Ponte da Barca is a beautiful land full of contrasts in the heart of Alto Minho! A substantial part of its territory is embedded in the Peneda Gerês National Park, which is why it holds the award of Biosphere Natural Reserve.
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PONTE DA BARCA
A village embraced by the Yellow Mountain Range and bathed by the Lima River. In the origin of its name was the “barca” that connected the margins of the Lima river and that transported, among others, the pilgrims from Santiago de Compostela. The bridge was erected later and was given the name São João de Ponte da Barca. Land of great natural wealth and palatial houses. It has many points of interest for those who visit it: gastronomy, fluvial beaches, popular art, wines, entertainment and history. In this article we will tell you everything you can’t miss in the heart of Alto Minho!
WHERE IS PONTE DA BARCA?
If you live in Porto and will be traveling by car, it will only take you 1h03 to get here (100 kilometers away). If you live in Lisbon, you can count on 3h40 and a distance of 408 kilometers.
WHAT TO VISIT IN PONTE DA BARCA?
The region where Ponte da Barca is located is a region of HUGE natural and patrimonial wealth. So that you can organize your tours in a more organized and efficient way, we prepared a map with the main attractions around Ponte da Barca. Some of our suggestions are a bit further away from the village. But we believe that the detour is worth it! We hope that the following map will help you define your sequence of walks!
PONTE DA BARCA HISTORIC CENTER
Be sure to walk through the historical center of the village. There you will find a concentration of tourist attractions: the old eighteenth-century market, the medieval bridge, the Cruz do Curro, the Pelourinho, the main church, the baroque fountain of São João, the facade of the Casa de Farias, the church of the misericórdia, and the building of the Paços do Concelho.
SUGGESTION FOR A WALKING TOUR THROUGH THE HISTORIC CENTER
Start your walking tour at the baroque São João Fountain. Head in the direction of the cruise and pass by the beautiful Azenha. Enjoy the walk and along the way, take the opportunity to see the Sundial house, the Church of Mercy and the Forest Guard lake houses. This brief but charming walk will culminate at the Matriz church and near the Farias house (already very close to your initial starting location (the Baroque Fountain of São João).
The Lima River originates in Galicia (Spain) at an altitude of 975 meters. It covers 41 kilometers in Spanish lands before entering Northern Portugal. The watercourse enters the Portuguese mainland near Lindoso. It crosses the upper Minho and passes by Ponte da Barca, Ponte de Lima and flows into the ocean near Viana do Castelo (in total, the river covers 135 kilometers).
It was on a rainy and cold day that I visited Ponte da Barca in the first days of January 2018. I loved getting to know the place but nothing gave me as much pleasure as watching the Lima River flowing through the bridge pillars and the small waterfalls. Even in the rain, I spent many minutes watching, listening and feeling the river flow. It stayed in my memory!
It is the county’s brand image! The green landscapes of the mountains, the hills and the river Lima, form an idyllic landscape of enormous beauty. It was in the XII and XIII centuries that the locals started to abandon the high (and fortified) places and started to go down to the rivers. It was in this period that the town of Ponte da Barca was born. Initially crossed only by Barca and then with its (still today) famous and beautiful bridge (14th century). The medieval bridge gave Ponte da Barca a very important commercial value because it was through here that the goods passed.
It was built during the first half of the 15th century and has a length of 180 meters. It is formed by ten arches but only 8 of them remain from the medieval construction. In the 18th and 19th centuries it was strongly renovated. In the center we can find two tombstones: one with the armillary sphere and the other with the arms. Its structure and architecture follows the model of the even more famous Ponte de Lima bridge. Before the existence of the bridge, the place was called Barca (because the river crossing was made exclusively that way). As we mentioned before, the name was later updated to Ponte da barca, a name that became part of the history and evolution of the place.
