The Costa Verde,Portugal, Green Coast in English, is named for the dense green vegetation that is found on the coastal land along this stretch of the Atlantic in the north west of Portugal. It stretches north from the pleasantly bustling port town of Porto, up to the Spanish border. It has a long tradition of beach tourism and yet much of it is still unspoiled and natural, especially slightly in from the coast. There are historically interesting towns towards the interior too so while you will probably spend most of your holiday on the picturesque coast, be sure to pay a visit inland too.
The cities of Espinho and Póvoa de Varzim are both popular tourist resorts with hotels, golf courses and casinos and all the somewhat ugly trappings of mass tourism. If you are looking for a quiet beach holiday or cultural break then you are better off choosing somewhere else to base yourself.
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If you are looking for a coastal town that has somewhat less development then some less built-up choices include Viana do Castelo, Vila do Conde, Caminha and Esposende. Vila do Conde is so charming not because it has no mass tourist infrastructure but because the hotels, villas and apartments overlooking the beach are separate from the mediaeval old town, which still has its traditional fishing harbour and streets free from traffic. If you want a day trip excursion from Porto and are interested in more than just a beach then Vila do Conde could be a good choice.
There are quite a few good beaches along this coastline. Some beaches of note include those at Moledo, Apúlia, Fão and Vila Praia de Âncora. The beaches, like Vila Praia de Âncora, which is very popular with bathers during the summer, and others north of Viana do Castelo are amongst the country’s most attractive. Unlike many of the other beaches of this coastline, Vila Praia de Âncora is rather sheltered, protected from the worst of the winds that make this coast such an excellent location for surfing and other related water sports.
The section of Costa Verde nearest to Porto has several places that are well worth a jaunt out from the city centre if you are based there for your holiday. Matosinhos, Maia and Vila Nova de Gaia are all interesting in their own right.
Braga, Guimarães, Barcelos and Amarante are all inland towns that are increasing in popularity. Guimarães is a particularly important place in Portuguese history. ‘Portugal was born here’ is the town motto. Walking round the well-preserved historic town centre there is a constant and tangible sense of history that makes it a fascinating place, well worth leaving the coast behind to pay it a visit.
So, while the Costa Verde does have some lovely beaches and unspoiled stretches, be aware that for a more authentic and unspoiled Portuguese experience you will have to head a little inland.
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