Landscapes and tradition
The upper-most region of the Portuguese rectangle-shaped mainland contains a world of contrasts. From the green festive Minho to the austerity of Trás-os-Montes. From the mild Atlantic coastline to the harsh climate of the mountainous interior. From a deeply industrialised zone of Vale do Ave to Peneda-Gerês Natural Park. Porto, a modern metropolis, is the heart of the whole area, where the finance, the services and the cultural life are based in. In contrast, there are middle-sized urban centres, such as Braga, Guimarães, Viana do Castelo or Bragança, which also foster their surrounding zones.
A unique heritage
In this region, the visitor can plan multiple routes, according to the interests and the available time: well-preserved historical centres that deserved the recognition of UNESCO by including them in the list of World Heritage Sites, such as Ribeira quarter in Porto or Guimarães; a unique amount of Romanic churches, for instance around Amarante; sanctuaries that attract many crowds, such as Bom Jesus de Braga or Senhora da Peneda; Medieval castles defending the Minho line or the dry area between Chaves, Bragança and Miranda do Douro. In addition to all this, a thrilling network of Natural Parks: Gerês, Montesinho and Alvão.
As far as hotels are concerned, there are traditional unities in the biggest cities that have kept alive the spirit of the beginning of the 20th century (such as Hotel de Santa Luzia in Viana do Castelo or Palace do Vidago); the network of Pousadas de Portugal or tourism in the countryside houses with unique expression in the Lima valley. In the north, where Portuguese independence was born and established, modernity and tradition go hand in hand and complement effectively.
There is no other region in Portugal where you will eat better. There are many options: "papas de sarrabulho" (boiled pig blood mixed with meat, sausages, bread or wheat flour), "rojões" (crackling pork), soup "caldo verde" (a mix of shredded cabbage, potatoes, garlic, onion and olive oil), kid or "dobrada" (tripe). Wine can be either the refreshing green wine or the solid mature wine. There are desserts for all tastes: crème brûlée, Abade de Priscos pudding, sweet rice. And what about handicraft? Figurative earthenware of Barcelos alone would make a book. But there are also the handkerchiefs of Vila Verde, the filigree of Viana do Castelo, the embroideries of Vila do Conde, the wooden masks of Trás-os-Montes.
In this lively diversified northern region, Minho is indeed the kingdom of feast. In August, there are endless processions and fireworks: Senhora do Minho, Senhora da Peneda, São Bento da Porta Aberta, Senhora da Agonia and so many others. In Trás-os-Montes, ancestral feasts still prevail, which are more discrete, but no less authentic, such as the "caretos" feast in Podence (Macedo de Cavaleiros) during Carnival or the Boys' Feast in December in the villages around Bragança. Miranda do Douro is the only region in Portugal with a language of its own. It is a special world placed in the middle of Douro cliffs, fields of chestnut trees and villages where you can listen to the sound of bagpipes and watch the warrior dance of the "pauliteiros".