This 8 day self-guided Minho family cycling holiday in Portugal is a blend between nature, heritage and typical villages for active families
The 8 day self-guided Minho family cycling holiday in Portugal will give you an almost surrealistic Change of Scenery Experience. Starting in the upper reaches of the Vinho Verde wine region, you will cycle towards the Atlantic Ocean. This tour is also blessed by the Minho and Lima rivers, each of which will accompany you at one stage or another of your holiday.
The Minho is a proud land: proud of its maritime history and of the remains of the fortifications that helped keep the Spanish well within their borders. It is the land of fine cuisine and, along the cost, of a wealth of fish and seafood dishes, best enjoyed with a glass of Vinho Verde. Best of all, this journey will put you in touch with some of the nicest Europeans. Do take every opportunity to meet the local inhabitants: fishermen and their wives, farmers, the kind lady at the local shop; listen to their stories. Enjoy biking through the North of Portugal at its most authentic.
Itinerary for 8 day self-guided Minho family cycling holiday in Portugal
Day 1 – Monção
Standard starting day: Saturday*
Arrival at Porto airport and meeting with Vinitur staff - Shared transfer at 15h00.
Transfer to the town of Monção, in the North of Portugal.
Time to relax at the swimming pool and in the gardens of this cozy rural hotel, or for a stroll to explore Monção.
Monção is a charming fortified town on the bank of the River Minho, in the North of Portugal, home to spas and the Alvarinho Vinho Verde wine. Once was the backdrop for many battles between the kingdoms of Portugal and Castile. The walls of the ancient fort built in 1306 by King Dinis, still welcome still welcome the visitor. The 16th century city walls watch over the modest but attractive historic centre and its monuments such as the Mother Church and Santo António dos Capuchos capuchin monastery.
Alongside the river, the therapeutic waters of several thermal spas complement any visit to the city.
On the outskirts of the town, the impressive Brejoeira Palace produces the famous Alvarinho, a lightly sparkling wine.
Day 2 - Monção
Day at leisure to explore Monção by bike or hike in the region.
Monção, surrounded by tall trees and magical mountain locations, contains many green parks with beaten earth paths and water fountains that invite the visitor to take invigorating walks or just stroll through the town and enjoy the excellent panoramic views over the river, across to Spain, with perfect places to sunbathe.
1. Half-day rafting program in the Minho River
In the morning, optional half-day rafting program in the Minho River, a ‘family’ river, transfer included.
The white waters and currents of the rivers in Minho are perfect for water sports, especially rafting in an inflatable dinghy. Paddle around natural obstacles alongside the characteristic green banks in the heart of the Minho province. Ideal for newcomers to rafting, this river spot, along between 10 to 14 kilometers, features both rapids and calmer waters, combining a challenge with some time to enjoy nature.
While out on the river, watch out for the local fishing traps lying in wait for eels and other freshwater species in a tradition dating back centuries. Expect a joyful time! The level of difficulty of this descent is rated ‘low’.
This activity is appropriate for children over 6 years old. Please bring the following items: swimming suit, sunscreen, towel, flip flops, and shower gel.
2. Vinho Verde wine visit and tasting at a family wine estate
In the afternoon, optional Vinho Verde wine visit and tasting at a family wine estate, or Quinta.
This Quinta has been producing wine since 1899, on 6 hectares of the family property. In 2009, the grandson and great-grandchildren of the original owner resolved to embrace a new project by which the younger generation would combine the family’s the centuries-old winemaking traditions with the modern and innovative techniques of today.
The result is a white Alvarinho wine that is elegant and complex, with tropical notes, peach and citric blossom lychee fruit. A wine with mineral character, full bodied, persistent and with a refreshing characteristic from this grape variety and terroir. The quality of their wines has been recognized in Portugal and abroad, including recent classifications of 90 points by both Robert Parker and Wine Enthusiast.
The present generation has wisely dedicated heart and soul to preserve its rich heritage in Alvarinho wine production and to enhance that knowledge with the added know-how of today, thereby ensuring the longevity of the dream and their way of life.
