perhaps the most celebrated dish in the northern capital.
The Camino de Santiago remains, without a doubt, the oldest, most traveled and most celebrated route on the old continent.
The Portuguese Coastal Path, which connects Porto to other coastal municipalities, with the alternative of connecting to Galicia, crossing the river Minho in La Guardia (in front of Caminha), Goian (through Vila Nova de Cerveira) or even Tui (for Valença do Minho) was, according to some historians, one of the most important axes to reach the house of the apostle in Santiago de Compostela.
This seafront path, from the port town of Porto, passes through Matosinhos, Maia, Vila do Conde, Póvoa de Varzim, Esposende, Viana do Castelo, Caminha, Vila Nova de Cerveira and Valença.
The Central Portuguese Way corresponds to the main route that connected Porto to Santiago de Compostela, passing in Portuguese territory through the current urban areas of Barcelos, Ponte de Lima and Valença. It has the same point of origin of the Portuguese Way of the Coast, the old port of Olival (Porto), but is separated from this in the area of Padrão da Légua (Matosinhos).
Quinta Ecológica da Peneda promotes Ecotourism activities to discover the natural and cultural heritage of the northern region of Portugal and Galicia. Find out more here.