We are used to travel on the weekend or while our (never enough) holidays and thus we try to make the most of our trips with lots of planning and less room for improvisation. But last summer, in Portugal, we had the three things that any traveler needs to decide the destinations along the way: a car, a camping tent and a travel guide.
We had travelled through central Portugal from Lisboa to the medieval jewel of Guimarães and our next stop in our way back home was fixed at Burgos (Spain), a city dominated by its amazing Word Heritage cathedral. But we still had one night and some hours driving to reach Burgos, so we decided to open the guide and look for hotspots in the way back to Barcelona. We had heard about Miranda do Douro, a Portuguese town, belonging to the Braganza district, located in the border with Spain and next to which environmental cruises depart to sail through the international natural park of the Douro river. Moreover, the town has a municipal camping site, so we couldn’t ask for more!
After less than 3 hours driving, we reached Miranda do Douro and settled in the camping site, as we had been doing some other nights in that roadtrip. The location of the city is wonderful: in the left bank of the Douro river, its typical landscape is made of high granite cliffs. Its closeness to Spain has even created an own language for Miranda’s inhabitants, named “Mirandés”.
The staff at the camping’s reception made us feel so lucky to be in the town that night: a traditional dance was scheduled in the evening. So undoubtedly we moved to the city center to have dinner and attend to the performance of the Miranda’s Pauliteiros.
We had dinner in a nice terrace in the Joao III square (which is the main square of the city). There you will find the Monument to the Mirandese, two bronze statues depicting a man and a woman who are dressed in the regional costumes. We just relaxed and had a beer, talking about the things we had experienced in our “Portuguese roadtrip” and waiting for the Pauliteiros’ dance, previously called “dance of swords”. That night we had the chance to merge into Miranda’s culture and to enjoy the dance full of warrior and religious elements.
The following day we participated in the environmental cruise that the International Biological Station organizes in the natural park called Arribes del Duero and thus we had the opportunity to sail through that spectacular tranche of one of the finest canyons in Europe. Tickets and timetables can be found on their website. We decided to hire this activity the day before but it seemed that the cruise is quite booked (at least in summer), so buying the tickets in advance is highly recommended.
During the trip, the staff of the Biological Station explained interesting facts about the flora, the fauna and the geology of the cliffs, while sailing through the international waters that serve as the natural border between Portugal and Spain. Silence is quite important to fully appreciate the beauty of the area but don’t worry, at some point you will be allowed to walk towards the deck and take some photos. After the trip, visitors can enjoy a little wine tasting and a show with birds of prey. The dock also has a shop with typical products of the region. In the end, we couldn’t have said goodbye to Portugal in a better manner!