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Best Route Belmonte to Pinhao

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We will be spending 2 nights in Vila Pouca de Beira followed by 3 nights in Belmonte with the next 3 nights in Pinhao. We hope that we will be able to explore these areas by car as well as do some walking. Looking for someone who has experienced the drive for advice.

I am now getting down to looking at maps more closely and wonder which route would be best for scenic areas:

North - A23, IP2, N229-1, N22 by way of Trancoso and Sao Joa da Pesq.

Northeast - IP2, N222 by way of Vila Nova de Foz Coa

Northwest - A25 by way of Viseu and Lamego

By Google Maps the routes are all about 2-3 hours.

We would prefer a scenic route with some small towns or interesting sites to visit on the way with a stop for lunch. It doesn't seem possible to drive along the Douro east to west or am I mistaken?

Forgot to mention that we will be headed to Pitoes das Junias after leaving Pinhao so our next route will head north through Vila Real.

Thanks for any wisdom you may impart....

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    What a great three places to stay. There are lots of amazing little towns all around Belmonte, I think Linhares is my favorite. But to your question....

    From Belmonte to Pinhao, I think it's a toss up between the first and third option. Trancoso is a good place for a short stop -- a walled city, Sernacelhe is also a good place for a short stop.

    The route via Viseu and Lamego is also nice. Viseu is a city, but it is manageable and has a very nice old core, a cathedral and a museum that's worth a visit. Lamego is smaller, has a few things worth a stop and a nice central area to stroll around. The oldest church in Portugal, in Balsemao, is highly restored but has lots worth seeing. We drove on a bumpy road for a while and then walked for about an hour to get to the cute little hamlet where it is located.

    Driving east after Pinhao is not possible next to the river, but I would highly recommend taking the train from Pinhao to Pocinho. It's about a 45 minute drive, spectacular scenery, on a chuggety chug old train. You'll get a 20 minute break while the personnel have a coffee at one of two cafes in Pocinho and then head back to Pinhao. By far the prettiest part of the Douro Valley.

    Pitoes de Junias is a marvelous short hike from a town whose name I cannot remember. But there's a good restaurant there, and the walk is lovely. The ruins are really worth a visit. If you have the time to spend a day or so in the national park nearby, Peneda Geres, it is also a very lovely part of Portugal.

    You've got a great "off the beaten path" itinerary, and I'm sure you will have a wonderful time.

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    P.s. I forgot to add, that I think that the route from Sao Joao to Pinhao will show you a really a great slice of the Douro Valley.

    And Vila Nova de Foz Coa has a lot of rocks on which, with a lot of help and imagination, you can see drawings of animals (for me it was kind of as difficult as seeing the warrior in the sky by connecting the dots with stars, but it was impressive to see). I don't think that route has the most beautiful scenery or interesting towns, though, of the three you mention.

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