Parque Natural do Douro Internacional
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PARQUE NATURAL DO DOURO INTERNACIONAL

The Parque Natural do Douro Internacional covers a long strip of land that follows the western bank of the River Douro which forms the border between Spain and Portugal. The area has a special Mediterranean microclimate which has warmer winters than other areas in the Trás os Montes region. This in combination with the sparse human population of the area has led to the survival of several animal and plant species that are now extinct in the other regions of Portugal.

ABOUT

Parque Natural do Douro Internacional

Parque Natural do Douro Internacional

Beginning at the ancient town of Miranda do Douro in the north, the park Parque Natural do Douro Internacional covers an expansive swathe of land hugging the West Bank of the Douro River, following the border with Spain. 122km to the South the park ends at Barca d’Alva where the Douro officially enters Portugal territory. The Douro Internacional Natural Park covers part of the municipalities of Miranda do Douro, Mogadouro, Freixo de Espada à Cinta. On the Spanish side of the border, this protected area continues as the Parque Natural de Arribes del Duero.

Geographically the park has two distinct regions; the upper Douro region has a distinct Mediterranean microclimate whereas the lower regions are more mountainous with a harsher climate, thus earning it the name Terra Fria. During February and March, the land is swathed in light pink as the regions almond trees come into blossom.

A local legend explains the origins of the numerous almond trees. A young Moorish prince married a princess from Northern Europe and brought her to live in the area. During the summer months, the princess was happy enough yet during the winter she longed for the snow which covered her mountainous homeland. Eager to appease his wife the price had almond trees transplanted from the Algarve so once a year the princess could see the land covered in white.

MAIN TOWNS

The towns/cities of Miranda do Douro, Mogadouro, Freixo de Espada à Cinta and Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo lie on the fringes of the park and make great base when visiting the Parque Natural do Douro Internacional.

Miranda do Douro

The ancient town of Miranda do Douro sits high on a hill overlooking the cavernous valley of the river Douro on the northeast border of Portugal. The region is remote, sparsely populated and seemingly lost in time. Ancient customs and handicrafts, such as weaving and pottery are preserved here with immense pride. The "Língua Charra" dialect, indigenous to Trás os Montes and Alto Douro regions, is widely spoken here, know locally as Mirandese (Mirandês). This vulgar Latin language possibly originates directly from the Roman occupation of the area. In 1999, the Mirandese dialect was officially recognised by the Government as Portugal's second language and is now taught in schools across the Trás os Monte region. [ More About ► ]

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Miranda do Douro

The episcopal palace of Miranda do Douro

Mogadouro

Mogadouro

Mogadouro

Mogadouro became part of the expanding Portuguese kingdom in the 13th century after it was wrestled from the Moors. The job of defending this newly gained land was given to the Order of the Knights Templar who soon set about constructing defences, including the town's castle. To the east, the land rises, the Parque Natural do Douro Internacional, which the young Douro River flows forms the border with Spain. The surrounding undulating landscapes are beautifully rugged and agricultural. In early spring, almond trees bloom and the fields turn white with blossom. As part of the Mirandese Plateau, the land rises to an average height of 700m above sea level.
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Freixo de Espada à Cinta

The town dates back to the time of Alfonso Henriques, Portugal's first King, who built upon the original ancient defensive works. The town became a centre of trade between the old kingdoms of León and Castile before becoming part of the newly formed country of Portugal.

There's some contention about the origin of this beautiful town's name, which oddly literally translates as "a sword strapped to an ash tree with a belt". Indeed outside the towns parish church, you'll find exactly that. Some believe this is derived from the heraldic symbol that belonged to the town's founder. Other myths include a story of a Leonese nobleman called Espadacinta who, after doing battle against the moors, rested under an ash tree where he tied his sword. Another legend attributes the sword to King Dinis, who rested here after warring with his illegitimate son Afonso Sanches in the 14th century.

The equally odd named Tower of the Rooster (Torre do Galo) is a remnant of the 13th-century fortress which once stood here and still dominates the landscape. Only a small scattering of the ramparts still stand. The gothic castle walls are long gone but the 25 metres (82 ft) high irregular heptagonal has been preserved and renovated. Accessed through a small door, the interior is divided into three floors connected by a dimly lit staircase. A climb to the top will reward you with panoramic views over the surrounding countryside. Daily: 08h00 – 17h00

Freixo de Espada à Cinta

Freixo de Espada à Cinta

Freixo de Espada à Cinta

Freixo de Espada à Cinta

Church of São Miguel de Freixo de Espada à Cinta
Construction of this fine Late Gothic church began during the reign of King Manuel I and incorporates the architectural style which bears his name – Manueline. Work was completed by his son Jõao III when the vault was added. Although it's uncertain who the architect was who design this church it is commonly agreed the building is a masterpiece. Of special note are the intricately carved portals.

