Northern Portugal – 6 nights
The Roman road to the monastery of Santa MariaBack to Routes
Descending into Brufe
Path through the granite hills
The hills above Germil
Abrigos and horned cattle
The lake at Campo do Geres
Porto river front
No tractors here!
We had a lovely trip, it is off the beaten track with great food/wine/culture and landscape. The route was well planned, the accommodations were full of characters. Along the way we met hardworking and friendly people.
Helena stands out as someone with a vision to transform a centuries-old town to a modern sanctuary. It was awe inspiring and moving too. We wished we had stayed an extra day there.
Sanmao Shaw, Denver, USA - May 2022
As with previous On Foot holidays we've taken, what I liked most was the feeling of getting to know a small geographical area quite intimately, experiencing a kind of narrative through the carefully planned walks, and enjoying the surprise of different kinds of accommodation.
We can't speak highly enough of the service, such speedy response to emails, such efficiency and friendliness in answering questions and making helpful suggestions. We always feel in very safe hands with you.
Helen Anderson - September 2021
Perhaps you can imagine the sense of wonder and exhilaration we felt at actually arriving in Soajo on the first night. The walking was outstanding. Varied topography and landscapes. Wild flowers. Massive granite houses crumbling in half deserted villages. And, despite the fact that it is the GR50, not a single walker the entire time. We had it all to ourselves.
The organisation was faultless. You do this very well.
Peter Wood and Melanie Richards, London, UK - June 2021
We loved the stunning scenery and that the area was relatively untouched by tourism. The walks were over varied terrain and a good length for us. Loved the crystal clear streams.
Kathy and Tariq Sethi, Gifford, Scotland - June 2021
We appreciated and valued the remote nature of this hike! We really didn't see another tourist along the way.
The walk exceeded our expectations... and our expectations are high!
Linda Bonow, Mazeppa, USA - September 2019
Both my wife and I really enjoyed the holiday immensely.
The friendliness of the local people and incredible beauty of the countryside were like balm to the soul. We felt refreshed and inspired. I would heartily recommend this route and holiday to anyone.
Kevin Lowe, Manchester, UK - May 2019
It seemed relatively easy/doable for a first-time walker hiker - some of your other routes in the alps and other parts of Europe look very tough.
As a travel writer, I think Portugal has great appeal and the Peneda-Geres and Minho region is relatively "undiscovered" and people are seeking those kind of experiences, while at the same time wanting to reconnect with nature and rural life. They want to go back to the slow lane. The health benefits of walking are also a factor: we don't get enough walks in the age of desk jobs, computers and Uber.
Bernard O'Shea, Australia - April 2019
At a glance
6 nights (5 days walking) - missing Soajo circuit. We recommend adding nights in Porto. See 'Prices' tab for what's included.
Suggested route pairing:Lighthouse Way
How much walking?
Full days: 11-23 km per day, 3-6¼ hrs walking
Using shortening options: 8-17km per day, 2-4 hrs (using lifts)
The Roman road to the monastery of Santa Maria
Hidden away in the golden hills and lush green valleys of north-western Portugal are delightful villages where rural communities continue a lifestyle that is centuries old. These villages (where farmers keep long-horned cattle, fed on maize stored in distinctive granite espigueiros) are linked by old paved tracks and footpaths (which you will use) across the hills. Feast on bacalhau (cod) at Brufe’s remarkable Restaurant Abocanhado (not included in holiday price), walk along a Roman road high above the valley, and end at a magnificent monastery, now converted into a top hotel.
As with many On Foot routes, this is a linear walk with no transfers along the way, so you reach your final destination with an added sense of achievement. You can also add a day or two in historic Porto (best at the start, to make effective use of cheap public transport).
Consider pairing this route with Lighthouse Way (4 hour transfer by bus and taxi)
Walked by On Foot staff: Simon, Mary (& Joe)
N.B. The Peneda-Geres National Park Authority insist that lone walkers are experienced and well-equipped (preferably using our GPS files).
REVIEWS: For independent walker reviews submitted to the Association of Independent Tour Operators visit Aito.com.
TRAVEL ADVICE: To find the latest travel advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for UK citizens travelling to Portugal, click here. Citizens of other nations will also find it useful, but should always check their appropriate local agency.
COVID-19 SAFETY PRECAUTIONS: Please read our summary of current regulations.
- The gentle hills of north-west Portugal
- Old villages and older ways of life
- Ancient paved footpaths and the Via Romana
- Lindoso Castle above the lake
- The view from the terrace of the Restaurant Abocanhado
- The Pousada Santa Maria do Bouro
- Historic Porto, the Port lodges and the Douro (add-on)
This route features the following characteristics and interests: Remote, Villages and farms, Drive to route
Leave enough time in your holiday to spend a couple of nights in the unique city of Porto, home to the Port lodges along the Douro. This is well done at the beginning of the holiday as public transport works best from here.