PONTE DA BARCA MAIN CHURCH
The construction of the main church of Ponte da Barca (also called Igreja de São João Batista), began in the 16th century. The church presents a single nave with six lateral chapels. The monument was subject to the wrath of the Spanish army during the 17th century (the renovation work on the church took place in 1703). The interior is very rich and deserves a careful visit. The main altar with a baroque style and the chapel of Dores stand out for being covered in tiles.
NOSSA SENHORA DA LAPA CHAPEL
The Chapel was built during the 17th century and renovated in the 18th century. The exterior is simple but the interior is quite beautiful with golden ornaments that justify a visit.
MANNERIST CHURCH OF MERCY (MISERICÓRDIA)
It was erected in 1534 and is one of the oldest churches in the country. It was renovated between 1822 and 1844. The facade has a rococo style. The interior is composed of several elements where a carving of the “Last Supper” and the tiles lining the walls of the monument stand out.
PONTE DA BARCA RIVER BEACH
A nice beach where you can spend a pleasant day in the company of friends or family. It is one of the most popular river beaches in that region of the country and it is in the river Lima that you can take a dip (the water quality is excellent). The surroundings are idyllic and the green hills and mountains will not leave you indifferent. In case you like nautical sports, you will like to know that in this place you will have the opportunity to do it. In Ponte da Barca’s fluvial beach, you will have at your disposal a huge lawn where you can extend your beach towel and relax. In case you prefer the sand, know that the beach also offers a sandy beach to those who visit it. It has several support structures and services (bathrooms, cafes, showers, first aid area, and lifeguards). If you are a pool lover, you will also find a solution here. There is a natural pool and a children’s playground in the area. Finally, it should be mentioned that the beach is also very famous for being accessible to people with reduced mobility.
The Amarela mountain range rises up to 1361 meters and covers a vast territory between Terras de Bouro and Ponte da Barca. The enormous beauty of the mountain reaches its climax between the months of April and May. A magnificent place for hiking lovers who will find here some pedestrian trails that will take you through breathtaking landscapes. The history of human presence in this region is witnessed by the presence of archaeological remains, related to pastoral activities (Fojo do Lobo de Vilarinho da Furna and Fojo do Lobo da Aldeia de Brufe), and the defense of the border (defensive complex of Chã do Salgueiral).
ESPIGUEIROS DO SOAJO
From Ponte da Barca to the Espigueiros do Soajo are 21 kilometers (21 miles) which can be covered in 29 minutes by car. The granaries were and still are used to dry corn! There are 24 granite slabs that are a great tourist attraction. Besides seeing these unique structures, you can (and should) also enjoy the magnificent scenery of the green hills! The oldest granary dates from 1782 and the 24 units have different ages. They were strategically placed on an elevation to make it difficult for the animals to access them. The stone wheels on the slabs make it difficult for rodents to get to them. At the top of each granary we find a cross that attests to the religious devotion of the population.
POÇO DA GOLA
A 27-minute drive and 23 kilometers separate Ponte da Barca from Poço da Gola. It is a small artificial floodgate into which flows the water that comes down from Serra Amarela. It is fed by the Gola waterfall and the Saxoeira waterfall. A place of great beauty!
ÁGUIA DO SARILHÃO TRAIL
From Ponte da Barca to the Trilho da Águia do Sarilhão is a distance of 37 kilometers, a distance that can be covered in one hour by car. This trail begins and ends in the parish of Campo do Gerês. Along the trail you will pass through valleys, reservoirs, bushes and pine forests. An excellent opportunity to see the Fraga do Sarilhão (a rocky structure where in the past the royal eagles made their nests), to admire some houses that still retain a traditional architecture, and the famous granaries. The trail has some difficult descents and for this reason we advise against this adventure for people with any kind of physical limitation. Also avoid times of heavy rain and fog.
