Monasteries, churches, cathedrals, shrines and historical centers amaze and delight anyone for its monumentality, but also for its creativity and beauty.
Take at least two days and do the Route of Wonderful Douro. The route joins monuments from different periods and architectural styles, which overlap each other on the terraces of the vineyards. From Fragas de Panóias to the Monastery and S. Fragas Church passing by the Lamego Cathedral. Monumental buildings, almost all of them classified as national monuments or of public interest, with the spiritual dimension, popular tradition and material value.
The route begins in Vila Real, in Fraga de Panóias, a national monument, a third-century pagan temple dedicated to Serápis. The site, which was dedicated to indigenous cults, eastern deities and roman gods, is a gem of archeology in Portugal. Learn more about the rituals of other times!
If you get the chance, try the cuisine from Vila Real: the delicacies which are more appreciated are: the roasted veal, roast kid, the tripe, the porks knee , the meat ball, the sausages and the pastry “cristas de galo” and “pitos de Santa Luzia”.
Head south, across the river Douro. In Lamego, visit the monumental Cathedral. Inside, watch the beautiful painted ceilings by Nicolau Nasoni. Climb to the church of Santa Maria de Almocave, opposite the Episcopal Palace of the Diocese of Lamego, and step on the floor where for the first time the courts of the kingdom of Portugal gathered.
Also in Lamego, it is worth visiting the Chapel of São Pedro de Balsemão - a rare copy of the architecture in medieval Portugal that hides a magnificent estate - and the Convent of Santo António Ferreirim. Within is the Manueline-Renaissance retable observe all of the principle of the sixteenth century, the authorship of so-called Masters of Ferreirim, and the medieval tower.
If you have lunch or dinner in town, try the ham, the balls, sausages and the dishes of roasted lamb and rabbit. Drizzle the meal with wines from the Douro and end with the local pastry. Indulge in the Guídinhas, Barquinhas de Santa Clara, Lamegos, the Gradinhas and the peixinhos de chila.
In the vineyard villages
Start off towards the vineyard village of Ucanha, in the county of Tarouca, and visit the Church. The altarpieces and ceilings are magnificent and a reference point, but here there are also other places worth a visit. Enjoy the historic center, the fortified bridge and the cellars of Murganheira.
The route then takes you to another vineyard village, Salzedas, where is the Salzedas Monastery, one of the largest Cistercian monasteries of Portugal. Despite being in ruins and the facade of the church was unfinished, the building, inside, possesses an interesting collection.
One of the first monasteries to be built by Cistercian monks in Portugal was São João de Tarouca. To find it, simply follow the route of the Varosa river downstream. It is one of the most visited sites of the Douro and 'hides' a truly wonderful collection, including the masterpiece São Pedro, painting attributed to Master Grão Vasco.
In the village of Moimenta da Beira, visit the Convent of our Lady of Purification, where once cloistered Benedictine nuns prayed and whose high altar is a carved and gilded in baroque style.
In the municipality of Sernancelhe, there is the Monastery of our Lady of Assumption. This is the last Cistercian convent built in Portugal. In the same place, Tabosa - parish of Carregal - was born the Portuguese writer Aquilino Ribeiro.
In the Upper Douro
In the Upper Douro, is worth visiting the parish churches of Vila Nova de Foz Côa and across the Douro to the north, in Barca d'Alva, the Tower Moncorvo.
Next stop: Freixo de Espada-à-Cinta. Located in the historic village where was born another great Portuguese writer, Guerra Junqueiro, the Church stands out for its monumentality and features a fine Manueline portal.
Miranda do Douro is the end point of the Wonderful Route of Douro. Located in the Douro International Natural Park, the city is known for the language mirandesa; by Pauliteiros, the famous Mirandese grilled meat and by its Cathedral. Inside the Cathedral, admire the altars of the XVII and XVIII centuries, the Mannerist style and Baroque choirstalls.
How to get there
To Porto, there are low cost flights example, London (Stansted and Gatwick), Paris (Beauvais, Orly and Charles de Gaulle Vatry), Marseille, Lille, Tours, St. Etienne, Bologna, Bordeaux, Lyon, Toulouse, Madrid, Barcelona El Prat , Tenerife, Valencia and Palma de Mallorca.
In the summer, there are low cost companies flying from Liverpool, Las Palmas, Carcassonne, Rodez and Nantes.
With normal rates, there are flight connections from London - Gatwick, Madrid, Barcelona and Paris - Orly.
From the International Airport Francisco Sá Carneiro, the best way to reach the city center of Porto is by metro. The trip takes about 30 minutes.
To Douro, follow the national road 108 to Entre-os-Rios and continue along the river Douro to Régua - alternatively, you can go by IP4, which connects the districts of Porto, Vila Real and Bragança, and then continue for national and municipal roads.