My tips summarized here are based on a three weeks travel to the mainland of Portugal. The travel was split between self-driving and luggage transport between the long-distance hiking in the North of Portugal. Areas included are Minho, the Douro Valley and the Geres National Park. The trip was focused mainly on hiking, eating great Portuguese food and just enjoy great location in more unknown part of the North of Portugal.
All in all it is easy to travel in Portugal – usually like everywhere in Europe. People are generally friendly and try to help. Even that not too many people are speaking English – at least in the north. An offline version of Google Translate helps or learning a bit Portuguese. As 2020 with the Covid-19 pandemic still around, Portugal invented a Clean and Save Certificate. This means that restaurants and hotels where implementing specific Covid-19 prevention to ensure the safety of the tourists.
There are several ways to travel in Portugal. The easiest one is to rent a car at the airport, which we did in the second part of our travels. Here two tips: a second driver needs to be paid extra; choose a small car. There all kind of streets in Portugal. In order to travel long distance, there are huge highways in place with toll payment. Which are huge and mainly empty. The further you go to the countryside, the smaller and narrower the streets get. Parking is also interested in Portugal, especially in the National Park and Country Side regions. So better aim for a Golf class car.
In Portugal, you can find accommodation for every range of budget, depending on your preferences. The following accommodations are especially recommendable:
- Serra de Agra Mountain House (Montaria)
- CASA CASAL LOIVOS (Douro Valley)
- Casa dos Barros (Douro Valley)
- Casa da Eira da Laje (Soajo)
Portugal has a great range of food to offer. From fish, over meat plates as well as amazing starters. Meat plates are often serviced with potatoes and grilled vegetables. As well as rice on the side. Best combined with a local wine. The Minho region has the vino verde (green wine) to offer. It is usually a white wine that is sparking. One thing to mention, usually restaurants have opening hours like 12 am to 3 pm and 7 pm to 9 or 10 pm. In case you are not in touristic region, where restaurants are open from 12 am to the late night, this is to be mindful of. Also depending on where you go, but our impression was that lunch is a bigger thing than dinner.
In general, it is possible to pay with credit card. We mainly paid contactless with the phone, which worked in 99% of the places. In two restaurants in Soajo it was only possible to pay cash, as they only accepted Portuguese cards. Prices in the different region varied a lot. The local regions of Montaria, Geres and Soajo been in the range of 30 to 40 Euro for a Dinner for 2. In Minho at the beachside it was around 50 to 60 Euro.
There are seemed to be endless hiking options in the North of Portugal. We split the time in three regions, with around 5 to 7 days each.
- Minho Region (Montaria, Dem, Camhina, Vila Praia de Anora, Viana do Castelo, Ponte de Lima)
- Douro Region (Pinhão, Sabrosa, Alijó, Vale Mendiz)
- Geres National Park (Geres, Soajo, Lindoso, Ermida, Mezio, Parada do Lindoso)
The North of Portugal is a small region. Everything can be reached by car in two hours. In order to enjoy the different regions, I would recommend at least two weeks. In the Geres National Park it would be possible to hike alone for 3 to 4 weeks. Either way on day hikes or on the long distance hiking trail the GR50.
Geres Nation Park
The Peneda-Gerês National Park, also known as Gerês, is the only national park in Portugal. It was created on 8 May 1971 with the aim to protect the soil, water, flora, fauna, and landscape. No entry fee needs to be paid to enter the park. Several smaller town are located in the park and it is possible to drive through the park via car. By foot the real beauty of the park can be explored. Wild, untouched nature with no crowds.