Discovering the North of Portugal by train


As a way of celebrating my graduation this summer I decided to do some travel. I studied tourism, so, let’s agree it can count as field work! Jokes apart, one of the best trip I did during the summer was for sure the Intrarail I did with a friend of mine. 7 days travelling the north of Portugal by train! 


First of all, what is an Intrarail? It basically works as an Interrail, but within Portuguese borders. It is possible to choose between a 3 days card or a 7 days card, which gives access to ride as many trains as we want (except the high speed train, Alfa Pendular) and also allows to spend the night and have breakfast at a youth hostel from the Portuguese network (which need to be reserved beforehand – we did it 5 days before departure). In my opinion this is a great way to get to know a region of a country! In the Portuguese train company (CP) website there’s nothing saying foreign people can’t buy it, so I believe anyone can 🙂

Then, why the north of Portugal? It is the Portuguese region with more train lines, therefore we thought it was the obvious choice for this specific kind of trip. During the 7 days we visited 8 cities (Valença do Minho, Vila Nova de Cerveira, Viana do Castelo, Barcelos, Braga, Guimarães, Peso da Régua and Porto), 3 beaches (Ofir, Esposende and Apúlia) and the Douro Valley. Yup, we were dead by the end but it felt really good! 

In my honest opinion the north of Portugal is totally worth a visit. There you can find a wide range of different destinations, most of them, still in their exploration phase. Which means they are not overcrowded with tourists and are still genuine! I would say my favourite city was Guimarães, my favourite beach was maybe Ofir and about the Douro Valley, well I could get lost there! Not that the other places aren’t beautiful, don’t get me wrong, I loved all of them, those three were just the ones that caught my attention and perhaps exceeded my expectations.

In Guimarães I loved the fact that its architecture is entirely different from the other cities I visited. The delicate Portuguese tiles are replaced by some medieval buildings. This scenario will transport you to a fantasy world. Exploring the old centre, getting lost in the old cobble streets, enjoy one of its numerous squares, it has a mystic I can’t really explain! Besides its scenic beauty and good tourism attractions offer, this city is not expensive at all and has some great artisan shops where old Portuguese traditions meet modernity, and let me tell you the result is pretty exquisite! 

About the Douro Valley I want to enhance the train trip. It was breathtaking (the Porto wine is already widely known so I’m not going talk about it, but it taste very well and there are many activities related to the vineyards and wine tasting you can do here!). I’ve been there before and did it in different directions by car, but, oh that train ride, it was something out of this world! It is such a pure and distinct landscape. I absolutely advice anyone who wants to do it to go until Pocinho (the last train stop). Most of the tourists only see Peso da Régua or go as far as Pinhão, but it’s worthy to go all the way until the end of the line. In some places the train goes so close to the river it almost seems like you can touch the water. Douro is one of those places that deserves a visit at least one time in our life and that I can’t really describe, you have to experience it! 

To finish, a small reflection. This is not the type of trip for everyone. You need to be up to not sleep a lot, to spend a long time in trains and to walk (a lot!) with a big and heavy backpack on your shoulders. But, I’m young, so I’m exactly on the age to have this adventures! One thing I absolutely love about this trips is the discovery, the feeling of the unknown, the wandering around with no plan and be pleasantly surprised at every corner, the people we meet on the way, the cultural exchange, those are the particularities that help to see a destination in a whole different perspective.

Being so tired by the end of the trip led me to accidentally delete all my photos, I know, very smart! So, sorry for the bad quality, but still I leave you some pictures of the places we passed by:

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Avenida dos Aliados, Porto. One of the most famous avenues in Porto, right in the heart of the city, nearby the Clérigos Tower.

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Valença do Minho was our first stop! This is a little picturesque village where you will hear more Spanish than Portuguese, after all you just have to cross the river and you’ll be in Spain.

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Don’t let yourself be deceived by this pretty ocean, in the north the water it’s quite cold and in the afternoon it’s normally a little bit windy. But if you are a beach lover, like me, every piece of sand and ocean sounds amazing! Apúlia is also quite neat because of the wind mills.

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Just a cute old cobble street in Viana do Castelo.

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Bom Jesus, Braga. This is a religious place, now filled with tourists. Yet, there’s space for everyone since it is quite big. After a long climb you can recover your breath while being amazed by the panoramic view of Braga. On top of the stairs you will find the basilica surrounded by its woods. Bom Jesus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2003. If you don’t feel capable of walking all the way to the top you can also go by car or catch the water funicular (this is the oldest elevator working on counterweight still operating in Europe).

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The Douro Valley it’s not only beautiful, but also the region where the famous Porto Wine is produced.

 

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Guimarães is known as the Portuguese cradle, due to its importance specially during the beginning of the creation of our nation. The castle is considered to be the best preserved in Portugal.

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Sunset in Ofir

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