Visit Miranda do Douro: Stunning Hidden Gem in Northern Portugal

Visit Miranda do Douro: Stunning Hidden Gem in Northern Portugal

The Fraga do Puio viewpoint is one of the most stunning in Miranda do Douro

Miranda do Douro, written in the local language as Miranda de l Douro, is an ancient city located in northeastern Portugal, right next to the border with Spain, with the Douro river separating both countries. Its unique location and history, make it a must-visit in your Portugal itinerary. Miranda do Douro is filled with unforgettable nature, distinctive culture, and delicious food. Still, what stands out the most are the friendly local people, always eager to show the best the region has to offer.

The main square of Miranda do Douro

If you’re not familiar with the area, you might be surprised by the vast amount of different things to do in Miranda do Douro. The whole region of Trás-os-Montes is a dream for travel lovers and curious souls. Miranda do Douro is commonly known as a Museum City and visiting it does feel like walking through centuries of history. And indeed, it is.

A former Roman settlement, the city was later inhabited by the Arabs, and eventually the stage for different battles between the Kingdom of Castille (later Spain) and Portugal. Despite these battles, much of the city’s Medieval and Renaissance-style architecture has been preserved. However, the main keepers of Miranda do Douro’s unique identity are its people: still proudly speaking Mirandés (the Mirandese language), and celebrating the region’s colorful folklore.

Visit Miranda do Douro

Miranda do Douro is a hidden gem in the true sense of the word, even to many Portuguese tourists. More precisely, it feels like a forgotten gem, considering the importance of this region over the years. To this day, most of the city’s visitors come from the other side of the border, looking for delicious Portuguese food and products that were made famous in the region during the second half of the twentieth century (the reason why you’ll find plenty of shops selling home goods, right in the historical center).

We visited the city from Porto, located less than a 3-hour car ride away. Bragança, the district capital, is located 84km away, but the nearest larger city is actually Zamora, in Spain. You can also get to Miranda do Douro using public buses. Nonetheless, a car is the best way to travel around the region. This area is perfect for a road trip following the stunning Douro River. If you are starting from Porto, visit the Douro Valley and the Alto Douro Wine Region, and move onwards to the Douro International Natural Park.

Alternative viewpoint in São João das Arribas

What to Do in Miranda do Douro

Hike to São João das Arribas Viewpoint

One of the first things we did when we got to Miranda do Douro (after eating some delicious local food – more about that below!) was the hike to the São das Arribas Viewpoint. This specific trail passes local villages and farming fields and ends at one of the landmarks of the region, the São João das Arribas Viewpoint.

The Douro River is one of the main characters of Miranda do Douro’s story, so it makes all the sense to view the river and the dramatic cliffs that surround it, from this viewpoint. Our hike was guided by Pedro, from Douro Pula Canhada. Hiking with someone who knows the area and is an expert at sharing information is a completely different experience, and one we completely recommend. This specific trail also proved to be the perfect way to fall in love with birdwatching, something we’d never done before. We’d never seen so many different bird species in a single day: from Egyptian vultures, to Black storks, and even the Eurasian eagle-owl.

With a length of only 3,2km and little elevation, the trail is low difficulty and therefore easily done with small kids – making it the perfect family activity! Find official information about the São João das Arribas trail.

If you love hiking and are planning a trip to Portugal soon, check out our guide to the best walks and hikes in Madeira.

São João das Arribas trail sign
The São João das Arribas viewpoint after the trail of the same name

Nove Passos Project

The São João das Arribas Trail is part of a larger project in the Lands of Trás-os-Montes: the Nine Steps (Nove Passos). Each step represents a trail in a different region of Trás-os-Montes, and at the different local tourism offices you can find and stamp your own official Nine Steps Passport after you complete each trail. There’s information online about each trail, as well as a mobile phone application.

Learn about Mirandese Language

You can’t talk about Miranda do Douro without mentioning the Douro River, but you also can’t talk about it without mentioning the importance of the Mirandese language, locally, lhéngua mirandesa. Mirandese is the only recognized regional language in Portugal. This is why when you visit Miranda do Douro, you’ll notice many things are written in two different languages: Portuguese and Mirandese.

