Snaking through the heart of Portugal’s wine country, the Douro shimmers silky smooth in the valley far below. From your lofty perch in Casal de Loivos village, your eyes retrace the route you sailed this morning with affable local skipper Paulo. Gleaming among the grapevines on the opposite bank is his family’s whitewashed quinta. Here, over a traditional Portuguese lunch, he shared his stories, homemade wine, and the secrets of port production. As you preview your afternoon’s walk, new perspectives unfurl. An infinite patchwork of terraced vineyards staggers steeply towards your riverside inn. It’s a view you could savor forever, but you’ve got another tempting evening of tastings ahead on this Self-Guided Portugal walking tour. Heeding the trail’s call, you plunge homeward, down through the vines.
Sat, May 1 to Sun, May 16 - 2021
3.6 miles, easy to moderate, 550-ft. cumulative elevation gain and loss
Arrive in Porto and, with a Country Walkers representative, make your way north into Portugal’s remote Minho province at the Spanish border. Your destination is the country’s first and only national park, Peneda-Gerês, a striking landscape of forested hills and isolated villages that evoke the rich rural traditions of Portugal. As one of the country’s least-developed regions, accommodations here are simple and trails are not perfectly maintained. Therein lies its adventure and its charm, as you’ll discover during a two-night stay that puts you at the heart of this tranquil and unspoiled place. You’ll follow paved granite trails through deep wooded valleys and to remote uplands reaching 4,900 feet, passing through tiny villages that haven’t changed for centuries. It’s common to walk an entire day without passing anyone else here, save perhaps a shepherd guiding his flock.
Stop in the small town of Ponte da Barca for last-minute items before arriving in the village of Lindoso, best known for its 13th-century medieval castle and its dozens of 19th-century espigueiros, granite corn granaries elevated on pillars to keep rats and mice at bay. The castle is one of Portugal’s finest examples of medieval military architecture with its Vauban-style, star-shaped wall and dramatic position above the valley of the Lima River. Central to the nation’s identity, it played a major role as the Minho region changed hands between Spain and Portugal in the 1660s.
Explore the castle and its espigueiros, then continue with your representative to Parada, an old, granite village dripping with rural, old-world charm. Cows and goats not only share the narrow streets with residents but they also share the houses, relegated to street level while owners live upstairs. On the way to your rustic guesthouse, you might pass women doing laundry in the communal washbasin. Arriving at your modest accommodation, you will meet your host, Patricia, over a light lunch and then accompany your Country Walkers representative on a warm-up walk along the Trilho dos Moinhos de Parada (Path of the Mills). Ascend a steadily climbing, wide, cobbled pathway in the shade of grape arbors. Moss-covered stone walls and small vineyards of Portugal’s famed vinho verde grapes line your trail, as do magnificent views of the Lima Valley, the slopes of Peneda Mountain dotted with tiny villages, and Parada and its granaries. Later, your wide path narrows into an uneven stone footpath and an ancient shepherds’ trail that leads past towering oak trees. As you reach a plateau, you’re surrounded by the pristine Terras de Lindos mountains, overlooking deep valley contours and soaring peaks of the Serra Amarela. After time to admire the sweeping view, and perhaps the wild, free-roaming Garrano ponies that frequent the area, follow stone cairns downhill through yellow gorse and purple heather and over ancient granite bridges to Poço da Gola. This is one of the park’s many natural pools, and it features an abandoned water mill. Take a dip here if you’d like, then continue on this trail back to the village, passing the historical jailhouse, city hall, and courthouse along the way. Your Country Walkers representative will leave you to enjoy a true Portuguese rustic dinner (prepared by your host) in your eat-in kitchen.
