Green hills and river of the Douro Valley, Northern Portugal

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The Best of Northern Portugal


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When you think of villa holidays in Portugal, what springs to mind? Most would picture the long golden beaches of the Algarve, met with crystal waters and lush golf courses nearby. Portugal is widely known for its southern beauty. But the north offers uncovered delights waiting to spark your holiday happiness! Discover the best of northern Portugal below, with alluring natural landscapes and captivating cities taking centre stage. Your Portuguese adventure is waiting to unfold…

Douro Valley

Rolling hills and river of the Douro Valley, Northern Portugal

The Douro Valley is Portugal’s northern star, shining both day and night. Its untouched serenity stands out among rural hills and azure rivers. It’s a must-see during your villa holiday in Portugal! Gaze at majestic green rural lands flowing into calm turquoise waters, meeting together in perfect harmony. You’ll feel an overwhelming sense of bliss upon your visit here. The quiet tones surrounding the valleys set a calming atmosphere as you wind your way through peaceful walkways. There’s no loud sounds or a busy vibe here – the views of mountain plateaus speak for themselves! Scattered with rustic churches and castles, the area earned UNESCO World Heritage Status in 2001.

Within unbeatable mellow tranquillity, watersports provide a ring of excitement on the river’s surface, and below! Spice up your day with a boat tour or jet ride. And after all the amazement, maybe you’ll find yourself tempted by a tasty tipple! Find these at ancient wine cellars producing some of Portugal’s most-loved beverages. Port wine, the iconic national drink, was born here. Take a sip (or more) for an authentic taste of Portugal!

Peneda-Gerês National Park

Countryside and river of Peneda Geres National Park

Fall head over heels for the majestic visions before your eyes at Portugal’s only national park. Nature lovers rejoice! History buffs are also in for a treat, as 12th century granite villages are preserved in immaculate condition. It’s easy to believe that the sculptor has only just put the finishing touches to his work! You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you witness the villagers going about their daily lives. Local shepherds herd their oxen and let them roam lush fields in flocks of many. They live alongside their animals in strong ancient tradition, away from the modern influences of Portuguese cities and coastal resorts.

Rushing rivers flow through the Peneda, Soajo, Amarela and Gerês mountain ranges, ending in calm reservoirs. Hues of blue and green meet in a contrast of colours creating a scene of unmistakable beauty. Wolves roam in the greenery, waiting to pounce for their next meal – the elegant roe deer. Badgers and wild horses also make up an intriguing list of wild inhabitants. Discover your inner wildlife explorer by seeking these creatures in the mysterious vegetation, how many will you spot?

Porto

Wine and traditional pastries overlooking Porto

Like a scene from a storybook, Porto is a mesmerising vision of patchwork terraced buildings wrapped around the hustle and bustle of Portuguese city life. Its irresistible charm is met by the Douro River winding its way through lively banks of restaurants, hotels and boutiques. This treat for your eyes is complemented by the taste sensations served up at traditional eateries, washed down with iconic port wine flowing from the Douro Valley.

State-of-the-art architecture is met by Baroque churches and ancient cathedrals, as modern day clashes with times gone by. Simply stroll the streets and soak up your surroundings, visiting beautiful local gardens or meandering along the tranquil river banks. Dive into the nightlife or experience a football game at Estádio do Dragão, home to the successful FC Porto and stage of many international duels. Porto has so much to discover, you may opt to return for another day of exploring!

Guimarães

The fountain of Largo do Toural in Guimares, Portugal

This charismatic city has made its way into the holiday plans of visitors from all corners of the globe. And it’s easy to see why! Views of well-preserved and authentic buildings from medieval Portugal whisk you back in time. The rustic alleys and mysterious streets are an untouched example of this classic era meeting modern influences. As you look up and admire the classic architecture, take in the bustling sounds of the surrounding bars and eateries. Wine glasses clink as locals and visitors enjoy sips of traditional port wine. Fresh fish sizzles on hot plates, waiting to be savoured and enjoyed. Quirky boutiques sell anything from clothing to homely nick-nacks, giving a true insight into the life of a local.

The history caressing the winding streets influences Portugal’s national identity and proud heritage. A towering city wall displays ‘Aqui Nasceu Portugal’ – translating to ‘Portugal was born here’. Granite scenes dominate the pavements and walkways. Smartly dressed locals chatter and cafés serve traditional pastries from classic 1960s kitchens. For these reasons and many more, the city holds a special place in the heart of locals, and will win you over with its character and charm!

Viana do Castelo

Ponte de Lima Viana do Castelo bridge in Northern Portugal

This Costa Verde gem draws visitors with its historic medieval town blessed with stunning beaches. It’s steeped with tradition oozing from winding streets, shown by compelling architecture with Renaissance influence. Palaces and churches are dotted along palm-lined boulevards, complemented by rising modern builds for an intriguing contrast of eras. Join in the festivities of religious ceremonies and cultured fairs, filling the streets with lively colour all year. The 18th century celebration of Romaria de Nossa Senhora d’Agonia lights up the town for three days in August, where floats and colourful puppets grace the streets in a memorable explosion of cheer and joy.

Get your camera ready for a visit to the nearby town of Ponte de Lima. Its iconic Roman bridge is met by a lively market and rustic cottages, providing perfect snaps and holiday memories. When you’ve had your fill of city exploring, hop over to the beautiful Cabedelo beach across the Lima Estuary. With such a stunning sandy shore so close to city life, you’ll be set for an idyllic day trip with two contrasts of Portuguese culture merging together for you to admire.

Begin your northern Portuguese adventure with a homely James villa holiday in Costa Verde or the Douro Valley.

Helen Wright

Helen Wright is a Junior Content Executive at James Villa Holidays.

If I'm not in the gym attempting to keep fit or challenging myself to a new personal...

See all articles by Helen Wright

See all articles by Helen Wright


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