Day 3: stage 1 - Monção – Vila Nova de Cerveira
Today, you will ride eastwards, along the River Minho to the Atlantic Ocean, along a cycling lane built on a former railway line. Your journey will take you through tiny villages, corn fields, and vineyards the demarcated Vinho Verde winemaking region that produce the dry white wine for which the region is famous. Along the way, you will cycle past landmarks of the battles between Portugal and Spain, especially the impressive 17th century forts in Valença and Vila Nova de Cerveira. In the afternoon, you’ll have time to ride into the historic centre of Cerveira, along its medieval streets, and enjoy a relaxing stop at one of the several sidewalk cafés and snack bars on the sunny main square, near the monument to a Peninsular War battle between the English and French forces. With a Town Charter dating from 1040 AD, Vila Nova de Cerveira is known nationally and internationally as the 'Town of the Arts’ for its Biennal Internal Art Festival that attracts artists worldwide. The town’s proud symbol of a Stag sits on the hilltop overlooking the town, next to a small chapel and the remains of the gallows, abandoned long ago.
Day 4 - Valença
Today you have two programs to choose from:
1. A cycling stage to visit the fortified town of Valença
The Valenca fortress is one of the most impressive fortifications in northern Portugal, with a double row of battlements and bastions surrounding the entire historic centre of the town. Several narrow streets, flanked by row upon row of attached houses, nestle together in a scenic and idyllic location, surrounded by craggy mountains and wide rivers, above the River Minho that forms the natural border with Spain. Historically, as Valença bore the brunt of the defense of northern Portugal from the aggressions of its neighbour to the north, a massive fortification was constructed to deter invasion. Visitors delight in exploring the extensive fort complex and the historic centre and in enjoying the lively atmosphere of multiple shops, bars and restaurants.
As an alternative for the day, you may prefer an active experience:
2. Half-day river canoe or half-day four-wheel-drive mountain tour
Choose either a half-day river canoe experience on the calm waters of the river with the town and natural landscape as the scenery. The crystal-clear waters of the River Minho will host to an active 2-hour-long program. Or, as alternative, a 3-hour-long four-wheel drive adventure tour in the mountains to explore nature, small village traditions and wild life along the rivers and in the protected landscape.
Both these activities are appropriate for children over 6 years old. Please bring the following items: swimming suit, sunscreen, flip flops.
Timetables available for the pick-up - 10h00 / 15h00
Pick-up at hotel.
Day 5 stage 2 – Caminha – Viana do Castelo
River cruise transfer from Vila Nova de Cerveira to the seaside town of Caminha.
Cruise for one hour down a river full of life and history as the border between Portugal and Spain. As you travel along the estuary, past islands and stretches of sand full of vegetation providing natural habitat for birds, keep your eyes peeled for the enormous capped heron, different kinds of wild ducks or the colorful kingfiser. Charming fishing villages line the riverbanks, with their typical carochos moored at the piers, antique vessels for fishing lamprey, shad, sole and eel. This boat cruise ends in the beautiful old town of Caminha where you will start your bike ride to Viana do Castelo.
Cycling stage from Caminha to Viana do Castelo.
Cycling along the mighty Atlantic Ocean is an extraordinary experience, especially when the ocean is at its friendliest as you ride past fishing villages that appear unchanged for centuries. Cycle along beaches and stop at Afife beach, considered one of the best in Portugal for surfing and body boarding. The ancient lighthouse of Montedor is in Carreço, followed by an attractive fort in Paço. Ancient Viana do Castelo, a real-life postcard, nestles at the feet of the mountains, overlooking the River Lima and out to sea. As you arrive in Viana do Castelo the peace and quiet is replaced by the buzz of this lively city along the estuary of the River Lima. Dating back to Roman times when it was the principal port for the north of Iberia, Viana’s impressive history includes that of its merchants who supplied the provisions for the ships that took part in the Portuguese discoveries during the 16th century and later built those that sailed to Newfoundland for codfish. With their wealth, they built the numerous stately town houses whose architectural beauty is a hallmark of the city. An optional must-see is the 19th century byzantine Santa Luzia Church on the hilltop overlooking the city. This will take some climbing, but the reward is a breath-taking view.
