Go medieval today at Castelo Rodrigo, both the name of a hilltop castle as well as the village that surrounds it. The view from the top is incredible and the village is a charming place to ramble, relax and replenish. If you wish, you can also lace up your hiking boots and unleash your inner Indiana Jones with an up-close gander at some pre-historic carvings.
Enjoy breathtaking scenery this morning as your ship cruises the upper Douro River Valley, which has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, both because of its beauty and its remarkable history.
Although the river is considered one of the most pristine waterways in all of Europe, people have inhabited this region for 30,000 years. You may opt to visit Portugal’s first archaeological park, Foz Côa, or explore the comparatively “modern” Castelo Rodrigo, a medieval castle standing at the heart of a still-lively village, today.
Ride through wonderfully scenic countryside—the area is noted for its honey, which derives its flavor from the fields of wild lavender and the almond groves you’ll pass—to Castelo Rodrigo, the name of both a castle and the village that surrounds it. The castle ruins loom high atop Marofa Mountain, telling the tale of border strife and Portugal’s struggle for independence in a single structure. Construction on the citadel began in 1209 under the auspices of the king of Leon, but it became part of Portugal within a century—though its local lords sided with Spanish rulers from time to time over the next four centuries. That’s why the palace adjoining the castle stands in ruins: Outraged citizens destroyed it after its lord sided with Castile. Take in the amazing view from the ancient stone walls, then step down through the tiny cobbled lanes of the village, passing the old pillory, the Manueline church and the town’s market square. It’s not all history, of course. You’ll also get to indulge in a wine tasting and sample delicious local treats—such as honey, almonds, olive oil and cheeses—and a restored teahouse invites you to relax over a cup of tea or a cool drink.
Archaeological Park of the Côa Valley
Ready for an expedition worthy of Indiana Jones? Today’s your chance. In the 1990s, scouting for a proposed dam project on the Côa River revealed an astonishing collection of prehistoric carvings, among them horses, deer and aurochs that span eons. The oldest images etched into the schist walls around the river date to approximately 22,000 to 20,000 BC, with younger carvings ranging from the Epipaleolithic, Neolithic and Bronze ages to the 17th century—images that represent human interaction with the natural world for more than 30,000 years. Your visit starts at the Côa Museum, where you can see both reproduction and original rock art and learn about the amazing area. Then you can go out with your knowledgeable guide into the valley to see these sites for yourself. It will be an illuminating adventure. Note: Exploring these sites will require sturdy hiking footwear and considerable physical fitness: You’ll take a four-wheel drive down dirt roads and hike into rocky and hard-to-access locations. Later in the day, your ship will drift down the Douro toward Porto, where it will dock for the last two days of your Portuguese adventure.