Accommodation: Casa da Fecha, Parada/Lindoso
Included Meals: Lunch, Dinner
5.2 miles, moderate to challenging, 1,350-ft. cumulative elevation gain and loss
After a hearty breakfast, transfer 40 minutes to the stone village of Gavieira amid the granite uplands of Serra da Peneda. Today’s walk is sometimes gentle and sometimes challenging. It begins along a pilgrimage route, heading out of the village on a moderate trail through a varied terrain of narrow paths, riverbanks, and an emerald-green patchwork of terraced pastures. Continue up a gentle slope under the hushed canopy of oak and chestnut trees, and step into a humid environment of ferns and mossy stone walls. A trail through pine forest leads to open fields of rocks dotted by stone cairns, over a hillock, and up a granite mountainside through tall vegetation. At the plateau, more cairns point the way to a picturesque artificial lake formed by a dam. On the distant hillsides, you might spot the region’s ubiquitous Cachena cattle with their long lyre-shaped horns or even see more Garrano ponies. You’re sure to find an ideal spot to enjoy the picnic lunch that Patricia prepared for you this morning. A steady descent along a magnificent old granite stairway, one of Portugal’s great mountain routes, delivers you to the large main square of Peneda, a town which straddles a deep ravine at the foot of a towering cliff draped in green.
The focal point of Peneda has long been the Sanctuary of Senhora da Peneda, a pilgrimage destination for many of the devout who call these mountains home. Each September, the Nossa Senhora da Peneda Festival comes alive with a music-filled square where thousands, who have walked the same trails that brought you here, gather to celebrate. In the open portico, take a moment to admire statues of the four evangelists and the 20 chapels representing the Stations of the Cross. If you wish, you can take in the ambiance of this quiet village at an outdoor café before a meal of simple mountain food at your hotel.
Accommodation: Peneda Hotel, Peneda
Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
5.2 mile or 6.7 miles, moderate with challenging sections, 300-ft. cumulative elevation gain and 1,950-ft. or 2,700-ft. cumulative elevation loss
Today’s walk follows the Romeiros da Peneda, a shepherd’s trail through stunning agricultural landscapes. Your route traces the seasonal pathways used by shepherds as they moved their flocks to higher pastures and dwellings (brandas) in warm months and lower pastures and dwellings (inverneiras) in cold months. From the summer hamlet of Branda da Aveleira, you head out on a wide, rocky, dirt track through fields. Pass long-horned cattle as you descend into the Rio Vez Valley, a U-shaped glacial-cut expanse littered with large, smooth granite boulders. You’ll cross the Rio Vez and pass the stone dwellings of picturesque Branda do Furado, and later, ascend a wide grassy trail to a steep rocky climb. This ancient cobbled path leads through a majestic oak forest past mossy stone walls, to the pinnacle of today’s hike in the Serra da Peneda. Take time to soak in the rugged mountain vistas, keeping watch for vultures overhead. When you’re ready, follow the stone cairns through high pastures where shepherds often tend their herds. Through an open pine forest, follow a stone path known locally as a carreteiro for its historical use as an ox-cart trail. Today it is still marked by centuries-old wheel ruts. Numerous summer dwellings point the way to the mountain village of Porta Cova, a short distance from your final destination, Padrão. This small hamlet is known for its socalcos, perfectly preserved terraces of deep fertile soil held in place by heavy stone walls. They are an astonishing sight in this rugged mountain terrain.
Padrão embodies the typical mountain community of old Portugal. Compact, communal-like houses, make efficient use of village space, keeping much of the land available for farming. Padrão and villages like it, are many things to the local people: an entry into the surrounding fields for farming, a starting point into the mountains for grazing, a private space for families, and a meeting place for neighbors. Despite the remoteness of these villages, they are designed with brilliant intention for function and sociability.
If you wish, you may join your affable taxi driver here for a lift to the lovely village of Sistelo. But we recommend you continue walking for another hour. The cobbled path is downhill, bordered by stone walls, and offers spectacular views of farming terraces. Lush grape arbors, vineyards, vegetable gardens, and farmers at work lend a beautiful rustic ambiance to the day’s final walk. Once in Sistelo, you can rest your feet and grab a drink at a local bar, then join your driver for a transfer to Guimarães. En route, pause to marvel at the hilltop church of Bom Jesus in Braga, one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the country. Its spectacular Baroque stairway of some 600 steps zigzags upward—some of the chapels on the stairs’ many landings date to the 14th century.
Arrive in Guimarães in time for dinner. The birthplace of the Portuguese kingdom and a UNESCO World Heritage site, the city is a treasure trove of history and a revered point of pride for locals. There’ll be time to explore tomorrow when your guide joins you. Tonight, you’ll have many dining options before retiring to your room in the heart of the city.
Accommodation: Hotel da Oliveira, Guimarães
Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
2–3 miles, easy
Guimarães enjoys a stunning setting, surrounded by emerald hills. This gracious city is the birthplace of Portugal, as it was here that Afonso Henriques declared himself king in 1139. The place of his birth, the Castelo de São Miguel, was originally built to deflect Moors and Normans in the 10th century. The castle lords over the town with its massive square keep and imposing battlements. It was the Battle of São Mamede in the nearby countryside that determined Portugal’s fate as Afonso led his troops to victory. For several decades after, the city was the national capital until the needs of the famous Reconquest required the seat of government to be moved to Coimbra.
After a hearty breakfast today, you will join a local guide for a three-hour walking tour that traces the city’s rich history. From your hotel on the Largo da Oliveira, the main square, stroll over to the Church of Our Lady of the Olive Tree. The church was founded by Henriques and named for a centuries-old olive tree that is said to have lit the altar lamp with its oil. Admire the interior then walk up the cobbled lane of Rua de Santa Maria, passing the Convent of Santa Clara and many stately houses adorned with ornate Baroque statuary. You will pass the 15th-century Paço dos Duques, or Palace of the Dukes of Braganza, before arriving at the Castelo de São Miguel. Take some time to admire its battlements. (If you wish, you may return later on your own to visit the interior of the palace and castle at your expense.) The route back to your hotel passes through the Couros district, named for the small river that once fed a thriving leather and tanning industry.
You will have the afternoon to spend as you please, shopping or dining around the Largo da Oliveira. Perhaps you’ll return to the Paço dos Duques or Castelo de São Miguel to delve more deeply into the city’s past. You may also choose to browse the fascinating exhibits at the Museu Martins Sarmento, a rich repository of archaeological finds from the region. For some peace and tranquility, climb aboard the cable car for a 10-minute ride to a 2,000-foot peak simply known as “Penha.” Your cable car ride casts you afloat in the air over the back gardens of Guimarães residents and delivers you to walking trails, grottoes, cafés, and lovely picnic spots with fantastic views. This evening, you may find a restaurant for dinner on your own.
Accommodation: Hotel da Oliveira, Guimarães
Included Meals: Breakfast
4.6 miles, easy to moderate, 1,700-ft. cumulative elevation loss
This morning, transfer for about an hour to Vila Real, a busy town perched upon the edge of a gorge. Here, the striking Casa Mateus Palace—a masterful Baroque solar, or manor house—boasts what may be the finest formal gardens in Portugal. On a guided visit, you will see the ornate chapel, the wood-paneled library with its collection of 2,000 parchments and royal charters dating back five centuries, and several other richly adorned rooms with period furnishings. In the garden, admire textured topiary originally laid in the 1930s and 40s, including a visitor favorite: an aromatic 115-foot tunnel sculpted from tightly planted cedars.
Continue to the village of Provesende in the heart of the wine-growing Douro River Valley. In this unassuming little hamlet, Porto’s 17th-century wine elite established the regulations for port production. Following lunch in a rustic local restaurant or armed with a lovely picnic lunch (equivalent value; based on restaurant opening times and availability), set off on your walk into the Douro Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Descend a gentle hill, traversing the area’s famed terraced vineyards, olive trees, and stone walls with views of the sparkling Douro River. From the pretty whitewashed village of São Cristóvão do Douro, continue to Pinhão on the banks of the river. Here, we have scheduled a winery tour and port tasting for you at the Quinta do Bomfim, across the street from your hotel. This family-owned quinta, one of the many wine estates that dot the region’s countryside, has been making port for five generations. This evening, savor dinner in your hotel’s elegant dining room, the award-winning Rabelo restaurant.
