Go with the flow & discover the Dão on foot.
From the source to the mouth of the river we go. East to west with the movement of the sun and the way the water flows. Experience the regenerative qualities of being in nature and enjoying our world on foot. Get to know the old interior of Portugal with its friendly people, home grown food, and historic villages. Book a day hike or join the Caminho do Dão nature pilgrimage in the spring or fall.
Qualities of hiking in the Dão valley
Dão CAMINHOS ~ The ancient rural and forest trails
The Dão river and valley measures a length of about 120 km and on the Caminho do Dão pilgrimage you can walk the valley in 6 days. The trails are mainly set out on old paths through the rural and forested landscape of the valley. Everywhere in Portugal the landscape is full of these old caminhos that have been used by the locals for centuries and lend themselves perfectly for exploring the countryside of Portugal.
In setting out the trails the focus was on providing a varied experience of the landscape as well as of the act of hiking. You get to experience all the qualities of a river valley from the shaded cool banks of the Dão to breathtaking vista points on the valley rims.
Dão NATURE ~ The typical river valley landscapes and biodiversity
The Dão valley is a rich patchwork of landscapes that tell the story of what is happening in and to nature in the entire Center/North region of Portugal. In this river valley you find everything from original endemic forests teeming with wildlife to burned swats of monoculture tree plantations with no topsoil left. For the hiker interested in this ‘story of nature in the 21st century’, walking through the Dão valley is an engaging experience.
The presence of the river that is always there, either near or down in the valley, is like a partner on the hike. A partner that moves and changes along the way, a partner that soothes the feet and legs tired from walking and offers shady lunch spots on its banks. The landscape changes throughout every single hiking day and the valley has enough nature left to breathe in deep gratitude along the way.
Dão CULTURE ~ Mediaeval settlements and agricultural heritage
The Dão valley is rich in cultural heritage with countless roman bridges and stepping stones to cross the river. A rural way of living is still dominant in this region and it is interesting to see how nature and culture are ‘woven together’.
Some of the cultural highlights are: the rich living tradition of wine making, the pastoral use of the land, the terraced contours of the hillsides and the many small plots of land used for family agriculture. You will pass roman roads, remnants of mediaeval settlements, villages and towns with narrow cobblestone streets, granite houses and old town squares.
Out on the trails you meet many people working on the land or in the villages and hikers are always met with kindness and curiosity. The conversations and contact with the locals is heartwarming and it is a bonus to get to know the ‘Boa Gente’ (Good People) of the Dão valley.
Dão GASTRONOMY ~ The Dão valley is a typical Portuguese foodscape! ~
The Dão. When most people hear this word, they think of wine before they think of the river that gave the wine its name. We are hiking in a wine region in Portugal and these three elements combined spell: good food! Portuguese love to grow, prepare and eat good food and that’s a great thing for hikers who are notoriously hungry people.
What’s better than sitting down for a healthy and tasty meal after a long hike? Or packing your lunch boxes with freshly made salads, quiche and cake knowing you’ll be eating that somewhere on the banks of the river later in the day? The gastronomic experience has become an integral part of our tours, complementing the full sensory experience of the Dão region.
Dão SPIRITUALITY ~ The Dão = the Tao = ‘the way’ ~
The fact that the Dão river shares its name with the ancient Dao philosophy (also know as the Tao) is an inspiring ‘coincidence’ for hiking tours along this river. Dao (Tao) stands for ‘the way’ and ‘the path’. Dedicating yourself to experiencing and studying the Dao involves broadening one’s understanding of nature and it’s ways, in-order to pursue balance and harmony within yourself and in relation to nature. That also happens to be what the simple act of hiking can do.
Over the years it has become a custom on our tours to contemplate on a quote from Lao Tzu (the author of the Tao Te Ching).
Walking the Dão river is a very fitting way to explore and experience the ‘the Dao’ philosophy.