Eating and Drinking
One of the joys of Northern Portugal is the warmth of the welcome you’ll receive from your hosts. The food is hearty and wholesome and we can guarantee that you’ll find it hard to lose weight on this walk. Try Caldo Verde soup, the ubiquitous bacalhau and beef from the barrosã cow. Eggs, honey and almonds also feature in many of the lovely puddings and cakes you’ll sample during your stay.
How much Walking?
Using shortening options: 8-17km per day, 2-4 hrs (using lifts)
Paths, some rocky/steep, and granite paved tracks. Compass skills essential. Highest point on route: 900m.
Medium-hard: Average cumulative uphill stretches (CUSs) 611m (420m-1260m) per day.
Easy-medium: CUSs 362m (200m – 580m) using shortening options.
GPX file available for handheld GPS or smartphone App for complete route and advised for second half of Lindoso to Brufe walk.
Important note: Times given for each day are walking times for an “average” walker and exclude stops. “CUSs” stands for “Cumulative Uphill Stretches” and measures the aggregated ascents in each day, expressed in metres of climb. See “Walk Grading” for more information.
When to go?
The best months to walk: April, May, early June, late September, October
Other possible months: Late June, early July and early September are possible but accommodation rates increase. It’s also very hot.
Great walking in spring (but you may be unlucky with rain). Summer walking (late June and early July and early September) could be hot and are expensive. Fabulous autumn walking accompanied by the smell of grapes… Avoid being in Brufe in spring and autumn on Tuesday nights which is the restaurant’s closed day.
Temperature and rainfall chart for Braga
Day 1 - Arrive in Soajo
Arrive in Soajo. Freshen up, have a wander around the village, examine your first espigueiros cluster and decide which restaurant to eat in before a good night’s sleep.
Day 2 - Soajo to Lindoso
An easy day’s walking along old paths in the river valley before climbing up to the well-preserved castle, lording over the attractive village and its espigueiros, nestling like chicks in its protective embrace. (Medium: 4¼ hrs, 11½ km, CUSs 580m)
Day 3 - Lindoso to Brufe
For the determined walker, the unshortened route is tough but rewarding, up in the wild Serra Amarela, before dropping down steeply to cross the spectacular Ribeira de Carcerelha. Then up to the mountain village of Germil, and up again before heading down through steadily gentler country to your accommodation at Brufe, and an evening meal at Brufe’s renowned Restaurant Abocanhado (not included in holiday price).
From Easy: 2 hrs, 5 km, CUSs 380m to Hard: 7½ hrs, 22¾ km, CUSs 1130m for serial walkers. The second half of the walk (Ermida to Germil) is challenging and we advise using our GPS files (either on your smart phone or a GPS unit) for navigation, depending on path conditions. There are other options available for this day using taxis as necessary.)
Day 4 - Brufe to Campo do Gerês
From lovely Brufe the walk drops down steeply through old terraces to the Roman bridge over the Rio Homem. Then climb up through attractive woodland along a ridge to the village of Campo do Gerês, and your hotel. Extend your walk to the old drowned village of Vilarinho. (Easy-medium: 4¼ hrs, 10½km km, CUSs 480m)
Day 5 - Campo do Gerês to Emaús
Walk along the old Roman road (Braga to Astorga) as it contours around the hillside, gently descending towards Chorense and Emaús. The walking is easy, generally on a level grassy surface, with Roman mileposts along the way. At Emaús, your charming pension and a swim in the garden pool (in season). (Medium: 6¾ hrs, 21 km, CUSs 225m, or easy-medium: 4 hrs, 16 km, CUSs 230m with lift at start)
Day 6 - Emaús to Santa Maria do Bouro
After a steep climb back to the Roman road, a more gentle climb to the pass at Alto Moraço. From here the walking is now steadily downhill through woods and fields to the former monastery, now Pousada Santa Maria do Bouro, a stylish end to your holiday and with the promise of a swim in the pool and an excellent meal. (Medium: 3½ hrs, 11½ km, CUSs 490m or easy: 2 hrs, 8 km, CUSs 200m using lift at start)
Depart hotel or choose to stay further nights, or why not go to Porto and explore its charms and visit a port lodge?
ARRIVING BY AIR
The best “local” airport is Porto. Intercontinental travellers can land at Lisbon, then catch the express bus to Arcos de Valdevez and local taxi onwards to first accommodation (necessitates an overnight stay in Lisbon).
Land by: 11:45 for reliable public transport connections to first accommodation (but see Porto starts below).
Return flight earliest: 11:00 for connections from Santa Mario do Bouro
Land by/earliest return flight times not applicable if using a pre-booked taxi from airport to first hotel OR if staying a night in Porto at the start (recommended).
See “Getting to the start of the walk” below for transfer information.
Flight information can change rapidly and not all flights run daily. Please do check directly with the airlines’ websites or Skyscanner (see below) before finalising any booking with us. Do not book your flights until we have confirmed that we have provisionally reserved accommodation for you.
For up-to-date schedules and flights from all airports check Skyscanner.
ARRIVING BY TRAIN
Nearest railway station:
Note: There are four direct trains from Lisbon to Braga daily. See www.cp.pt.