SANTO ANTÓNIO DE MIXÕES DA SERRA CHURCH
From Ponte da Barca to the church of Santo António de Mixões da Serra is a distance of 16 kilometers, a distance that can be covered in 25 minutes by car. The church opened its doors to the faithful in 1952 and it was thanks to the bravery and the work of the population that it was built. The temple replaced a chapel that dated back to the 17th century. It was built in honor of Saint Anthony for his protection of the animals. Today it is still the place where the famous “Blessing of the Animals” takes place, an annual pilgrimage that brings many people (and many animals!) to this town.
BOM JESUS DAS MÓS
From Ponte da Barca to the Bom Jesus das Mós monument is a distance of 31 kilometers, a distance that can be covered in 56 minutes by car. Its construction began in 1902 and it was inaugurated in 1913. It resembles the keep of a castle and is a monument dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Bom Jesus das Mós owes its existence to Father Manuel José Martins Capela (1842-1925), who never gave up on the idea and who managed to gather the faithful and locals in this beautiful and difficult project. To take the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus between Braga and Carvalheira, it took 4 days of transportation!
37 kilometers and 59 minutes separate Ponte da Barca from the Geira Museum. A museum dedicated to an 18th century Roman military road that connected Braga to Astorga (Spain) on a 215-mile (Roman) road. The themes of the museum are how the road was planned and how the bridges and lanes of the military road were built.
We suggest that you complement your visit with a walk through the Geira, a trail that begins 2.3 kilometers from the museum.
21 kilometers and 29 minutes separate Ponte da Barca from the beautiful Ponte da Ladeira. It is 900 meters away from the granaries of Soajo. To get there you must use the “Ladeira path”. A narrow path, with ups and downs, curves and counter-curves but of great beauty. An excellent opportunity to admire (and listen) to the birds and observe the local vegetation (Broom, Heather, Acacia and Oak). Once you reach the bridge, listen to the silence and enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the landscape. If the weather is warm, take the opportunity to take a dip!
PONTE DA BARCA HISTORY
Like other villages in this region of the country, the human archaeological remains found in Ponte da Barca are very old and point to the prehistoric era. As you know, prehistory dates from the beginning of time until the invention of writing (3500 BC). Some archaeological remains point to pre-Roman clusters of houses. But it is with the arrival of the Romans to this region that several structures are built that survived the erosion caused by time. Even today we can still see coins, ceramic pieces and sculptures from this time in history. Among the Roman remains found, we must highlight the Pedra dos namorados (Ermida) that can still be seen in the museum of the parish.
OTHER ATTRACTIONS NEAR PONTE DA BARCA
In the vicinity of Ponte da Barca, there are MANY places of great interest. If you have time be sure to visit them! So that you can plan your trip more efficiently, we have prepared a map for you. We hope you find it useful!
Located near the border, it was a military monument of great importance in the defensive strategy of the nation. Its military architecture was pioneering and introduced technical and style innovations in Portuguese medieval military history. The castle was erected during the reign of Dom Afonso III, the Bolognese (1210 – 1279). In the 17th century, during the Restoration of Independence period, the castle underwent improvements in order to endow it with a more complex military system. These works lasted decades and were completed in 1666 (three years after we lost our independence to the Spanish). Already in the 20th century, the castle was considered an emblematic monument by Salazar and underwent restorations (during the 1940s). In this regenerating fury, some structures in the castle courtyard were destroyed.
ESPIGUEIROS DE LINDOSO (Ponte da Barca parish)
Near Lindoso castle (and also only 25 minutes from Ponte da Barca), you will find a site with 50 granaries dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Completely made of stone and with a granite cover, the granaries are supported on small pillars that, in turn, are on top of rocks. The way they were built allowed the corn to be aired in order to prevent it from rotting. It is a unique and emblematic place. Not to be missed!
If you like to visit remote villages, Germil is a magnificent option! From Ponte da Barca, it’s 20 kilometers away (31 minutes by car). Located in the Serra Amarela, the village maintains its rural atmosphere and community life. A group of typical houses, connected by narrow streets and flanked by water springs that gush everywhere. Although small, the village has a church dating from 1880 and a water-mill (an irrigation wheel).
