Your walking holiday in Portugal will begin in the fishing village of Esposende, right in the middle of the Northern Coast Natural Park, one of the most enchanting environments along the Atlantic coast in Northern Portugal. The combination of river and sea make of Esposende a haven of calm and natural magical landscapes, the ideal place to begin your walking tour. Amble along the paths in the Natural Park bordering the Atlantic and discover long, golden beaches perfumed by the tide. This natural habitat with unusual characteristics shelters numerous wild species of plants and animals. The fields and the sea shall be your backdrop on a coastline embellished by windmills, lighthouses and forts.
Your next overnight stop is Viana do Castelo, a coastal city boasting a wealth of medieval architecture, which is the Portuguese folklore capital and the cradle of several Portuguese discoverers. From the 16th century onwards, these intrepid navigators led their ships and caravels around the world during the Age of the Discoveries. Today, Viana do Castelo boasts a wealth of stately homes, manor houses and elegant squares that will enchant you. Your trip to the top of Santa Luzia hill overlooking the city, whether you prefer to climb the steep stairs or ride the cable car, will reward you with the most magnificent landscape of your itinerary, as beaches, river and the mountain greenery are displayed before you as far as the eye can see.
The last days of your itinerary are reserved for exploring the region around Ponte de Lima, the most ancient village in Portugal. You will not be indifferent to the medieval atmosphere of its centre, the intense blue waters of the Lima River that flow under the Roman bridge and its beautiful ogival arches or to the medieval route taken by pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela, the Camino de Santiago. At your leisure, explore lush vineyards, onwards through the Lagoas Protected Landscape, a haven and habitat for more than 500 species of plants and animals native to the region. A truly inspiring scenic environment!
Esposende, Suave Mar Hotel
This charming hotel stands facing Cávado River and it is 200m away from the ocean. The location of the hotel is the best for a visit to one of the beach bars and restaurants.
Chafé, Casa da Reina Rural Guest House
A cosy rural guest house, quiet countryside location, wine producer.
Viana do Castelo, Rali Hotel
A newly renovated hotel in Viana’s city centre with indoor swimming pool
Ponte de Lima, Quinta da Agra Rural Guest House
A charming countryside Manor house with traditional architecture with a quiet garden.
It is a requirement of booking this tour with Hooked on Cycling that you have suitable travel insurance which covers you for the chosen activity and for emergency evacuation and hospital care.
Fly into Porto airport during the day and take the included transfer to the fishing town of Esposende. The transfer takes place at 2.30pm from the airport. Located at the mouth of the Cavado River, facing the Atlantic Ocean, this town upholds its ancient traditions in a picturesque fishing port from which small colourful fishing boats set off daily to supply the market and restaurants with fresh catches of fish and shellfish. Located within the Northern Coast Natural Park, Esposende is a space of beautiful landscapes and an environmental haven for a great variety of native animal and plant species. It is a welcoming area along 18 Kms of sandy beaches, many of whose clear waters have been rewarded with blue European Union flags of approval. Take a while to stroll along the riverside and cross the walkway over the dunes while you appreciate the view to the sea and wildlife.
On this first full day of your walking holiday, your tour will take you from the beaches along the sea, inland along a river to the Vinho Verde vineyards, the best of both worlds. Starting from the tall lighthouse, say goodbye to Esposende as you follow the path that meanders between the dunes and pine trees. Walk along the wooden walkways built to protect the sand dunes and the wild grasses that grow there, keeping the fields and the sea in the background. After arriving at Belinho beach, you will find an observation tower where you can indulge in a spot of birdwatching. Look out for typical species such as lapwings, plovers, sea swallows and sandpipers, amongst others. Take the trail inland along the Neiva River. This evening, you will stay on a rural family house where you can relax in the gardens or by the swimming pool.
Both routes include a transfer.
