Explore the mysteries of Palaeolithic art in an outdoor art gallery, where our ancestors will tell you what they saw. In the northeast region of Portugal, surrounded by majestic mountains, visit the Archaeological Park of Vale do Côa, near the border with Spain, in a monumental landscape.
This is the largest outdoor site of Palaeolithic rock art in the world, a World Heritage site. The rocky banks of the river are an art gallery decorated with paintings and engravings like youve never seen before.The Côa margins, a Douro tributary whose name has become universal, enclose 25,000 years of prehistoric art, a legacy from the spiritual past of mankind, classified by UNESCO.
Seventeen kilometres of an outdoor art gallery display the creative genius of our ancestors, from the Upper Palaeolithic period to the Iron Age.
The Museum of Art and Archaeology of Vale do Côa was inaugurated in 2010 and intersects Palaeolithic art with other forms of expression, showcasing a temporary exhibition and a permanent one, allowing you to see what the engravings do not show.
Architecture and nature
If you like architecture, you will like the way the architects responsible for the museums project designed it, a discreet building, in harmony with the landscape. It looks like a huge schist rock overlooking the engravings. Inside the museum, the galleries resemble caves and the small windows provide interesting contrasts between light and darkness.
The main office of the Archaeological Park of Vale do Côa is housed in this building, managing a 200 sq.km area that embraces the Côa River valley and its union with the Douro River.
There are guided tours on all-terrain vehicles to see the engravings. Visitors can only see three rock art ensembles, but the experience is unique anyway. The rock art ensembles open to visitors are: Canada do Inferno, Ribeira de Piscos and Penascosa evening visits to the last are available. For information on prices and other information, see the website of the park (www.arte-coa.pt).
In addition to archaeology, visitors can also find in these guided tours mountain goats, horses, aurochs (wild bulls), deer, and long-legged warriors holding spears. All in all, a walk through a stunning landscape.You can also take part in the guided tour called “Tracking down the Palaeolithic hunters” (“No rasto dos caçadores paleolíticos”) or in the experimental archaeology workshop where, for almost two hours visitors can try to carve stones, build a fire and engrave the schist.
If you want the help of a guide to know the region, its customs and the excellent wines it produces, you can contact the park in order to organise a customized visit.
Foz Côa is not interesting only for its Palaeolithic traces. The council has several lookout and defence monuments, among them the interesting Castelo Melhor, Castelo Velho (of Freixo de Numão) and Castelo de Numão. Castelo Melhor was built between the 9th and 10th centuries. Seen from a distance, it looks like a kings crown on a mound of soil. Castelo Velho, where there once was a settlement in the 3rd and 2nd millennium B.C., is an imposing place providing a stunning view. Castelo de Numão is a national monument.
A 360-degree view
Generations of artists have, over millions of years, chosen the landscape of the Upper Douro as their inspiring muse. Enjoy it from the top of a unique belvedere. Take the Foz Côa Belvedere Route and visit the six splendid places that are part of the tour. They are all easy to access.
You can choose between the belvederes of Nª Senhora do Viso (Custóias), Sta. Bárbara (Mós), S. Martinho (Seixas), S. Gabriel (Castelo Melhor), Mata dos Carrascos (Santo Amaro) and Arnozelo (Numão).All belvederes offer a great view of the Douro River and a 360-degree view of the Vale do Côa landscape.
The suggestion of a cruise on the Douro River comes hand in hand with gastronomy and wines. Indulge in a roast kid and rice with potatoes, a lamb stew, pork ribs and rice, Portuguese stew, “jaquinzinhos”, river fish, eels or an Eirós stew.
Among the sweets of convent origin, special focus on sweet corn, olive oil cookies, “cavacas”, Teixeira biscuits and Santa Clara pastries. Dont miss out on the almonds from the Douro and any sweet made with this dry fruit.Besides Port wine, be sure to try the DOC wines (Controlled Origin Denomination) of Douro, moscatel wine and the sparkling wine from Távora-Varosa.
How to get there
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.
To reach the Douro and Vale do Côa, take the national road 108 to Entre-os-Rios and continue along the Douro River bank until you reach Régua alternatively, you can take the IP 4, linking the districts of Porto, Vila Real and Bragança, and then take national and municipal roads.