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Discovering Portugal's Northern Gems: how to turn your family holiday into a real adventure

Embark on a family adventure to Portugal's north, exploring the Douro Valley where Douro wines have been produced for many hundreds of years, and the Peneda-Gerês Park, renowned for its stunning natural beauty between rugged mountains, crystal-clear rivers, cascading waterfalls, and dense forests. This 6-day itinerary is tailored for families seeking a perfect blend of outdoor exploration, fun adventures and cultural discovery.

Douro Valley, Portugal; The Small adventure Company - Adventure and Family Holidays in Europe

Day 1: Arrival in Porto

Upon arrival in Porto, immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Portugal's second-largest city. Wander through the narrow colorful streets of the Ribeira district, one of the oldest parts of Porto. Walk through Avenida dos Aliados flanked by ornate buildings in different architectural styles and take a look at the São Bento train station with its beautiful azulejos tiles. Near the train station, you will find - perched on a hill - the Cathedral of Porto (Sé do Porto) characterized by an unusual mix of architectural styles. Marvel at the stunning views from Dom Luís I Bridge and admire the iconic monument of Porto de Clérigos Tower (be sure to climb up to enjoy the view)!

View over Porto and the Douro River, Portugal; The Small Adventure Company - Adventure and Family Holidays in Europe

Day 2: Cycling and Wine Tasting Tour in the Douro Valley

Embark on a cycling adventure through the breathtaking Douro Valley, renowned for its stunning landscapes and world-class wines. As you pedal along the winding roads that meander through terraced vineyards and picturesque villages, you'll be surrounded by the beauty of the region. The valley's unique microclimate, with its warm days and cool nights, creates the perfect conditions for producing the famous Port and other exceptional wines. Stop at local wineries along the way to sample some of the region's finest wines and learn about the winemaking process from passionate local producers. Indulge in a delicious lunch at a traditional restaurant, where you can savor the flavors of the Douro Valley cuisine paired with its exceptional wines. As you continue your journey, you'll be treated to breathtaking views of the Douro River, which winds its way through the valley, creating a dramatic backdrop for your cycling adventure. Explore charming villages such as Pinhão, with its colorful tiled train station, and Provesende, known for its well-preserved manor houses and stunning views.

Douro Valley, Portugal; The Small Adventure Company - Adventure and Family Holidays in Europe

Did you know? 

More than 2,000 years of winemaking have shaped the Douro Valley into an important wine-producing destination, using traditional methods. It’s no wonder that it made UNESCO decide to put this area on the World Heritage list in 2001. While the region is primarily known for the production of Port wine - regulated since 1756 - the Douro Valley also produces dry red and white table wines.

Day 3: Outdoor Adventures in Peneda-Gerês Park

Today you move further inland to the Peneda-Gerês National Park, set in the northeast of Portugal at the border with Spain. The park is home to a striking natural beauty with hills, lakes, valleys, and, of course, canyons! On a thrilling canyoning adventure, you will traverse through stunning gorges, swim through pristine waters, slide down natural rock slides, and leap into refreshing pools under the watchful gaze of towering cliffs.

If canyoning is not your thing, Peneda-Gerês National Park is a playground for many other outdoor adventures. You can explore the park by foot or mountain bike on a network of trails of scenic routes that wind through lush forests. Of course, you can also enjoy the natural beauty around and enjoy a serene lakeside picnic!

Peneda-Geres National Park, Portugal; The Small Adventure Company - Adventure and Family Holidays in Europe

Day 4: Explore Braga and Guimarães

Today it's time for an escape to the city, exploring two enchanting towns where you can learn about the rich culture and history of northern Portugal.

Start your day in Braga. Ascend the monumental stairway or take the funicular to the iconic sanctuary, Bom Jesus do Monte, boasting breathtaking baroque architecture and panoramic views of the city below. Discover the oldest cathedral in Portugal, a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture adorned with intricate carvings and a serene interior that whispers centuries of history. Stroll through the picturesque Santa Barbara garden, a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city, featuring lush greenery, charming pathways, and a tranquil pond. Lose yourself in the maze of narrow streets lined with historic buildings, boutiques, and cafes, where every corner reveals a new architectural gem or a glimpse into local life.

Continue your journey in Guimarães. The medieval Guimarães Castle is the birthplace of Portugal, here imposing walls and towers stand as a testament to the country's origins. Explore the majestic palace of the Dukes of Braganza, a symbol of power and wealth, with its stunning architecture, opulent rooms, and fascinating exhibits. Wander through the charming streets of the historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where medieval buildings coexist with modern shops and restaurants, creating a unique blend of old and new. Relax in this picturesque central square, Largo da Oliveira, surrounded by historic buildings and outdoor cafes, where you can soak up the vibrant atmosphere of the town.

Duques de Braganca Palace,  Guimarães, Potugal; The Small Adventure Company - Adventure and Family Holidays in Europe

Day 5: Kayaking and Tree Climbing Peneda-Gerês National Park

Today you have more time to explore Peneda-Gerês National Park. Start with a kayaking adventure! Choose between Rio Lima, a slow-moving river that meanders through the park's forests, offering peaceful and scenic kayaking, or the Caniçada Reservoir for more challenging kayaking conditions, with stronger currents and winds. Kayaking in Peneda-Gerês National Park is a great way to explore the park's natural beauty and enjoy a fun and adventurous activity in the great outdoors.

Young and old will for sure love the thrill of tree climbing including zip-lining, and obstacle courses set amidst the park's stunning natural landscapes.

Children in outdoor climbing center; The Small Adventure Company - Adventure and Family Holidays in Europe

Day 6: Departure from Porto

Spend your last day in Porto exploring its hidden gems, such as the Livraria Lello bookstore, which inspired J.K. Rowling to create the Harry Potter series. Enjoy a picnic in Porto City Park, one of the largest urban parks in Portugal or visit Jardins do Palácio de Cristal, a beautiful park with sweeping views of the Douro River and Porto. If you are into museums don’t forget Porto Tram Museum, where you can make a ride on a vintage tram or Sea Life Porto, this aquarium is a great place for kids to learn about marine life and conservation. Of course, you can't leave Porto without a port wine tasting at Vila Nova de Gaia. Also known as Gaia, this district is located just across the Douro River and is home to the grand port houses. Take a boat trip on a "rabelo" - a ship used to transport the port barrels and enjoy the colorful houses along the river.

Rabelo boat in Porto, Portugal; The Small Adventure Company - Adventure and Family Holidays in Europe

From the rolling vineyards of the Douro Valley to the rugged beauty of Peneda-Gerês Park, this journey is sure to captivate the hearts of adventurers of all ages.

Contact us and discover more hidden gems and exciting adventures for your next trip to Portugal in our Portugal Outdoor Adventures, Portugal Family Adventures and special experiences in Portugal collections.


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