"Green or Verde" is the operative word to describe this region. Green describes its unique characteristics associated with landscapes of virgin natural beauty, fertility and forests. Its untouched coastline – the Costa Verde, the almost timeless quaintness and hearty cuisine. Green also describes the local wine – Vinho Verde, that spritzy refreshing light wine that makes so much sense when drank here. Vinho Verde epitomises the gentle, fresh and invigorating nature of this land. It's an ideal accompaniment with fish, poultry and salad. Within The Minho, there are regional variations of this unique wine.
The people here are short in stature yet big in heart. Their hospitality is legendary, a welcoming smile is never far from their faces. Most tourists to this area tend to be Spanish on short visits who like to buy the local cloth and sample the local delicacies. Once confronted with English speakers the Minhotos' enthusiasm to practice their language skills is most gratifying.
In the west, the land is low-lying and dotted with old port towns that once gained their wealth from trade to the new worlds. The fish-filled rivers which bisect the land are bordered by vines that are still trained in high canopies. Popular now with canoeists and anglers, these rivers served as ancient trade routes which brought wealth to the attractive towns that cling to their banks. Follow the rivers upstream and you'll find more mountainous landscapes protected by the national parks of Parque Nacional do Alvão and Parque Nacional da Penda-Gerês. Both delight the eye with wooded valleys, majestic waterfalls, meadows and moorland, home to wolves and eagles.
Turbulent history is evident as elsewhere in Portugal in the guise of old castles and fortified towns, ancient ruins can be found from the bronze age, the Lusitania Celts, and the Romans. Here is the birthplace of Portugal and home to Portugal's first capital at Guimarães… "Aqui Nasceu Portugal".
Vinho Verde is a unique product, misunderstood by some but loved by many. Aromatic and spritzy, it is a delicious natural beverage. Medium in alcohol, Vinho Verde has great digestive properties due to its freshness, effervescence and balanced acidity. It is a highly regarded wine and best enjoyed served chilled for Summertime drinking. The malolactic fermentation gives it a distinctive taste and personality. The reds are full-bodied wines with an intense colour and a rosy or light red foam. The whites usually present a lemony or straw colour. The strong distinctive character and originality of these wines are the result of the region's soil and climate characteristics, social-economic elements, grape varieties and vine-growing methods.
CVRVV - Comissão do Viticultura de Região dos Vinho Verde. [Website]
When you visit the Minho, take your appetite with you, restaurant portions are as generous as the locals. That said, don't be embarrassed to ask for a "meia dose"… a half portion. The Minhotan restaurants are usually traditional in nature serving local cuisine and fresh local produce. The cuisine in the Minho reflects the landscapes found here. From the sea and rivers comes fish; Bacalhau, Lamprey and Shad are local delicacies. The ground gives forth ingredients for the delicious cornbread (broa de milho), the Cove Galega cabbage, the main ingredient for the Caldo Verde soup and an array of superb vegetables, fruit and salads.
Meat here is also prized, as in Porto offal is used in interesting ways, beef from the distinctive Arouquesa and Cachena long-horned cattle, kid from the Cabrito das Terras Altas do Minho goat, pork from the Bisaro pig and many other succulent types of meat obtained from free-ranging animals. Hams, Chouriços are also popular here and pulses are used to bulk out hearty stews. Minhotans also enjoy a sweet tooth and many towns have their own specialities, Arroz Doce, sweet rice pudding is believed to have originated here.
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After Lisbon airport Porto International is the second busiest airport in Portugal and has knocked Faro into third place. This is a reflection of Porto's rise to prominence both as a centre for commerce and as a tourist destination. Originally constructed in the 1940's the building has recently been modernised and boasts first class ammenities and transport links.
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Since joining the EU Portugal has seen a vast improvement in it's road network with the addition of fine motorway network which speedily take you from the major cities to the area you want to visit. In 2015, the country's road network was named as being the best in Europe and the second best in the world. For the more adventurous drivers there's plenty of more rural windy yet very scenic roads available such as the N222 which runs from Peso de Regua to Pinhao and has been voted as the top drive in the world.
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The North of Portugal, especially the Minho are well served by the Portuguese rail network. Porto's Urban trains go to Guimarães Timetable and Braga Timetable. Where as a Regional service (Linha do Minho) goes to Valença via Viana do Castelo and Caminha: