Northern Portugal is a land of
contrasts and was historically one of the most important
areas of the small country. Not only was the first king
Portugal, Afonso I born within it's borders at
Guimarães, but the town of
Bragança was also the seat of
the last reigning monarchy in Portugal.
The region of
Northern Portugal is made up of three
districts - Minho,
and the Douro - each distinctly different in their
appeal and landscape though equally as beautiful and
intriguing with a wealth of history and stunning
scenery. Each of the three traditional districts, which
are distinctive in their appearance.
perhaps the most remote and isolated of all the
Portugal, is a
wind swept and boulder strewn moor land area with
relatively few towns and villages.
Located in the most north
easterly area of the country, and, with a large boundary
bordering Spain what little towns there are were
traditionally fortified with large, granite walls.
The Minho to the west is a
complete contrast and is characterised by it's
mountainous terrain, meticulously terraced and planted
with grape vines and home to some of Portugal's most
historically important cities, Guimarães and Braga.
The Douro to the south is
perhaps the most famous wine region in
thanks to the
Rio Douro, from
which the district takes it's name. The
allowed the easy transport of the rich red wines
favoured among English gentry to the quayside at Porto
and was key to the economic success of the region.
The Rios Coura,
Tâmega and Vouga all flow within the boundaries of
and were economically important to the region as a
whole, not only in keeping it fertile, but also as
transport networks, shipping goods and people through
some of the more mountainous landscape easily.
Riverside at Porto
Northern Portugal has much heavy
industry, mainly centred around the western side of the
region, it is also a haven for wild and bird life and
has four of the country's protected national Parks
nestled within it's borders.
The Parque Natural da
Peneda Gerês, Serra de Alvão, Montesinho and Douro
International are all protected parks in Northern
Portugal and each provide homes to an amazing amount of
species. The Peneda-Gerês, the most northerly of these
parks and stretches over 70,000 hectares, is home to
some of the last, wild Iberian wolves.
Valenca's Fortified Walls
However it is in the towns
and cities of
you can get a real flavour of the historical importance
the region to the country's existence. The city of
Guimarães, to be the European Cultural Capital in 2012,
was the birthplace of
Portugal and maintains it's regal
elegance today. Braga, the oldest city in Portugal, with
it's plethora of churches, cathedral and monasteries is
often referred to as the seat of religion in Portugal.
And, Porto, the
with it's UNESCO listed
historic centre, is a must for visitors wanting to get a
flavour of what the area has to offer and a glass or two
of what has helped make the region famous, Port wine.
Northern Portugal has three
other UNESCO listed sites as well as the historic
quayside in Porto. The historic centre of Guimarães, the
Alto Douro Wine region and the Rock Art Sites in the Côa
Valley are all worthy of a visit however if you are
planning a trip or holiday to
Northern Portugal you may
find you have to extend the time you are here.