Sample rail journey via Paris:
TGV from Paris Montparnasse TGV to Irun, and then the Sud Express overnight train to Coimbra-B, for Intercity to Porto, and a local train to Braga. ~17 hrs.
From Braga: Reverse of outward journey.
ARRIVING BY CAR
Leave your car in Soajo, Lindoso or Brufe (depending on start point), on a quiet street near accommodation. Taxi back to car – book locally through hotel c.€90.
Getting to the start of the walk
Best airport is Porto and transfer times and methods are suggested for Porto airport below. For train arrival transfers see below.
Note: if you would like to stay a night or two in Porto, this is best done at the start of the walk, to avail yourself of the excellent express bus service from Porto city to the route itself.
Outward: Best then by bus to Braga (bookable online) followed by pre-bookable taxi to first accommodation on walking route (2-4 hrs depending on flight arrival time) OR pre-bookable taxi transfer from Porto airport to the first accommodation (c. 2 hrs).
Return: Local taxi to Braga then bus to airport (total around 2 hrs) or bus/train to Porto city (2 1/2 hrs total) OR pre-bookable taxi transferfrom the final hotel on the walk to Porto airport (1½ hrs) OR to Porto hotel (2 hrs).
Transfers from Braga train station:
Outward: Bus to Arcos de Valdevez then local taxi, OR pre-bookable taxi transfer all the way to first accommodation.
Return: Local taxi (c. €30), or bus to Braga bus station then short taxi.
For all pre-bookable taxi prices, see “Prices”
Full transfer advice, including timetables, is provided in your Walkers’ Pack. Contact us if you would like additional pre-booking information.
Where You'll Stay
There’s a lovely choice of accommodation offered on this route; from friendly pensions to traditional Portuguese houses (‘like staying in a museum’), through to the amazing pousada (a converted monastery with a grass roof), at the end of the route in Santa Maria do Bouro.
A group of village houses adapted into high quality accommodation with access to swimming pool (in season), esplanade and bar, all set in a stunning upland setting.
Exquisite conversion of 13th century monastery with fine restaurant and pool. Stays on a Saturday are subject to a supplement.
Brufe – Leiras do Tempo (Casas do Abocanhado) (B&B)
A group of village houses adapted into high quality accommodation with access to swimming pool (in season), esplanade and bar, all set in a stunning upland setting. A mix of double bedded rooms and twin bedded apartments (supplement for twins). NB: the accommodation's website is still under construction, and photos may not be representative!Website
Campo do Geres – Albergaria Stop (B&B)
Modern family-run inn with good restaurant and pool (in season)Website
Emaus – Quinta do Barrio (B&B)
Restored 18th century farm house with its own chapel and a swimming pool. Twin rooms are subject to a supplement.Website
Santa Maria do Bouro – Pousada Mosteiro de Amares (B&B)
Exquisite conversion of 13th century monastery with fine restaurant and pool. Stays on a Saturday are subject to a supplement.Website
There are many lovely places to stay in Porto (and more springing up all the time – see TripAdvisor) and you are welcome to book these yourself (we can tell you where previous clients have stayed and enjoyed).
Total 6 nights in double/twin room, all breakfasts, 5 picnics and taxi to/from Emaus restaurant, luggage transfers between all hotels on walking route; full Walkers Pack with route directions, maps, transfer and background information; local telephone support.
All prices are per person unless otherwise indicated, and are based on a standard booking in May. Prices may vary seasonally and a fixed price will be given to you before you commit.
Single Room Supplement (SRS): From £260
Lone Traveller Additional Supplement (LTAS): From £165
Large Party Saving (LPS): Groups of more than 2 people (on an identical itinerary, on the same booking and booked at the same time) – discount of at least £25 per person
Maximum party size: 8
Extra nights in the Pousada at Santa Maria do Bouro: Contact On Foot – prices vary seasonally. Stays on a Saturday night are subject to a supplement.
Nights in Porto hotels and extra nights in other hotels: Contact On Foot Holidays
Nights in Porto (central) in self-catering house (sleeps 4). Minimum stay 2 nights. Discount for stays of 6 or 7 nights: From £113 per night (whole house)
To Soajo from Porto Airport 2 hrs: From £130 (1-4 people), from Porto hotel 2.5 hrs: From £140 (1-4 people), or from Braga train or bus station: From £70 (1-4 people)
Final hotel on the walk to Porto airport 1½ hrs: From £100 (1-4 people), or to Porto centre from £115 (1-4 people) or to Braga: From €31 (book locally the night before and pay driver)
Between Porto airport and Porto hotel: From £30 (1-4 people, central Porto)
Other local bus/taxi/train as required: Arrange locally
Sending Walkers Packs to addresses outside the UK: £10-£40 (per pack, location dependent)
Our local team
The Burtons have lived in Northern Portugal for more than 30 years and have been keen walkers ever since arriving in the area. They are the authors of Sunflower’s "Landscapes of Northern Portugal".