Your itinerary continues north, along the coast, through a maritime environment covered with fragrant pine and eucalyptus woodlands. Follow the trails to the Cabedelo, a beach that is internationally famous for its water sports, surfing, kitesurfing and nautical competitions. Now cross the Lima River on the metallic bridge that Gustave Eiffel built, to Viana do Castelo. This was a major port during the Roman Empire, dedicated to the goddess Diana. The harbour and city grew of importance as the region was populated. By the 16th century, during the Discoveries, courageous mariners and seafarers sailed to the Indies and the Americas, from which they returned laden with precious and exotic goods. Wealthy merchants built majestic historic buildings in the Manueline, baroque, revivalist and art-deco styles. Its historic medieval city centre, with its wide roads and narrow streets, is considered amongst the most beautiful and best-preserved in the country. Elegant manor houses with elaborate stone coats-of-arms and precious facades with handcrafted tile panels represent an authentic compendium of Portuguese architecture over the ages. Viana is also known as the folklore capital of the country, with frequent cultural activities and many shops selling hand-embroidered folk costumes and typical jewellery. End your day with a hike up the steep path on foot or in a more relaxed manner, by cable car, to the top of Santa Luzia hill overlooking the city, where you will be amazed by the most magnificent landscape.
Start off with a short train ride north towards Vila Praia de Ancora. This fishing village, located at the mouth of the Ancora River, delights visitors with its shining light and great natural beauty. The imposing 17th-century military fort overlooking the sea provides shelter to a small but extremely busy harbour full of colourful fishing boats. Cross the river and amble along the paths and greenways, from one beach to another, through pine forests, accompanied by a fresh breeze from the sea. Pass by Cão Fort, another fortress built to defend the Minho region from the Spanish army, and continue until you arrive at Afife beach, one of the most sought after surfing beaches in the north of Portugal. The historic Montedor lighthouse watches in a haughty and stern manner over all who sail close to the coast. As you return to Viana, the elegant windmills are reminders of the farming traditions connected with the maize that early navigators brought with them from South America.
In the morning, the transfer that is included in the program will take you to the heart of the Lagoas Protected Environment, near Ponte de Lima. The approximately 350 hectares of this protected region, provide visitors with a calm setting of unique beauty. Amble along the paths and admire the biodiversity contained therein. More than 500 species of plants and animals such as otters, deer, Iberian toads, water lizards, falcons and many more live here. As you walk along the Lima riverside, you will admire the creativity of the landscapes exhibited at the International Gardens Festival. When you approach Ponte de Lima, the oldest town in Portugal, cross the bridge with its beautiful ogival arches, first built by the Romans then improved during medieval times, and enter the town. There, you will be delighted in its medieval heritage, the narrow streets and lovely squares. Perhaps sit down for refreshments in one of the many outdoor cafés facing the river and the bridge. Today’s itinerary ends in the outskirts of the city where you will spend the last three days of your program. You can opt to taste the Vinho Verde wine produced at the charming rustic house where you will be staying.
After partaking of a delicious breakfast, take-off and discover Ponte de Lima´s countryside. Stroll amongst green maize fields and pastures, bordered by vineyards, spotted here and there by colourful farmhouses or with granite walls of farming estates. At the top of the hill, the church of Nossa Senhora da Boa Morte (Our Lady of Good Death), an attractive baroque monument, offers a superb view over the Lima river valley. Its gardens, lake and the viewpoint are excellent settings for more photographs! Continue downhill to the valley, over cobblestone roads or on packed paths between orchards and fields. As you walk along, you will encounter welcoming farmers and villagers who would be happy to chat with you. Continue along the Lima River and return to your accommodation where surrounded by Vinho Verde vineyards where you can enjoy spending time in its lovely garden or by the swimming pool.
Ponte de Lima continues to reveal its secrets on this last day of your walking holiday! Today you will go along the Camino de Santiago, the famous route to Santiago de Compostela taken by pilgrims during the middle ages and still today, as many devotees continue to follow along this same route, for its challenges, charms and lessons on life. The hike includes rural tracks, typical of the Minho region, past small farms, maize fields and vineyards. You shall cross the village of Ponte de Lima and on the way back, follow the Lima riverside along one of its most charming trails. End the day by taking advantage of your visit to discover the local cuisine, especially the famous rojões and arroz de sarrabulho, a pork and savoury rice dish that goes ever so well with red Vinho Verde from the region.
Transfer back to Porto Airport leaving hotel at 10am.
Fly to Porto Airport where a shared transfer to the first hotel is included. At the end a shared transfer back to Porto airport.