Despite some similarities, Mirandese is a language of its own, with roots in the local Vulgar Latin spoken in the northern Iberian Peninsula. Today, it’s one of the least spoken European languages, but local efforts to promote its survival remain, and locals still use it commonly for their communication.

Musicians from Miranda do Douro playing local instruments in local costumes
The historic center of Miranda do Douro

Experience Mirandese Culture and Folklore

Coming from a big city, it’s sometimes easy for us to ignore the importance of local tradition that is celebrated not only in special occasions, but every day, in both small and big ways. The Mirandese language is the most blatant example of connection to this specific identity, but Miranda do Douro also stands out for its unique folklore.

Traditional folk music stands out for its unique instruments and the overall dedication to creating music with whatever is on hand – whether outsiders would consider it an instrument or not. Today, a local music academy is bringing back the power of these traditional instruments and songs. The trick? Connecting younger generations to these traditions.

One of the main attractions of this region is actually the Pauliteiros Dance a sort of swords dance that mixes elements of battle and religion. A warrior dance performed by men in kilts – maybe not what you first imagine when you think of Portugal.

Visit the Museum of Terra de Miranda to learn more about the local way of life, Mirandese culture and tradition. In the museum you can also see examples of the traditional clothes worn by locals, including the Capa d’Honras, a noble costume still worn by locals today.

Visit the Historical Center

The center of Miranda do Douro is small but picturesque, and filled with landmarks worth a visit. The main square, Praça D. João III, is perfect to learn more about the town and sit for a refreshing drink on a warm summer day. The statues in the center represent a local couple, wearing the local costumes and even the traditional expressions of tough Transmontanos.

Make sure to walk the narrow streets of the historical center, and stop at the Cathedral and the Castle Ruins. Talk to locals to learn about the tale of Menino Jesus da Cartolinha (Infant Jesus in a Top Hat) and find the number two in the cliffs, to make sure you have a blessed marriage.

Rui kayaking in the Douro River between Portugal and Spain

Kayak between Portugal and Spain

One of the most memorable experiences we had during our time in Miranda do Douro was our kayak experience in the International Douro River, kayaking between Portugal and Spain. It’s somehow the perfect way to relax and exercise at the same time, completely surrounded by extraordinary nature that puts our own existence in perspective. Because we visited in June, part of the river was still protected due to nidification on the cliffs, but from July onwards you can participate in full-day tours taking you even further.

You can learn more about these tours or rent kayaks to use on your own at the Pula Canhada booth by the river docks. If kayaking is not your thing, take the Environmental Cruise to learn more about the area and experience the International Douro River yourself.

Douro Pula Canhada has plenty of activities for tourists in Miranda do Douro

Uncover the Beautiful Douro International Natural Park

The Douro International Natural Park is a haven for nature lovers, filled with jaw-dropping viewpoints, trails, and unforgettable landscapes. You’ll find that there are many different viewpoints in the Park, but make sure you also stop at local villages and interact with locals along the way.

One of the viewpoints that stand out (both for the views and infrastructure) is the Fraga do Puio viewpoint, in the village of Picote. We completely fell in love with the dramatic views to the river bend.

We got to experience the Douro International Natural Park on a 4×4 Tour with Douro Pula Canhada, which allowed us to access some lesser-known viewpoints and locations.

If you have more time, cross the border to Spain and visit the Arribes del Duero Natural Park. Before returning to Porto, we stopped at Fermoselle and at the beautiful Pozo de Los Humos waterfall, but we’re eager to return with more time.

A painting of the Pauliteiros de Miranda, a big part of Mirandese culture

Where to Stay in Miranda do Douro

One of the highlights of our time in Miranda do Douro, was our stay at Puial de l Douro, a delightful accommodation run by a local couple, Fábia and Domingos Raposo. What makes it extra special is that they’ve been dedicated to the preservation of Mirandese culture and identity all their lives. The guest house has all the amenities you need, located 5km from the city of Miranda do Douro, in the small village of Aldeia Nova.

