A Walk Through Portugal’s Côa Valley

The Douro region of Portugal is mainly known for its wine, and most visitors to the region spend much of their time visiting Port houses or cruising the river. What they may not know is, not too far from the well-known wineries, are hundreds of prehistoric rock drawings in a Unesco recognized archaeological park.

The oldest rock art here dates back to 22,000 BC but humans continued to draw for millenia. It is not possible to visit the park without going in with a guide, and since one cannot live on winery visits alone, we made our way to the village of Vila Nova de Foz Côa in early June to hike down into the valley, have lunch, and continue on to see some of the rock art.

The walk down is beautiful.

It takes about an hour and a half to reach the bottom, on an easy trail. There are jeeps available for those who don’t want to do the walking part.

There are a lot of almond trees, but they don’t seem to produce much. In June it was very dry and somewhat brown; it must be truly extraordinary after some rain.

At the river, we enjoyed a delicious catered lunch. Our lunch included several courses and excellent accompanying wines.

Dining with a view at the bottom of a valley with no other people around was glorious.

After lunch, we boarded jeeps to take us to the archaeological park. It is not easy to make out the drawings without the guide to help us see them. Also, you have to visit at a certain time of day to be able to see them at all.

The drawings we viewed are of animals such as horses and cows. The guide shows a drawing, and gives an explanation, so we knew what we were looking for.

Do you see the animals?

It is amazing to see these drawings created by humans living so long ago. They ate by the same river we ate by – but probably, they didn’t get to have wine with their meal!

We will return to the Côa Valley again next June, on GrapeHops A Taste of Northern Portugal tour.


Shannon Essa leads small-group tours focusing on wine, food, and local culture in Croatia, Slovenia, Northern Italy and Northern Spain & Portugal.

Discover the backstreets of Venice or the wine, craft beer, and slow food of Piedmont, Italy. In Spain, experience the rustic foods and low-key lifestyle in beautiful Galicia, the wineries along the Camino de Santiago in the Bierzo region, or the justifiably famous wine regions and local food traditions of Catalonia. See many of Croatia’s most beautiful sights and learn about the rebirth of one of Europe’s oldest wine areas. And see all this with Shannon, who loves unique and out of the way wine and food experiences.

When not in Europe, Shannon does her eating and drinking in San Diego, California.

Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.
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