Discover a religious Douro, full of places of worship and meditation, and visit some of the most beautiful examples of Cistercian art. Take one or two tours of the Cister Vineyard Route and enjoy the prodigal union between nature and history which symbolizes the region. If you choose both tours, you can easily organize your trip so you can stay for two days.
It was at the bottom of the fertile hillsides of Serra da Nave, between the rivers Távora and Varosa, in the Varosa valley, that the Cistercian Monks chose to build their temples many centuries ago. Today, you can still enjoy some of the most important treasures and jewels belonging to the national heritage.
Visit the monasteries that preserve the dynamic spirit of the monks. These soon shaped the region to their own image, working the land, growing the vines, instilling rules and traditions lasting till this day. Classified as a National Monument since 1956, the S. João de Tarouca Monastery, from the 12th century, is one of those places with a soul, and that you can visit in Tarouca.
The Cister Vineyard Route runs across – and merges with – the Demarcated Region of Távora-Varosa, whose vineyards produce some of the best Portuguese sparkling wines, as well as fragrant and fruity table wines, both red and white. Therefore, save some time to get to know the region’s food.
The Monastery Route
This route begins at the historical city of Lamego, where you must visit the Cathedral and climb the 686 steps of the staircase of the Nossa Senhora dos Remédios Sanctuary. The view is magnificent from up there. In Lamego, it is also worth visiting the Visigoth chapel of São Pedro de Balsemão, with traces of construction from the 7th century.
From Lamego, head to Armamar and visit its Romanesque Church. Likewise, the view from there to Mizarela, a waterfall located 3 km from the village, is truly amazing.
Continue through Travanca and Cimbres to the Monastery of Santa Maria de Salzedas, of the Cistercian Order, and whose current building dates from the 18th century.
In Ucanha, visit the famous Murganheira wine cellars, a producer of DOC wines and sparkling wines.
On this first day, stay at the Hotel Lamego, built in an old farm, preserving a vintage house – the Palacete Vista Alegre dates from 1926 – simultaneously modern and sophisticated. It is the ideal place to enjoy the comfort, tranquillity, history and flavours of the Alto Douro Wine Region.
"Between vineyards and chestnuts"
The second route, connected to the first by the national road 226, is in Moimenta da Beira. In this location with a longstanding tradition, visit the Monastery of Nossa Senhora da Purificação, also known as Igreja das Freiras, and the Solar dos Carvalhais, where the Town Council is currently located.
Wine enthusiasts will enjoy visiting the Farming Cooperative of Távora, where they can not only learn more about DOC wines from the region, but also purchase some bottles to take home.
Take a detour to Fonte Arcada, to visit the historical centre, the Romanesque church from the 12th century, the fountain with the ogival arch that named the place, and the Casa da Loba, from the 13th century.
Follow the road to Tabuaço, where you can enjoy the portico of the Church of S. Pedro das Águias, founded in the 12th century, on a hillside of the Távora River.
Continuing south, you will find the Serra da Lapa, where one of the oldest Portuguese sanctuaries is located, and the Chapel of Senhora da Lapa, built later by the Jesuits in the 17th century. Nearby, visit the Monastery of Nossa Senhora da Assunção de Tabosa, of the nuns of the Cistercian Order.
In Sernancelhe, land of chestnut trees, visit the Church and enjoy the extraordinary Romanesque sculptures. In the historical centre, pay attention to the pillory from the 16th century and to the Solar Barroco dos Carvalhos. Several granite sculptures have been scattered throughout the streets and gardens of the village.
Say goodbye to the region from the top of the Penedono Castle, 930 metres high. The construction rules over a vast panoramic view.
Return to Lamego and sleep at Quinta da Pacheca, one of the best known estates in the Douro and one of the first to bottle wine with its own brand, and whose vineyards – some, at least – were bought over time from the convents of Salzedas and S. João de Tarouca.
Elegance and tradition at the table
Celebrate life with a flute of an elegant and refined sparkling wine from the region. Sheltered in cellars excavated in blue granite, this aerated wine only sees the light of day after three years of ageing and after being submitted to such intense rituals as the “beheading” of the bottles.
With its schistose plateaus and granite hillsides, where currents of clear water run free, the Douro is a paradise for hill hunting and freshwater fish. Accompany the homemade enchidos with regional bread and taste the lamb roasted in old wood-fired ovens and the trout from the Varosa, the Balsemão and the Vilar. In Tarouca, ask for the bazulaque de carnes, another typical dish.
There are flights from Bremen, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Karlsruhe, Munich, Dortmund, Zurich, Liverpool, London, Bordeaux, Carcassonne, Dole, La Rochelle, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, Paris, Rodez, St. Etienne Toulouse, Tours, Barcelona, Madrid, Palma de Mallorca, Valencia, Bologna, Milan, Pisa, Rome, Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and New York.
The best way to go from the International Airport Francisco Sá Carneiro to the city centre is to take the underground. The trip takes about 30 minutes.