© iStock / Tiago_Fernandez
© iStock / Tiago_Fernandez

25.000 years of human art in the Côa Valley

2 minutes to read

In the north-west of Portugal, near the border with Spain, lies an imposing valley: Côa. The whole area is a gem: this place is not far away from Almeida or Ciudad Rodrigo. Here you can walk through a huge open-air museum, with some of the oldest human “paintings” in the world—local artists have been painting over these rocks for 25.000 years. I recommend you to visit this place in March, to admire the blossomed almond trees, or in September-October when the green and red of the vineyards cover the adjacent mountains like a tapestry. 

The archaeological site

It was only officially discovered in the 90s. The Portuguese Government intended to build a reservoir in the area. The locals informed them about the paintings on the rocks, and soon the archaeologist in charge of the project recognized the place's precious value. To the Portuguese's Government credit, they stopped the works and created an Archaeological Park in situ instead. Before the decade was over, the place was already a UNESCO World Heritage site: it possesses the world's largest concentration of open-air rock art, some pieces of which are dating back to the Palaeolithic era (25.000 years old!). You see, typically, the rock artifacts are inside caves with difficult access. But at the Côa Valley, it is exactly the opposite, and this is why it is so unique!

© Francisco Martín Riego
© Francisco Martín Riego

Aside from the paintings which you can visit in Canada do Inferno, Muxagata, and Penascosa, there are plenty of other things to do in the area. At Quinta da Ervamoira you can visit the Ethnological Museum and get to know more about the whole region. Also, you can visit the local vineyards and try some of their finest wines! 

The Côa museum & Archaeological Park, Côa Valley
The Côa museum & Archaeological Park, Côa Valley
Rua do Museu, 5150-610 Vila Nova De Fozcoa, Guarda, Portugal

What the region offers 

If it is nature you are after, you can walk the valley and look in the sky and admire some threatening big birds, like the Egyptian vulture or the Royal eagle. Follow the Côa river, be silent and watch the sky: sooner or later, you will spot them. 

© iStock / dgmsgallery
© iStock / dgmsgallery

Regarding gastronomy, you can eat local food, for instance at Vila Nova de Foz de Côa. The products from the land are, of course, almonds and wine, but also figs, and honey. You can imagine how great the pastry is here! 

© iStock / Luis Fonseca
© iStock / Luis Fonseca

Do not leave without paying a visit to the local church, a Manueline beauty. The interior is an excellent example of the Portuguese Renaissance art, with neat open spaces. Next to it, you may see the town hall and the “pelourinho,” the place where back in the days, the locals were publicly punished for their crimes. 

Vila Nova de Foz de Côa
Vila Nova de Foz de Côa
5150 Vila Nova de Foz Côa, Portugal

Enjoy your day trip to the  Côa Valley, a place where 25.000 years old human artifacts are still well preserved. 


The author

Sara Rodriguez Romo

Sara Rodriguez Romo

I live between Salamanca, in Spain, and Marvão, in Portugal. A passionate traveller, I have visited over 30 countries in four continents. Currently I am doing a PhD in Greek Mythology and working with horses, doing rides in the nature.

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