Accommodation: Vintage House Hotel, Pinhão
Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (and Port Tasting)
3.9 miles, easy to moderate, 150-ft. cumulative elevation gain and 1,150-ft. cumulative elevation loss
To get a true sense of the beauty of the Douro River and the terraced hills that guide its course, you will follow breakfast today with a small-group, two-hour boat excursion (by sail or motor, conditions permitting). Meet your captain, Paulo, at the Pinhão dock and embark on a leisurely morning among breathtaking vistas of sloping riverbanks blanketed with vineyards and dotted with charming white quintas. Along the way, Paulo will regale you with stories and history of the region that he knows so well. When you arrive on shore, continue (along with any other boat passengers) into the hills with Paulo to his family’s historic quinta. Operating since the 18th century, it is one of the valley’s oldest. Despite the estate’s modern look and feel, the family proudly produces wine using the most-traditional methods, providing you an intimate glimpse into Douro viniculture. You are Paulo’s guest for lunch today—a generous spread of dishes made of ingredients sourced from his family’s farm and paired (of course) with its wines.
After, your host will drive you either back to your hotel or to the starting point of today’s walk, depending on your energy! If you wish to walk, begin at the small village of Casal de Loivos in the hills. The views from its miradouro, or Douro viewpoint, are considered the best in the valley. From the viewpoint, it is a leisurely downhill trek to the valley floor, passing the Quinta da Roêda, where you may stop for another tasting if you’d like. Once you arrive at the river, follow its shores back to your hotel. Dinner is on your own tonight.
Accommodation: Vintage House Hotel, Pinhão
Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch (and Wine Tasting)
2–3 miles, easy
A taxi takes you to Porto this morning, about one-and-a-half hours away. Upon arrival at your hotel, you will meet a guide for a three-hour food tour and orientation walk of this atmospheric city. Porto has long benefited from commerce, whether providing provisions to medieval crusaders on their way to the Holy Land, importing goods during Portugal’s famed Age of Discovery, or exporting its fortified port wine to Britain. The grand, yet unpretentious, architecture you’ll see throughout the city was built on its wealthy past. Your hotel is on the edge of the city’s Cathedral district, putting Porto’s mammoth church within easy reach. As you explore, you’ll sample the flavors of a city heralded for its cuisine. Stop at a local café for a drink and appetizer and settle in at a traditional taberna for lunch, perhaps trying codfish pataniscas (fritters) or the classic francesinha (pork and beef sandwich with melted cheese and a spicy sauce). And cap off your moveable feast at one of Porto’s historical cafés for coffee and dessert.
This afternoon is free for you to return to the sites that interested you during your tour. Or perhaps you’ll step into the São Bento train station to admire its artful display of azulejos, Portugal’s famed painted tiles. You may choose to linger in the Ribeira district, where rabelos (small wooden boats) bob on the river’s currents. In the past, these modest vessels were laden with casks, and transported wine to Porto from the quintas upriver, until the railroad came along. Admire the girders of the Ponte de Dom Luís I bridge, designed by an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel or, perhaps, head over to Vila Nova de Gaia across the river, where wines brought downriver from the valley are still matured and prepared for shipping at local armazéns, or wine lodges.
Accommodation: Flores Village Hotel & Spa, Porto
Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
After breakfast, you may depart at your leisure.
Included Meals: Breakfast
Casa da Fecha
A beautifully renovated home with traditional wood furnishings, stone walls, and tiled floors, the Casa da Fecha in the stone village of Parada is the ideal spot from which to explore the trails of Peneda-Gerês National Park. This self-catering guesthouse is equipped with fans rather than air conditioning, and evokes the true spirit of rural Portugal, as it is woven so deeply into the fabric of this simple and special place. You will have the three-bedroom, three-bathroom house all to yourself so you can fully experience life in an ancient village in your own way. Even the welcoming owner Patricia ensures your privacy as she lives elsewhere in the village. Please note: this accommodation is available on limited departures.
