What I love about Minho, tells you the story about the wonders of this ever-green region in the North of Portugal. It is the home of green wine, bacalhau (salt cod) and feudal palaces. Above all of this what I love most about Minho is that, along with Alentejo, it is one of the gastronomical centres of Portugal and where one can feel the warmness of the Portuguese People to its greatest extent.

With tourism in Portugal being on the rise, we’re not surprised to hear visitors already complaining about the “hordes” of fellow tourists and travellers who “invade” the most popular cities, Lisbon and Porto, and the Algarve region in the extreme south of the country. While there’s always a good reason why some places become popular, many other places which certainly have lots to offer, are still waiting to be discovered, like the Minho region, in the deep north of Portugal.

During the last year I was lucky enough to visit the Minho region several times, and in this post I want to share some of the things I loved about it and some of the photos I have taken. If you’re thinking of visiting Portugal and looking to discover a non touristic, still unprocessed Portugal, then read on, you may get some ideas for your next trip.

 

What I love about Minho?

Braga and Guimarães

Braga and Guimarães are two important historical and cultural centres. Braga, whose origins trace back to Bracara Augusta, an urban centre founded by the Romans in 20 BC, is also the oldest Catholic Archdiocese of Portugal. It doesn’t come as a surprise then, that it has some of the most beautiful monasteries and churches in the whole country. Also, with a schedule rich in processions, masses and other activities, the Holy Week commemorations are more intense and heartfelt here than anywhere else in Portugal.

Mosteiro Tibaes Braga Braga Blue Hour

 

Guimarães, a UNESCO site, and a gorgeous, well preserved medieval town, is usually called the “cradle of the Portugal” because it was the setting of the events that led to the birth of the Portuguese nation.

 

Guimaraes at evening, Portugal, 2014
Guimaraes at evening, Portugal, 2014

 

The Bacalhau capital of Portugal?

Although the capital of the bacalhau fishing industry is Ilhavo, a town in the Aveiro district, in central Portugal, the owners of the São Frutuoso restaurant, in Braga, to whom we spoke as part of the Portuguese Travel Cookbook project, claimed with extreme confidence that Minho is the best place to eat Bacalhau. While the claim is certainly strong, they made sure they supported it with some evidence, serving us a delicious plate of Bacalhau a Braga – A recipe that combines the sweetness of the cebolada, fried onions, with the soft but pungent tanginess of the paprika. Go try it yourself and then tell me. Another great bacalhau recipe I loved is the Bacalhau recheado made by Dona Emilia at the Adega dos Caquinhos restaurant in Guimarães town.

 

Bacalhau a Braga Bacalhau Recheado

The meaty stuff

There’s more to bacalhau to Minho’s rich gastronomy. Meat lovers, at least those visiting for the first time, must absolutely savour cabrito assado no forno (oven roasted goat) or one of those tender, juicy steaks of carne barrosã, cow’s meat from a special local breed of cow.

 

Cabrito assado no forno

Where the wine is green

Don’t panic, it doesn’t mean it’s radioactive! It’s not even green, if you ask. The name Vinho Verde, doesn’t describe the colour of the wine, and better translates as “Young wine”. In fact, Vinho verde can be tinto (red), branco (white), or rosé. Make sure you try the two best varieties, Alvarinho and Loureiro. Oh, and if you really want to fit in with the locals drink from a Malga, a special wine cup that people from Minho use instead of wine glasses!

 

Malga

…And the land is green too!

I said the wines are not green in colour, right? But this doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of green in Minho. In fact, it’s one of the greenest places I’ve seen in Portugal. Just drive out of Braga heading in the direction of the Gerês national park and in no time you’ll find yourself immersed in an abundance of green. The rolling hills here are perhaps not as scenic as the ones in the Douro Valley, but the landscape has its own unique character. Hikers, and those who love road-trips will not be disappointed, that’s for sure. If it gets hot, which is very likely to happen in the summer, no worries – you can always swim in the river, rio Cávado or rio Homem, depending on which side you are.

 

Serra do Geres, Portugal, 2014
Serra do Geres, Portugal, 2014

Brufe 01 Brufe, Minho

Hanging out with the aristocrats

The Minho region has hosted the most powerful noble families since the early days of the Portuguese nation and it has some of the most beautiful Solares, stately mansions, in the whole of Portugal. if you always dreamed of sleeping manor, and be the guest of a proud Count, you should give in to your inner aristocrat and book a weekend at Paço de Calheiros, near Ponte de Lima.

 

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The Minhotos

Noble people, like the Count of Calheiros at Paço de Calheiros, although extremely hospitable and pleasant, can certainly come across as well composed and a bit austere. But that’s not how your average Minhoto is. People in Minho are usually very laid back and like the typical Northern Portuguese, are not afraid to use colourful language – and the odd profanity – to add humour to their conversations. I will never forget Dona Emilia at the Adega dos Caquinhos restaurant in Guimarães, asking her friends to move out of the room when I needed to take her portrait: “You, sons of bitches, get your asses out of here – The gentleman needs to take my photo!”

 

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Disclaimer :

It travelled to Minho as a guest of the Minho IN inter-municipal consortium and of Cunha Vaz Associados communication agency. All opinions are my own.