Coastal Walks In Northern Portugal
The Minho region has the most beautiful coastal route in northern Portugal. Bordered by the Atlantic coast to the west and the River Minho to the north, it offers sandy beaches, green scenery and a string of attractive historical towns.
Walk from town to town
The reasonably short distances between Minho towns and cities make it possible to walk from one to another then stay overnight. Exact distances vary between 11 km and 18 km, all suitable for a relaxed day of walking along the riverside and coastal route with time to appreciate the views or go for a dip. Best of all, there are no mountains to climb on this walking holidays in Portugal!
Start by exploring the historical town inside Valença’s fortress, an impressive structure that was fundamental in protecting Portugal’s borders. Admire the views of its former rival, Tui, across the river then follow the ecovia walking and cycle path downstream along the River Minho to the town of Vila Nova de Cerveira.
Vila Nova de Cerveira
Vila Nova de Cerveira is known for its art biennial and the unusual number of sculptures in the riverside park and around town. The compact and atmospheric centre and medieval castle are pleasant to stroll around and there are several pretty squares where you can relax over a refreshing glass of vinho verde (green wine) and local sheep or goat’s cheese. You could hire a kayak for an hour or so or play in the water features at the Water Park.
Between Vila Nova de Cerveira and the next town of the coastal route is Caminha, the River Minho starts to widen as it approaches the Atlantic and you’ll see small islands in the water. Just before reaching Caminha, keep your eyes peeled for birdlife as the trail crosses the estuary wetlands. Caminha itself is another charming town with a round central ‘square’ that hosts an elaborate stone fountain and an abundance of cafés.
After walking past the fishing boats and paraphernalia along the riverfront, you’ll walk through a forest of majestic pine trees and emerge at the sandy beach in Moledo with views of an island fortress. An ecovia leads you all the way from here to the beach town of Âncora.
Vila Praia de Âncora
There’s another small fortress here, right by the fishing harbour, but Âncora´s main attraction is its sandy beach. The River Âncora runs across the beach, having made its way from the Serra d’Arga – the mountains you can see in the distance. Take a stroll along the boardwalk into the sand dunes to enjoy the views or sunset as you tuck into the catch of the day at Restaurante Camarão.
Viana do Castelo
It’s a longer day’s walk to get to Viana do Castelo but well worth it, especially for the wonderful plants and flowers growing in the sand dunes and the wide sandy beaches interspersed by rocky cliffs. Once you get to Viana there is plenty to see and do, including the Santa Luzia Basilica on the mountain overlooking the coast – you can look back across the coastline you’ve just walked along.
Behind the basilica lies a walled Celtic settlement of circular houses and back in the city centre you’ll find outstanding medieval and contemporary architecture. There’s so much to see and do in Viana do Castelo that it’s worth spending at least a full day here at the end of your journey.
After spending six days on the coastal route in northern Portugal, you’ll have earned a hearty meal of bacalhau (cod) or cabrito (roast kid), both Viana favourites. You could also treat yourself to a freshly baked bola de Berlim (custard-filled doughnut) from Confeitaria Natário.