Background Information - Norte de Portugal

Literally translated as "The Green Coast" the Costa Verde is the beautiful and unspoilt coastal region which bounds Portugal’s northern-most provinces, Douro and Minho. It is on the same latitude as Spain’s Costa Brava. For many people, this is the ‘real’ Portugal, where the way of life, traditions, architecture and scenery remain untouched by mass tourism, or indeed greatly influenced by modern ways.


The Costa Verde stretches from the Spanish border in the north to south of Porto and as far east as Vila Real. It encompasses the rivers Minho, Lima, Cavado and Douro together with the National Park of Peneda Gerês.

Places to Visit

Amarante: A picturesque little town above the right bank of the River Tâmega, neglected by most tourists.

Braga: Where old and modern cities collide! An attractive pedestrian street, Rua do Souto has the oldest and trendiest shops and outdoor cafes. The 12th century Cathedral is the oldest in Portugal.

Barcelos: The town which gave Portugal its national symbol, the cockerel. Famous for its handicrafts, particularly ceramics. Huge weekly market held every Thursday.

Espinho: A seaside resort south of Porto with broad beaches of coarse sand and a seafront promenade.

Guimarâes: A beautiful medieval town, it was the first capital of Portugal and birthplace of King Afonso Henriques. Every Friday there is a lively open air market.

Moncâo: An old fortified frontier town, on the left bank of the River Minho. Opposite is the Spanish town of Salvatierra de Mino. Home of Alvarinho Vinho Verde, the first wine ever exported from Portugal in the 15th century.

Ofir: A vast expanse of sandy beach fringed by pinewoods. Nearby is the River Cavado which is very good for fishing or canoeing.

Porto: The second largest city in Portugal and the home of the Port Wine trade. The city lies at the mouth of the Douro River, its granite-trimmed red-roofed buildings tumble over each other to the waterfront. One of the best ways to see the city is from the River. The old quarter of Ribeira on the waterfront offers interesting small restaurants, Taylor’s Port Lodge is worth a visit.

Peneda-Gerês National Park: A must for nature enthusiasts, some 170,000 acres of forests, man-made lakes, rivers, rocky ridges and waterfalls, and abundant wild life.

Ponte da Barca: Charming little town on the River Lima with a 16th century bridge that has ten arches Every Thursday along the river there is an open market. An ideal centre for exploring the attractive valley of the River Lima.

River Douro: The best way to enjoy the river with its unique and varied scenery is by taking a cruise, see page 28 for more details.

Valença: A 13th century fortress town guarding the border with Spain, ideal stopover if combining a visit to Spain.

Viana do Castelo: A popular tourist centre with fine beaches nearby. It is famous for its colourful Folk Festival, fireworks and deep-sea fishing.

Vila Praia de Ancora: A traditional fishing town with good beaches and excellent fish restaurants.

Bragança: An attractive old town in the extreme north-east corner of Portugal., through which passes a new road linking Spain and Porto. An ideal stop over for those travelling by car.

Chaves: Best known for its thermal spa, only 9kms from the Spanish border, it is also at the end of the Corgo scenic train line from Regua.

Lamego: Situated in a valley among vineyards and orchards totally surrounded by mountains.

Vila Real: A modern town which still maintains its old charm. The famous Mateus Rosé wine is produced here.