Leaving Ponte da Barca it is a 29-minute drive and 19 kilometers away. The village of Ermida has a large number of houses with thatched roofs and made in a very rudimentary way (with loose stones). Time seems to stand still in the village of Ermida. It is a perfect place to stop, rest and reflect. Although small, the village still found room to erect a church (built in the 18th century) and a memorial (from the 12th century).
Located in the parish of Bravães (county of Ponte da Barca). It started out as a monastery of friars (of the order of São Bento). At the end of the 12th century, it passed to the order of the Templars. It is a magnificent religious monument and is considered a masterpiece of Portuguese Romanesque art (Romanesque art was the dominant art in Europe between the 11th and 13th centuries). It has been a National Monument since 1910 and is the most vibrant monastery of this architectural style in the country. In 2019, the church was burglarized. The burglars managed to enter through a side door and stole the images of the saints that adorned the interior of the monastery. Two months after the robbery, the stolen pieces were recovered.
PONTE DA BARCA VIRTUAL TOUR
GASTRONOMY in PONTE DA BARCA
If you like to eat, Ponte da Barca will not let you down. The magnificent regional products make an important contribution to the quality of the local gastronomy. A combination between what the river offers and what the fertile land gives. The result is a magnificent gastronomic offer. The offer is seasonal, i.e. during the “pig slaughter” season you will find more dishes associated with this tradition in the restaurants of the region. In Ponte da Barca we highlight the following dishes. Meat: papas de Sarrabulho, kid, Cozido à portuguesa, posta Barrosã; Fish: lamprey, shad and trout; Sweets: leite creme, rabanadas de honey and egg-based sweets and sponge cake, queijadas de laranja. The gastronomic events make an important contribution to local tourism by attracting many visitors.
RESTAURANTS in PONTE DA BARCA
VAI À FAVA RESTAURANT
Over 280 comments and an overall rating of 4.5 (out of 5 stars). The positive comments insist on the friendliness of the staff, the river view and the quality of the food (there are many references to many different dishes). The price seems to be adequate for the quality (prepare around 23€ per person).
HOTELS IN PONTE DA BARCA
Tempus hotel is 6 minutes (by car) from Ponte da Barca. It is a 4 star hotel with more than 900 reviews on Google and an overall rating of 4.5 (out of 5). The comments insistently mention the size of the rooms and the decoration. The view, the pool and the friendliness of the staff are also highly praised.
WHAT TO VISIT NEAR PONTE DA BARCA?
A little further away, but still in the vicinity of Ponte da Barca, there are MORE magical places that you can’t miss. We suggest 4 more magnificent places! We hope you enjoy our suggestions!
From Ponte da Barca to Ponte de Lima is a distance of 25 kilometers, a distance that can be covered in 31 minutes. Ponte de Lima is probably the most beautiful place in continental Portugal. Absolutely not to be missed! If you want to know more about Ponte de Lima, click on the picture!
31 kilometers and 40 minutes separate Ponte da Barca from Paredes de Coura. Paredes de Coura is a green village, full of history, beauty and tranquility! The crystalline Coura River is the maximum exponent of this region! If you like history and if you are curious about the origins of our country, you will find in Paredes de Coura megalithic monuments and castrejo constructions that prove the human presence in this place from remote times.
Only 10 kilometers and 13 minutes separate Ponte da Barca from the most fabulous park in Portugal, the Peneda Gerês National Park. A mountainous region, with great elevations and deep valleys. A place with an enormous animal and vegetal richness where you can walk, rest, reflect and recover energies. Not to be missed!
From Ponte da Barca to Braga is 37 kilometers, a distance that can be covered in 45 minutes. Braga is a vibrant city with enormous positive energy. It is also the city of archbishops, a city with a huge number of churches, monasteries and cathedrals that translates into an immense patrimonial wealth. Not to be missed!