Day 1 – Esposende – seaside town inside the Northern Coast Natural Park
Begin your day with the transfer from Porto Airport to Esposende. Located at the mouth of the Cavado River, facing the Atlantic Ocean, this city upholds its ancient traditions in a picturesque fishing port from which small colourful fishing boats set off daily to supply the market and restaurants with fresh catches of fish and shellfish. Located within the Northern Coast Natural Park, Esposende is a space of beautiful landscapes and an environmental haven for a great variety of native animal and plant species. It is a welcoming area along 18 Kms of sandy beaches, many of whose clear waters have been rewarded with blue European Union flags of approval. Take a while to stroll along the riverside and cross the walkway over the dunes while you appreciate the view to the sea and wildlife.
Day 2 – Amorosa and Chafé – two delightful worlds: beaches and vineyards
On this first full day of your walking holiday, your itinerary will take you from the beaches along the sea, inland along a river to the Vinho Verde vineyards, the best of both worlds. Starting from the tall lighthouse, say goodbye to Esposende as you follow the path that meanders between the dunes and pine trees. Walk along the wooden walkways built to protect the sand dunes and the wild grasses that grow there, keeping the fields and the sea in the background. After arriving at Belinho beach, you will find an observation tower where you can indulge in a spot of birdwatching. Look out for typical species such as lapwings, plovers, sea swallows and sandpipers, amongst others. Take the trail inland along the Neiva River. This evening, you will stay on a rural family house where you can relax in the gardens or by the swimming pool. Enjoy tasting the crisp white, organic Vinho Verde wine that is produced by this family.
Both routes include a transfer.
Day 3 – Viana do Castelo - medieval city and folklore capital
Your itinerary continues north, along the coast, through a maritime environment covered with fragrant pine and eucalyptus woodlands. Follow the trails to the Cabedelo, a beach that is internationally famous for its water sports – surfing, kitesurfing and nautical competitions. Cross the Lima River on the metalic bridge that Gustave Eiffel built, to Viana do Castelo. A major port during the Roman Empire, dedicated to the goddess Diana, the harbour and the city grew importance as the region was populated. By the 16th century, during the Discoveries, courageous mariners and seafarers sailed to the Indies and the Americas, from which they returned laden with precious and exotic goods. Wealthy merchants built majestic historic buildings in the Manueline, baroque, revivalist and art-deco styles. Its historic medieval city centre, with its wide roads and narrow streets, is considered amongst the most beautiful and best preserved in the country. Elegant manor houses with elaborate stone coats-of-arms and precious facades with handcrafted tile panels represent an authentic compendium of Portuguese architecture over the ages. Viana is also known as the folklore capital of the country, with frequent cultural activities and many shops selling hand-embroidered folk costumes and typical filligree jewellery. End your day with a hike up the steep path on foot or in a more relaxed manner, by cable car, to the top of Santa Luzia hill overlooking the city, where you will be amazed by the most magnificent landscape.
Day 4 – Viana do Castelo – fishing villages, windmills and historic forts
Start off with a short train ride north towards Vila Praia de Ancora. This fishing village, located at the mouth of the Ancora River, delights visitors with its shining light and great natural beauty. The imposing 17th century military fort overlooking the sea provides shelter to a small but extremely busy harbour full of colourful fishing boats. Cross the river and amble along the paths and greenways, from one beach to another, through pine forests, accompanied by a fresh breeze from the sea. Pass by Cão Fort, another fortress built to defend the Minho region from the Spanish army, and continue until you arrive at Afife beach, one of the most sought after surfing beaches in the north of Portugal. The historic Montedor lighthouse watches in a haughty and stern manner over all who sail close to the coast. As you return to Viana, the elegant windmills are reminders of the farming traditions connected with the maize that early navigators brought with them from South America. That evening, renew your energy with an excellent dinner in one of the many fine restaurants in the town specializing in the regional cuisine. Tomorrow will bring more surprises!
Day 5 – Ponte de Lima – protected environment, the charm of the most ancient village in Portugal
In the morning, the transfer that is included in the program will take you to the heart of the Lagoas Protected Environment, near Ponte de Lima. The approximately 350 hectares of this protected region, provide visitors with a calm setting of a unique beauty. Amble along the paths and admire the biodiversity contained therein – more than 500 species of plants and animals such as otters, deer, Iberian toads, water lizards, falcons and many more. As you walk along the Lima riverside, you will admire the creativity of the landscapes exhibited at the International Gardens Festival. When you approach Ponte de Lima, the oldest town in Portugal, cross the bridge with its beautiful ogival arches, first built by the Romans then improved during medieval times, and enter the town. There, you will delight in its medieval heritage, the narrow streets and lovely squares and perhaps sit down for refreshments in one of the many outdoor cafés facing the river and the bridge. Today’s itinerary ends in the outskirts of the city where you will spend the last three days of your program. You can opt to taste the Vinho Verde wine produced at the charming rustic house where you will be staying.
Day 6 – Ponte de Lima - across fields, wine estates and vineyards
After partaking of a delicious breakfast, take off and discover Ponte de Lima´s countryside, its heritage, environment and agricultural setting. Stroll amongst green maize fields and pastures, bordered by vineyards, spotted here and there by colourful farmhouses or the granite walls of farming estates. At the top of the hill, the church of Nossa Senhora da Boa Morte (Our Lady of Good Death), an attractive baroque monument, offers a superb view over the Lima river valley. Its gardens, lake and the viewpoint are excellent settings for more photographs! Continue downhill to the valley, over cobblestone roads or on packed paths between orchards and fields. As you walk along, you will encounter welcoming farmers and villagers who would be happy to chat with you. Continue along the Lima River and return to your accommodation where, surrounded by Vinho Verde vineyards, you will enjoy spending some time in its lovely garden or by the swimming pool.
Day 7 – Ponte de Lima – along the medieval pilgrims’ way to Santiago
Ponte de Lima continues to reveal its secrets on this last day of your walking holiday! Today you will go along the Camino de Santiago, the famous route to Santiago de Compostela taken by pilgrims during the middle ages and still today, as many devotees continue to follow along this same route, for its challenges, charms and lessons on life. The hike includes rural tracks, typical of the Minho region, past small farms, maize fields and vineyards. You shall cross the village of Ponte de Lima and on the way back, follow the Lima riverside along one of its most charming trails. End the day by taking advantage of your visit to discover the local cuisine, especially the famous rojões and arroz de sarrabulho, a pork and savoury rice dish that goes ever so well with red Vinho Verde from the region.
Day 8 – Departure
Transfer back to Porto Airport.
End of your journey.