Driving Along the Spanish Border From Salamanca to Braganca

After visiting the golden city of Salamanca, you can continue your road trip along the Spanish and Portuguese border. While in Spain, you’ll pass through the Arribes del Duero Natural Park and visit small towns like Aldeadávila de la Ribera and Zamora.

Then, you’ll get to Portugal through the village of Rio de Onor and relish the views from the top of the Montesinho Park before reaching the centre of Bragança.

Below is an itinerary of our one-day road trip along the north of Spain and Portugal, including places to eat, in case you want to follow in our footsteps.

Morning - Spain

Tour the Arribes del Duero Natural Park

From Salamanca, head west towards the Arribes del Duero park. Stretching for over 100 hectares, it forms the northern border between Spain and Portugal, with the Douro River flowing in the middle. High mountains, granite outcrops, and waterfalls make up the landscape of this vast natural park. If you visit early in the year, it’s worth stopping by ​Pozo de los Humos​, a beautiful waterfall that connects to the Uces River. To learn more about the park, you can visit the visitor centre in the village of Sobradillo.

Arribes del Duero is also a wine region, and you’ll find a few wineries dotted around, such as ​Bodegas Arribes del Duero​ or ​Bodegas Ribera de Pelazas​. For nature lovers, there are many hiking trails, like the ​Senda del Duero, a route that follows the course of the Douro River. 

Visit the Aldeadávila de la Ribera

Aldeadávila de la Ribera is a picturesque village located within the Arribes del Duero. Spanish writer Miguel de Unamuno called it the “heart of Arribes”. The village is surrounded by viewpoints from which you can capture the river and the mountains. The best ones are the ​Mirador del Picón de Felipe​ and Mirador del Fraile (Miradouro do Frade). Near this last one is the Llano de la Bodega, a picnic ground with stone benches and tables.

Within the town, there are other interesting attractions, such as the ​Iglesia de San Salvador​ and the Monumento al Cabrero​, a monument dedicated to the local shepherds.

If you’re coming in the summer, you should also stop by ​Playa del Rostro​, a small river beach where you can go for a swim, rent a kayak or join a boat tour.

Explore the town of Zamora

From Aldeadávila de la Ribera, drive to the town of Zamora. Set along the banks of the Douro river, it has a charming historic centre surrounded by medieval stone buildings. There are more than 20 Romanesque churches in Zamora, which is more than any other Spanish city. You can begin your tour at the Santa María Magdalena de Zamora​. Established in the 12th century, it's one of the most beautiful churches in the area, featuring a doorway adorned with floral motifs.

From the church, walk towards the ​Puente de Piedra​, a pedestrian bridge that dates back to the 13th century.

A few steps away is the ​Mirador del Troncoso​, a viewpoint which offers splendid views of the river and the bridge. 

On the way to the castle, you can’t help but notice the ​cathedral, ​with its imposing dome rising above the city’s rooftops.

Inside is the Museo Catedralicio (the Cathedral Museum), which contains an impressive collection of Flemish tapestries.

Finally, climb up to the ​Castle of Zamora​ and walk along the ramparts for a panoramic view of the city.

Enjoy a Spanish meal

While in Zamora, you can grab lunch at ​El Mesón del Zorro​. Located near the train station, this restaurant specialises in meat dishes. It’s famous for its ​Cocido, a traditional Spanish stew made with chickpeas, meat and vegetables. If you want to stay near the centre, you can try the innovative tapas at Lasal​.

Morning Tour Map

Afternoon - Portugal

Visit the village of Rio de Onor

In the afternoon, continue on the road towards Portugal, entering through Rio de Onor. With little over 70 residents, this tiny village is split into two by the border between Portugal and Spain. Schist cottages line both ends of the river, and sheep wander freely through the green fields. On the streets and at the cafés, you’ll hear a mix of Portuguese and Spanish, a local dialect known as ​Rionorês.

 Explore the Montesinho Natural Park

Rio de Onor is one of the many villages located within the Montesinho Natural Park. After visiting the village, it’s worth taking some time to explore this protected landscape with over 70,000 hectares. Chestnut trees and oakwoods cover its hills, which are home to a variety of species, including the Iberian wolf, wild boar and roe deer.

It’s an ideal place for cycling and hiking, as well as swimming, as there are a few river beaches like the Praia Fluvial de Fresulfe. 

Dinner at O Careto

For dinner, you can head to the village of Varge and enjoy a meal at O Careto. Housed in a traditional stone house with schist walls and a wood-burning oven, this restaurant serves delicious homemade meals. Specialities include the ​Bacalhau Assado ​ (roasted cod) and the ​Posta Mirandesa​, a thick meat cut typical from this region.

A night in Bragança

End the day in Bragança, the capital of the region of Trás-os-Montes. As you approach the city, you’ll see lights reflected upon the medieval fortress and the castle rising above a hill. Take a walk around the historic centre and then head to the Pousada Bragança for the night. If you want to know what to do in the city, check out our Bragança itinerary.

Afternoon Tour Map

Things to do with kids along the Spanish Border

There’s no shortage of family activities along this route. Taking a boat tour on the Douro River is a fun way to explore the natural park with the kids. Alternatively, you can go for a hike and spot waterfalls like Pozo de los Humos. There are also many picnic spots near viewpoints where you can stop for a snack. On the Portugal side, you can explore the Montesinho Natural Park on a hike or follow one of the cycling trails. You can also visit the Parque Biológico de Vinhais, a large park where it’s possible to interact with some animals or even spend the night in one of their pods.

Where to stay along the Spanish Border

  • Posada Real Quinta de la Concepción: Set within the Arribes del Duero Natural Park, this hotel offers a privileged view of the Douro River. Guests can choose between suites or family rooms that can take up to four people. Facilities include a restaurant, an outdoor pool and a cosy terrace.

  • Parador de Zamora: Occupying a 15th-century palace, this four-star hotel is a short walk from Zamora’s main attractions, like the Cathedral. It features a rustic decor with stone walls, canopy beds and hanging tapestries. Guests also have access to a restaurant, a bar and an outdoor pool.

  • Pousada de Bragança: Set on a hill, this hotel offers incredible views of Bragança’s castle and the surrounding countryside. It features a restaurant, a bar and a swimming pool.

Best time to visit

Spring and autumn are the ideal time to visit this region if you’re planning on doing hikes or observing the wildlife. Meanwhile, summer is perfect for a swim or a boat tour along the river. Winter tends to be a bit colder but still pleasant enough for touring towns like Zamora and Bragança. Indeed, Bragança hosts a traditional festival around Christmas time that is worth checking. Known as Festa de Inverno, it features the infamous Caretos (folks dressed in fringed costumes and devilish masks).

Return to Home