What to do

6 Days of Water Sports in Northern Portugal

Município de Viana do Castelo CC BY-NC-ND

Looking to be a surfer for one, two, three days? Wonderful! Would you rather try an even more radical sport, such as white water rafting? The rivers await for you or perhaps you are more of an explorer looking to go diving in the Atlantic Ocean? Kitesurfing, sailing, canoeing adepts, everyone has a place in this region blessed with a diversity of natural options.

Follow the tide and allow us to introduce you to the best places only a privileged few can reach. Ready to experience six days of great excitement?

Day 1: Dive!

You will start off from a famous point on the map, namely the versatile Matosinhos Beach. Its central position allows it to provide a more contemplative experience: sea diving. Enjoy the immense and magical underwater world. A diving school takes you by boat to visit the Atlantic Ocean, providing you with the equipment so you don’t need to bring along your own dive belt and weights, wetsuit, mask and fins.This is the first day of an intensive program, so we choose to stay close to Porto. Be sure to get to know the city better at the end of the day. You can enjoy lunch or dinner aboard a cruise ship, or sit by the Clerics and feel the city pulsing with life. If there is music in the streets, enjoy.

Day 2: Time to "test” your rafting skills!

If adrenalin is your "middle name" and you are really looking to challenge yourself through rocks and whirlpools, then rafting is the ideal sport for you. We advise the more courageous ones to go to Paiva river; beginners should go to Cávado river, whose waters run close to the town of Esposende. If you hear of levels I and II (very easy and easy) courses, don’t worry. The levels III and IV are classified as difficult. However, in the company of licensed monitors you are sure to be in good hands.

Rafting is also possible on Minho river all year round due to the water discharged from its surrounding dams. A paddle, helmet, wetsuit, raft, and everything you need will be available at the schools, with the usual insurance.At the end of the day, how about relaxing a little by taking a nap on the beach? Stop by the fabulous Moledo Beach (Viana do Castelo), or visit the fishing villages of Esposende, where you can enjoy a delicious freshly grilled fish.

Day 3: Living your dream - a day of canoeing

On the third day, did you imagine waterfalls, the pleasure of rappelling down one, and walking on lines of crystal clear water? Travel 100 km up north to Peneda-Gerês National Park and realize your dream in the middle of 70,000 ha. You can even spend the night there, because it is a unique destination in Portugal, with a diversity of breathtaking landscapes, cattle grazing on the roadsides, and enough space to make you feel as if you are the only person on Earth. And it will be a great challenge when you go canoeing. With the aid of ropes and rock climbing/rappelling techniques, you will walk between rocks, in more or less unstable trails, dive into the water, and stay in contact with it at all times.

You could just stay, or move to another location where the water, fauna and flora meet. Have you ever visited Póvoa de Lanhoso and its immense, amazing Adventure Park? With a view, or in the middle of the mountain range, there are nice accommodation options available.

Day 4: Searching for perfect wave to surf

Would you like to understand why surfers travel so many kilometers around the world in search of the perfect wave?
About 30 minutes from Porto you will find three beaches, where you will be able to understand why surf is not just a sport but a way of life that has greatly grown in Portugal in the last 20 years.
In Póvoa do Varzim there is a beach whose bottom is made up of rock and sand, and where one can find a steadfast flow of waves suited for experienced surfers.
At Espinho beach there is a place where top professional surfing and bodyboard adepts share a mythical wave called the "casino right-hander”, and where you can surf select waves.

If you are taking your first take-off moves (refers to a surfer paddling or taking off on a wave at an angle in order to ride it) and still lack the confidence to risk them, stay at Matosinhos beach. Choose a school with the longer, more colorful and softer boards, say that you want to learn, and confidently go into the ocean in the company of the best instructor.

Day 5: "Kitesurfing day”

Do you have a passion for the wind, and the strength to catch it? Then go to Cabedelo beach (Viana do Castelo) to try a relatively new sport at a place referred to as the "Kitesurfing Mecca". The sail (kite), board, helmet, wetsuit with protection, cables and everything else you will need will be loaned to you for the duration of the activity. Observe and feel the force of the wind, allow yourself to go with it while on the sand, then on the water, and enjoy the speed at which you will "fly over the water". You will also find good winds at Apulia beach, where you will be welcomed by several windmills built side by side. In addition to kitesurfing, you can also windsurf there, and enjoy its beautiful and preserved natural surroundings.

Day 6: To finish "on wheels", or better, on water

In need of a more romantic and peaceful day? How about taking a short voyage aboard a sailboat at sunset, or a cruise ship through Douro river in order to enjoy a different view of Porto city and the rest of the region? If you prefer something romantic but also a little more exciting, and are  looking to stay close to the water so you can jump in at any time, then go canoeing in a kayak for two. Tidbit: did you know that Nelo kayaks, used by the majority of top athletes, including Olympic competitors, are produced in Vila do Conde (very close to Porto)? It is a great pride to welcome this Portuguese manufacturer of international renown thanks to the quality of its products.

The best time of year for water sports

All year round. Summer surely attracts more people because of its longer and sunnier days. However, the winter rigidity (not harsh in Portugal), benefits activities such as rafting, where the abundance of water in rivers is essential, allowing for a fast traversing of rapids, adding more adrenalin and meaning to the challenge when taken as a group.

How to get there?

You can reach these beaches and rivers in your own car, or by means of public transport (train, metro or bus). The coast has over a hundred kilometers of calm travel between the cities of Viana do Castelo and Espinho. Enjoy the best of life, letting it run unimpeded like the ocean.

If you wish to obtain more information or learn about the new “water sports” of Porto city and Northern Portugal, we are here to help you enjoy what nature has to offer for free. Contact us.

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