The Manueline style can also be found in the buildings which make up the medieval old town. Within the warren of narrow streets, the dwellings are decorated with finely carved window frames and doorways. During the 16th century, there was a large Jewish community here with several fine stonemasons and artisans amongst them. Their marks can still be seen carved into their work around town.

Miradouro de Penedo Durão
A ten minute drive south from Freixo de Espada à Cinta is the Miradouro de Penedo Durão view point which overlooks the Douro gorge. The amazing vistas here are well worth stopping for. It is here too you'll have the best chance of spotting birds of prey, especially at sunset when they return to their nests to roost. There's plenty of seating, picnic tables and shaded areas to keep the whole family happy.

TOP TOURS

Douro Valley Private Driver - Douro Valley Private Guide, Douro Valley Transfers

Douro Valley Private Driver & Guide

The narrow and windy roads of the Douro region make appreciating the fantastic views whilst driving somewhat perilous. Sit back and enjoy the unique landscapes and let your own private driver and guide show you the best places. Enjoy tasting the excellent wine the Douro is world-famous for without the worry of being over the limit. Get a locals insight into the historic, cultural, gastronomic and religious delights of the Douro.

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Port Wine and Sparkling Wine Tour

Port Wine and Sparkling Wine Tour

Join this private tour and let yourself be guided around the highlights of the Douro region. You'll be picked up from your hotel and taken by air-conditioned car to Lamego and visit the Shrine of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios and castle. You'll visit the Raposeira Wine Cellars and taste their excellent sparkling wines. In the afternoon you'll visit a typical winery from the region. Lunch is included as is the entrance to the wineries before your return to your hotel.

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Off The Beaten Track Douro Valley Tour. All Inclusive

Off The Beaten Track Douro Valley Tour. All Inclusive

An adventure for all your senses! After being picked up from your hotel in Porto we'll travel to Peso da Régua and visit a winery as explained by someone from the producer's family. Visit a place with rocks that have something very ancient and special, related to wine, olive oil and the old gods. Miradouro (Panoramic Sightseeing over the Douro River) with a Chapel built over the temple of a Fertility goddess. Visit the Medieval bridge and tower of Ucanha Village. Lunch in a nice local restaurant, with delicious traditional food. Visit the Visigothic Chapel of Balsemão. Trip to Pinhão along the N-222 (considered the best road in the World). Visit the Pinhão Railway Station with its historical tiles. Tastings in a beautiful Winery. As is a private tour, we may personalise this experience, especially for you.

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WILDLIFE

Parque Natural do Douro Internacional Wildlife

The remoteness of the Parque Natural do Douro Internacional makes it a haven for wildlife, including many species of rare fauna and flora, not found elsewhere in Portugal. If you're lucky you can encounter wolves, wild cats and otters, as well as various species of bats and amphibians. Birdwatchers flock here to admire the 170 species of wild birds who make this area their home. Species such as falcons, black storks and, during the summer season, griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus), Europe’s densest concentration of Egyptian vultures (Britango).



HIKING ROUTES

Explore the best the region has to offer, ancient churches (Igreja Românica de Azinhoso, Santa Maria de Azinhoso, Igreja Paroquial de Vilarinho dos Galegos and Igreja Matriz de Bemposta) incredible vistas from viewpoints (São Cristóvão and Miradouro de Picões), Roman bridges, rugged landscapes, arable land, ruined castles (Castelo de Penas Roias and Castro de Vilarinho dos Galegos) waterfalls and villages (Figueira and Penas Roias) forgotten by time:

• Trilho de São Cristovão (PR1)   Info & Map
• Trilho do Monópotero (PR2)   Info & Map
• Trilho de São Fagundo (PR3)   Info & Map
• Trilho da Faia da Água Alta (PR4)   Info & Map
• Trilho das Lendas (PR5)   Info & Map
• Trilho do Castro e do Contrabando (PR6)   Info & Map
• Trilho da Fraga do Sapato (PR7)   Info & Map
• Trilho do Quartel (PR8)   Info & Map
• Grande Rota do Douro International & Douro Vinhateiro (GR36) Info & Map

Mogadouro Hiking Routes