Do you want to travel to an enchanted place brimming with historical, architectural and natural value, where you will be able to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city? The Douro region, in Porto and the North of Portugal, will be your ideal destination. And, to unravel it, there is nothing better than the Wonderful Douro Route.
The monasteries, churches, cathedrals, shrines and historical centres of wine-producing villages included in this Route will astound you with their monumentality, creativity and beauty. Come!
The route begins in the municipality of Vila Real, in Fraga de Panóias, a third-century pagan shrine classified as a national monument. The site, which was consecrated to autochthonous cults, Eastern deities and Roman gods, is a unique archaeological treasure in Portugal.
Head south, crossing the Douro river to Lamego. Visit the monumental See Cathedral and pay particular attention to the beautiful ceilings, painted by Nicolau Nasoni. Go up to the church of Santa Maria de Almocave, opposite the Episcopal Palace of the Lamego Diocese, and tread the ground on which the courts of the Portuguese Kingdom first assembled.
Also in Lamego, it is worth visiting the Chapel of São Pedro de Balsemão, a rare example of early medieval architecture in Portugal that holds a magnificent collection, as well as the Convent of Santo António de Ferreirim. Inside this Manueline-Renaissance property, note the early sixteenth century altarpiece set, made by the so-called "Masters of Ferreirim", and the medieval tower.
If you have lunch or dinner in town, try the typical cuisine: try the ham, the balls, the sausages and the roast lamb or wild rabbit dishes. Drizzle the meal with Douro wines and finish with local confectionery delicacies. Indulge in the "guídinhas", the "barquinhas of Santa Clara", the "Lamegos", the "gradinhas" and the "peixinhos de chila".
Head to the wine-making village of Ucanha in the municipality of Tarouca, and visit the Main Church. The altarpieces and ceilings are magnificent and quite famous, but here there are other places worth visiting. Enjoy the historic center, the fortified bridge and the Murganheira cellars.
The route then takes you to another wine-making village, Salzedas, where stands one of the largest Cistercian monasteries in Portugal, the Monastery of Salzedas. Despite being in ruins and although the facade was never finished, the building has very interesting collection on the inside.
São João de Tarouca is one of the first monasteries built by Cistercian monks in Portugal. To find it, just follow the downstream route of the Varosa river. It is one of the most visited sites in the Douro region and it holds a truly wonderful collection, including the "Saint Peter" masterpiece, a painting attributed to Master Grão Vasco.
In Moimenta da Beira, visit the Benedictine Convent of Nossa Senhora da Purificação (Our Lady of Purification), where cloistered Benedictine nuns once prayed, and admire the main altar's Baroque gilded woodcarvings.
Heading in the direction of Sernancelhe, you will find the Monastery of Nossa Senhora da Assunção. This was the last Cistercian female monastery built in Portugal. In Higher Douro, you can visit the Vila Nova de Foz Côa parish church and, if you cross the Douro towards the North, the Parish Church of Torre de Moncorvo.
Next stop is Freixo de Espada-à-Cinta. Located in the village's historic center, the Parish Church stands out for its monumentality and features a beautiful Manueline portal.
Miranda do Douro is the final stage of the Wonderful Douro Route. Located in the heart of the International Douro Natural Park, the town is known for its Mirandese language, the "pauliteiros", the famous Mirandese steak and the See. The former headquarters of the first diocese in Trás-os-Montes, this imposing building has two large bell towers. Inside the Cathedral, admire the seventeenth-and eighteenth-century Mannerist-style altarpieces and the Baroque chairs.
You will need more than one day to complete this Route. The region has many hotels and rural tourism accommodations where you can recharge your batteries and prepare for another day of discovery. Don't forget to try the renowned Port wine, originating from this region, the first wine region in the world to be demarcated and regulated, back in 1756.
Should you have any doubts concerning the Wonderful Douro Route or need help to improve your trip, please contact us. We'll be happy to help you.