Flores Village Hotel & Spa
Situated on the Rua das Flores, or Street of Flowers, on the edge of Porto’s Cathedral district, the Flores Village Hotel & Spa is the ideal spot from which to explore the historic city of Porto. The boutique property, a restored 18th-century manor house, was awarded the 2016 Luxury Hotel & Spa of the Year by Luxury Travel Guide for its lush offerings and exemplary services. Its location on Vitória Hill within the city’s UNESCO World Heritage site ensures that its interiors are preserved as carefully as its exteriors. The garden and courtyard area is the epitome of outdoor elegance. The plush and beautiful rooms provide all the amenities you’ll need for an enriching stay, including air conditioning and WiFi. Take time to relax in the sauna, Roman bath or hammam. Please note: this accommodation is available on limited departures.
Hotel da Oliveira
Located in the historic center of Guimarães on one of the city’s beautiful praças, or squares, the Hotel da Oliveira is one of the great boutique hotels of the world. It is perfectly located within walking distance of the city’s most iconic site, the Castelo de São Miguel. This restored period pousada, or inn, retains its historical charms—bare stone walls, exposed beams, and timber flooring—amid luxurious accommodations that have been crafted with fine touches. Well-appointed rooms include air conditioning and WiFi. The on-site restaurant offers carefully prepared, traditional cuisine and the bar is the ideal spot to unwind after a discovery-rich day.
The simple amenities of the rustic, historical Peneda Hotel befit the needs of the pilgrims who converge here to pray at the Sanctuary of Senhora da Peneda. Its peaceful locale, and stunning setting alongside a waterfall and over a gushing creek, makes it a tranquil haven to conclude an enriching day of walking. The on-site restaurant serves simple mountain food with the option to dine in the clean mountain air on the outdoor terrace. Relax in a spacious, un-air conditioned room with blond-wood floors and French windows that look out across the ravine to the village.
The Vintage House Hotel
The Vintage House Hotel’s tranquil riverside setting in the small town of Pinhão is perfect for exploring the Douro Valley. This heritage property was formerly a 19th-century wine estate and has been beautifully restored to provide all today’s comforts including guest rooms with luxury bedding, air conditioning, and flat-screen televisions. The outdoor gardens, pool, and guest rooms offer panoramic river views. A few steps away is the main street of Pinhão with many shops, restaurants, and a wine museum.
|16 meals: 7 breakfasts, 6 lunches, and 3 dinners|
|Detailed water- and tear-resistant Route Notes, maps, and use of a handheld GPS unit|
|Orientation meeting with a Country Walkers representative|
|Local representative available 24/7|
|Scheduled taxi and luggage transfers (Please note: If unable to walk, it is possible to transfer with your luggage from one accommodation to the next; there may be an additional charge.)|
|Entrance fees and special events as noted in the itinerary: Guided visit to Casa de Mateus in Vila Real; winery tour and port tasting at Quinta do Bomfim; winery tour and wine tasting at historic family quinta; Douro River small group boat excursion; guided walking tours of Guimarães and Porto.|
|Travel assistance available 24/7 provided by Allianz Global Assistance|
|Access to Self-Guided Flight Concierge—Ask our knowledgeable team to find flights that sync perfectly with your planned trip.|
Dates & Prices
|2021 Dates||Number of Travelers||Pre Hotel Night||Post Hotel Night|
|2-3||4+||Single Supplement||Solo Surcharge||2+||Single Supplement||2+||Single Supplement|
|May 1 - May 16||$4,398||$4,398||$898||$2,098||$223||$198||$223||$198|
|May 19 - Jun 27||$4,598||$4,598||$898||$2,098||$223||$198||$223||$198|
|Sep 15 - Oct 14||$4,598||$4,398||$898||$2,098||$223||$198||$223||$198|
|Oct 15 - Oct 30||$4,398||$4,398||$898||$2,098||$223||$198||$223||$198|
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