Take a boat ride along the Douro River
If one thing the north of Portugal is renowned for is its pristine outdoors and what better way to experience it than on a river cruise along the Douro? You can book boat rides along the River Douro and take in the stunning landscapes of the Douro Valley.
The most popular cruise along the Douro are the 2 day cruises from Porto to Regua (or Regua to Porto). You can expect to pay around € 250 (~$320) for this type of cruises with "Manor Houses", which include hotel transfers, dinner, lunch and breakfast.
Saying this, you can also book 1 day boat trips along the River Douro from Regua to Pinhao or Pocinho to Barca D’Alva with “Lisboa Sightseeing” and "Douro Azul", which is one of the most popular boat operators in the region.
Go for day walks
One of the best things to do in the north of Portugal during the summer months is going on mini hiking trips to experience up-close the natural wilderness of the northern region of Portugal.
Peneda-Geres National Park is easily the most popular spot to enjoy day walks because of the camping sites and sign-posted trails. Another cool thing about hiking in Peneda-Geres NP is that you can see dolmens (megalithic tombs) near Campo Do Geres and the old granaries built by early settlers.
Alvao Natural Park, Parque Natural do Montesinho, and Parque Natural do Litoral Norte are three other popular hiking spots in north Portugal. Parque Natural do Litoral Norte is particularly a nice spot for hiking because the coastal trails offering lovely views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Enjoy a nice soak in a local thermal spa
You can’t visit northern Portugal and not enjoy a nice relaxing soak in one of the region’s thermal spas (a.k.a. termas) such as the ones in the beautiful spa towns of Caldelas (30 minutes drive north of Bragas) and Taipas (just 20 minutes drive southeast of Bragas).
Spa Geres is another popular spa destination in northern Portugal because of its location within the stunning National Park of Peneda-Geres.
Tour the old Roman city of Chaves
A visit to Northern Portugal would not be complete without spending a couple of days in Chaves exploring the city’s sights. The biggest draw in Chaves is a beautifully preserved Roman Bridge (Trajano's Bridge), the Castle of Chaves, the two military forts (Sao Francisco and Sao Neutel) and the many churches such as the Matriz Church and the Church of Madalena.
The thermal spas of Chaves were also used by the Romans for their healing benefits and they are definitely worth visiting to experience this.
Spend a day in the medieval city of Braganca
Touring the old medieval city of Braganca is another must in your itinerary because it’s home to the most stunning medieval castles you'll see anywhere in Europe. The Castle of Braganca dates back from the 15th century but it remains in such an immaculate condition that is hard to believe the castle is over 600 years old!
Best of all, you get to climb to the top of the tower (Torre da Princesa) and tour all the areas of the castle, which also houses a couple of interesting museums exhibiting Iberian masks and military artifacts.
Attend a religious festival
Portugal is renowned through Europe for their carnival celebrations and religious festivals and attending one is a fantastic way to soak in a bit of culture and learn about local Portuguese traditions.
One of the most important religious festivals in the Portuguese calendar year is the Feast of Our Lady of Anguish in the city of Viana do Castelo (Aug 19-22), which happens to be one of the best religious festivals in in northern Portugal because of the beautiful colorful processions.
Easter Week is also a fantastic time to catch a religious festival in the region, and you won’t find a better place to take in the Holy Week celebrations than in Braga. During Easter, the city of Braga boasts spectacular street decorations and religious motifs adorning every corner of the city.
See the sights of Porto
When it comes to tourist destinations in Portugal, the city of Porto is without a doubt, one of the hottest tourist spots in the country. No trip to northern Portugal will be truly fulfilled without visiting the tourist attractions in Porto.
There are actually loads to be seen in Porto so booking a sightseeing tour of some kind would be a good idea if you’re pushed for time. Otherwise, be sure to allocate at least 2 days just to see the main sights which are:
1)Luís I Bridge (walk over the bridge for best views of Porto)
2)Porto’s Waterfront (catch beautiful views at sunset)
3)Lello Bookstore (one of the most stunning book shops in the world)
4)Stock Exchange Palace (houses a spectacular Moorish Revival-style room called the Arab Room)
5)Sao Bento Train Station (known for its impressive tile panels depicting historical events)
6)Clerigos Tower (climb to the top for fantastic views of Porto)
7)Taylor’s Port (tour this historic port cellar and enjoy lovely tastings)
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