Our hike along the Douro begins below the Ponte D. Luis I directly on the banks of the river. The weather is just too nice for a city tour – we want to get to the sea!
But first, the route takes us through the very touristy part of Gaia. Here on the riverbank, one souvenir stall stands next to the next, people crowd into the restaurants and shops or go tasting in the large port wine cellars. Fortunately, the hustle and bustle soon dies down and we reach the quieter section of the Douro.
Our hiking route is easy to follow on the map.
Over the wooden plank path
There is not much space between the road with its two lanes and the Douro, so the town has created a wooden boardwalk for pedestrians. This leads over the Douro in many places.
I discover metal plates with holes in some of the planks. We ponder for a while why they are there until we see an angler using this hole for his fishing rod. The indentation is even bevelled so that the fishing rod is at a slight angle. A great idea that was perhaps meant to be. In any case, we meet a few more anglers on our walk who are waiting here for their lunch.
We enjoy walking the route and looking across the Douro to Porto. Every now and then an excursion boat passes by and we discover places that we really want to see on the other side of the river. The Jardins do Palácio de Cristal, for example, can be seen high above the riverbank, where there is a great viewpoint. But the small colourful houses that make up the “typical” view of Porto are also simply beautiful from here.
Every now and then we turn round and enjoy the view back. The impressive Ponte D. Luis I. where we started our hike, is now a long way away.
As we pass under the Ponte de Arrábida, the mouth of the river opens up and the sea can already be glimpsed.
Stopover in the fishing village of Afurada
Then we finally reach a small, almost picturesque village with a harbour. It’s worth taking a short break in Afurada. Especially at lunchtime, there are lots of small restaurants serving fresh fish. We discovered a restaurant in a side street and had an excellent meal there.
Afterwards, we were drawn back to the water. This is where the Lavadouro Público building is located, a place that is still used today by the villagers to wash their laundry. The laundry is still scrubbed by hand in large basins and then wrung out with great vigour. The women then carry the still-wet laundry to a square in front of the wash house. There, the washing lines are stretched between wooden poles and the laundry flutters in the wind.
Nature conservation in the Douro estuary
We wanted to go further, the sea coast seemed almost within reach and so we continued our hike along the Douro.
The buildings disappeared and the estuary widened more and more. Fences prevented us from approaching the water and nature became increasingly lush. The Douro estuary nature reserve is located in this area.
At one point, you can enter the area free of charge at certain times. There is a small house here where you can get information about the area. Two wooden boardwalks take you a little way into the area and at the end you can take a seat at small observation stations. Information boards help you to identify the animals living there.
Depending on the tide, the view opens up onto a more or less large sandbank. You can watch birds here at any time of year: Migratory birds stopping over, herons or the curlew, gulls, …
We were the only people watching the birds here during our visit and although we are not birdwatchers, I thought it was wonderful to sit there and see the animals.
Finally by the sea
We leave the nature reserve and follow the path along the Douro towards the sea. And then, finally – we are standing on a promenade right next to a beautiful sandy beach.
Dogs romp in the sand, a few sun-seekers sit on the stones heated by the November sun and the waves crash ashore. For me, it’s a place where I can forget the time. Sit here, look out to sea and just enjoy….
We enjoyed the peace and quiet there for quite a while. It was almost too bad that we had to go back to our holiday flat.
For those who don’t want to walk back, there is a bus stop where bus 902 departs. This is located on the extension of the seafront promenade. The bus criss-crosses the area, but ends in Porto at the Casa da Música, where there is also a metro station.