The buffet breakfast is superb and filled with delicious regional products, and the spaces are thoroughly thought-out to provide both comfort and authenticity. The granite walls and traditional architecture make the space unique, but all your modern-life needs are met as well. Still, Puial de l Douro is the perfect base to visit Miranda do Douro and to take a few days to unwind in the middle of these beautiful landscapes. The outside areas are perfect to relax, and of course, we couldn’t write this article without mentioning the fantastic seawater pool (Maria is healthily addicted to water!).

We stayed at one of their Deluxe Rooms, but the property also has Family Suites and a small apartment with a private kitchenette.

Maria enjoying the seawater pool at Puial de l Douro
The beautiful outside area at Puial de l Douro

Other Places to Stay in Miranda do Douro

Due to the historic influx of Spanish tourists to Miranda do Douro, you’ll find online that there are many places to stay in Miranda do Douro. Truthfully, some of these accommodation options may seem a bit stuck in time from their Booking photos, but there are plenty of affordable and comfortable options closer to the center of town. One that came highly recommended was Hotel Cabeço do Forte.

In Miranda do Douro you can also find Douro Camping, perfect if you’re looking to actually camp or travel with your own motor home. The park has recently been renovated, and the bungalow options offer small modern apartments for budget prices.

Restaurants in Miranda do Douro

It’s impossible to write about Portugal and not write about the delicious gastronomy. Despite the country’s small size, Portuguese food is quite varied from one place to the next, and there are some things you need to try when you visit Miranda do Douro. Be aware that traditional options are still very much meat and fish heavy, but a tradition of delicious fresh salads and soups offers some options to vegetarians and vegans, even in small towns such as Miranda do Douro.

The most famous dish in Miranda do Douro is Posta Mirandesa, meat from the Mirandese breed, grown in the natural pastures in the Transmontano Northeast. If you want to try true Posta Mirandesa make sure it has been recognized with the Protected Designation of Origin. In Miranda do Douro, there are only two restaurants serving this beef: O Miradouro and at the Hotel Parador Santa Catarina Restaurant. We had a memorable dinner at O Miradouro trying out true Posta Mirandesa for the first time in our lives – and yes, the difference is very much noticeable!

Our other meals in Miranda do Douro were at Capa d’Honras, O Mirandês, and S. Pedro Restaurant – all options we recommend for a delightful traditional meal in town. If you want to try the main local dessert, look out for Bola Mirandesa in the menu.

Miranda do Douro: Stunning Hidden Gem in Northern Portugal

For many centuries, Portuguese people living in coastal cities thought of Miranda do Douro a bit like the Seven Kigdoms thought of The Wall in Game of Thrones. A strategic stronghold, but a dark uninteresting faraway place where bad men were sent to for punishment. In some ways, this view remains today. Miranda do Douro is constantly thought as far away, making it a forgotten gem that doesn’t get the credit it deserves. The wild rugged beauty of the International Douro River is often forgotten in favor of a much more famous Douro Valley. Both are very much worth the visit.

Today, due to the development of better roads, Miranda do Douro is easily accessible and a memorable place to visit and experience the unique Mirandese culture and way of life. This, in combination with the natural wonders the region holds, makes Miranda do Douro a region to visit in Portugal.

If you’re curious to see more of Miranda do Douro, follow us on Instagram, as we’ve documented the whole trip in our Stories (now saved on the Miranda do Douro highlight).

This article is the result of a blog trip in collaboration with CIM and Terras de Trás-os-Montes (CIM-TTM), but as always, all opinions remain our own.

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Miranda do Douro is a hidden gem located in northern Portugal, next to the border with Spain. The perfect destination to add to your Portugal itinerary if you love food, beautiful nature, and incredible architecture. Visit Miranda do Douro: Destinations in Portugal I Places to Visit in Portugal I Where to Go in Portugal I Northern Portugal I Portuguese Villages #portugal
Portugal is a country filled with beautiful destinations, though probably none as unique as Miranda do Douro. Located in the North of Portugal, close to the border with Spain, Miranda do Douro is known for its unique culture and stunning nature. Where to Go in Portugal I Destinations in Portugal I Portugal Bucket List I Things to do in Portugal I Villages in Portugal #portugal

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