A coastal hike in Viana do Castelo
Updated: May 26
Portugal is full of cultural gems everywhere but it is here in Northern Portugal that you will find tons of intriguing history, covered by colorful, endemic fauna and flora. Let the smell of Atlantic Ocean accompany you as you encounter one surprise after the other.
In between the enchanting town of Viana do Castelo and the ancient fortress of Paço, known locally as Forte do Paço, lays the recently classified Geopark of the Viana do Castelo. Within this protected area a biodiversity station stretches along a coastal trail with several, remarkable points of interest, all tucked away safely from the crowds. This special area of conservation forms part of the Natura 2000 network.
The Montedor cliff geosite is a Natural Monument which helps us understand how the granite rocks, part of the mountain system closer to the sea, were formed. The Montedor lighthouse dates from 1908-1910 and can be visited on certain days and times. The view from the top is well-worth the climb.
Closer to the ocean a mysterious, more or less flat composition of granite rocks tells another story, one of manual salt production which dates all the way back to the Iron Age. These rocks are located just above the high-tide line in order to avoid flooding when the tide is at its highest point.
Just a few steps away you will encounter rock engravings, some of which resemble a stellar design. They are also testimony of human presence in the Late Bronze Age. With the right sunlight also small rock murals are visible.
Around the corner along another ancient path, authentic wooden wind mills greet you. One of them is still in use as its owner keeps using it for grinding grain.
And last but not least, let’s not forget the amazing Forte do Paço, one of several fortresses along this coast. They were put in place to protect the country and its people against pirates and others with wicked intentions. King D. Pedro gave the order to build the forts in strategic locations in the late 17th and beginning of the 18th century. The Forte do Paço is classified as a Public interest Monument.
On top of that, all these cultural gems are surrounded by colorful flowers, pristine beaches, and a clear blue ocean as far as you can see. Needless to point out that birds love this place and fish thrive in the water. Several, unique plant species grow along the cracks on the coastal granite cliffs, such as the endemic Armeria genus and a variety of shrubs. A blanket of heather and gorse forms the finishing touch.
Although it is not an extensive route, there is much to explore. In the spring, the Atlantic forest gives a special touch to the landscape, filling it with life and color.
It is an easy trail, suitable for the whole family.