Short guided walk visit for familiarization with the enchanting sea-coastal town of Viana do Castelo
Viana do Castelo obtained its town charter in the thirteenth century from D. Afonso III, King of Portugal, under the name of Viana da Foz do Lima. The sea was always the main reason for the city's existence: at one time it had 70 merchant ships and, during the Discoveries (in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries), carracks and caravels set sail from the Viana shipyards along the sea routes to India and North and South America, returning laden with sugar, ebony, ivory and other exotic goods. Viana is rich with palaces, churches, convents and fountains forming a remarkable heritage that is well worth a visit. A beautiful, extrovert and lively city, Viana do Castelo has successfully preserved the wealth of its deep-rooted popular traditions.
Day 6 - Barcelos
Train from Viana do Castelo to Barcelos (30 minutes) – not included
Visit to the traditional Barcelos weekly market, every Thursday - only available for starts on the standard starting day (Saturday).
A pleasant riverside town, Barcelos is a medieval town known as the country’s leading ceramics and crafts market and the source of the legendary rooster that has become Portugal’s national symbol. The traditional weekly market of ceramics, fresh products and much more is held every Thursday. It is one of the oldest markets in the country and a meeting point for farmers to sell their produce and buy their supplies. Sprawling over the main square, it offers everything from agricultural implements, ceramics, baskets and wine barrels to fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese and bread, shoes, clothes and hats.
As you walk along the streets of the city centre, you will be amazed with the variety of typical pottery figurines. Production of these figurines started as a subsidiary activity of the pottery craftsmen who, in their leisure time, enjoyed using small portions of leftover clay to make small toys for children. The distinctive, imaginative Barcelos figurines are truly unique as they represent musicians, everyday events, mythological beings and beastiary (devils, shapeless and ambiguous figures) among others, not to mention the famous Barcelos rooster!
Painting workshop of a Barcelos rooster
Organized by a local craftsman, a hands-on pottery workshop offers the entire family a chance to learn this Portuguese popular art. In the Minho province, brightly painted ceramic cockerels are considered symbols of good luck and are often used as the emblem of Portugal. Suggestion: go creative in the rooster painting workshop! Get each member of the family and your friends to challenge each other to create the most original cockerel! The most creative will be proclaimed the winner!
Return by train to Viana do Castelo and leisure time – not included
Day 7 – Viana do Castelo
From the hotel, short walk to the Santa Luzia cable car station.
Suggestion: Take the lift to the top of the hill and the basilica (not included)
Covering 160 meters in six to seven minutes, the trip in the Santa Luzia cable car is the longest in all the country. It was Inaugurated in 1923, it was recently restored.
If you prefer, you can walk along a 2. 1 km path and climb the 659 steps of the monumental staircase to the church until you reach 160 metres at the top.
Suggestion: Visit Santa Luzia hill and the basilica (not included)
From the top of the Santa Luzia hill enjoy a magnificent view of the city, the River Lima and the coast line. Visit of the Santa Luzia basilica, built in a Roman-Byzantine style. The construction of this church dedicated to Santa Luzia began in 1899 and was concluded by Ventura Terra, the architect who took over the project in 1926.
Take time to walk around and explore the beautiful centre of Viana do Castelo, the docks and the fishing port.
The presence of the river, the mountain and the sea, have endowed Viana do Castelo with a unique, relaxed landscaped. The rich Viana ethnography makes the city the capital of the Portuguese folklore. Visitors are particularly attracted by the originality and functionality of Viana craftsmanship, with special emphasis on the jewelry, dishes and embroidery.
Suggestion: Visit the Gil Eannes Hospital Ship (not included)
Built in Viana do Castelo in 1955, for decades this ship provided medical and ancillary support to the Portuguese cod fishing fleet in Newfoundland and Greenland. When the cod fleet was dismantled, the hospital ship was left to rot in the Viana docks until recently, as a centre of attraction, it became museum space with cultural, tourist and scientific exhibits with special connections to the sea. Over the years, it has enjoyed several rehabilitation and restoration projects allowing visitors to come into close contact with the vessel’s various spaces and learn more about the history of the Portuguese maritime adventure.
Day 8 – Porto airport
Transfer to Porto airport.
End of the 8 day self-guided Minho family cycling holiday in Portugal.
*For 2-3 people, to start in a different day of the week, a supplement fee applies. This fee isn't applicable to 4 or more persons