National Road 103: Road trip from Viana do Castelo to Bragança

Estrada Nacional 103.
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The National Road 103 (N103) is one of the most beautiful roads to explore in Northern Portugal! I recognize that this is a strong statement, considering that Portugal boasts some of the most beautiful roads in the world to drive on, but I truly believe in every word I mentioned. So, if you’re curious, then keep reading and find out why so many people decide to embark on this mythical adventure.

The N103 connects the Minho coastal region to the interior of Trás-os-Montes, and although it may not be widely known, this route passes through iconic cities and landscapes of my country.

In other words, there’s plenty to see and do on National Road 103! After all, it covers 274 km that cut through the heart of the northern region, although the itinerary I recommend goes a bit further (see the map at the end of the article).

I’m referring, for example, to the historic city of Braga or the tranquil village of Vilarinho de Negrões, but in truth, National Road 103 crosses through 12 Portuguese municipalities: Viana do Castelo, Esposende, Barcelos, Braga, Póvoa de Lanhoso, Vieira do Minho, Montalegre, Boticas, Chaves, Valpaços, Vinhais, and Bragança.

Moreover, this route includes protected areas that are well worth exploring, such as the Peneda-Gerês National Park and the Montesinho Natural Park, as well as the Transboundary Biosphere Reserve Gerês-Xurés, which is classified by UNESCO.

Therefore, in this itinerary along the N103, I suggest three days of travel, which in my opinion, are sufficient to explore the region.

However, to keep this post easy to read, I’ll just scratch the surface of what to see and do at each stop on this itinerary along National Road 103, and I’ll include links you can follow to learn more.

Itinerary for a Road Trip on National Road 103: What to See and Do

Some people choose to travel this route by motorcycle or car, and honestly, both options are excellent.

For my part, I must say that I drove along National Road 103 in a three-day road trip with the family, and everyone loved it.

Here’s an itinerary with what to see and do along National Road 103.

Day 1 of National Road 103: From Neiva to Vieira do Minho

Santa Luzia, em Viana do Castelo.
Santa Luzia, in Viana do Castelo.
Fotógrafo em Santa Luzia, em Viana do Castelo.
Photographer at Santa Luzia, in Viana do Castelo.
PR12 - Trilho das Masseiras, na Apúlia (Esposende).
Masseiras Trail (PR12) in Apúlia (Esposende).
Castro de São Lourenço
São Lourenço Castro, in Vila Chã, Esposende.
Bom Jesus do Monte
Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga.
Santuário do Sameiro
Sanctuary of Sameiro in Braga.
O que visitar em Braga
Visiting the city of Braga along National Road 103.
escultura do galo de Barcelos
Rooster of Barcelos near the Pottery Museum (Museu de Olaria) in Barcelos.
Gerês o que visitar
National Road 103: visiting Gerês.

The first day on National Road 103 will be between Neiva (15 km from Viana do Castelo) and Vieira do Minho, covering a distance of 80 km.

So, on this stretch, we suggest first stopping in Santa Luzia, in Viana do Castelo, followed by the intriguing prehistoric heritage at São Lourenço Castro and a stroll through the windmills of Apúlia, both in Esposende.

Continuing the road trip, the next stop is Barcelos, to take the typical photo with the Barcelos rooster and, why not, enjoy lunch.

Next, the next destination is Braga, the city of archbishops, where you can possibly attempt a climb to the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte or Sameiro.

A few kilometers ahead, you will reach Póvoa de Lanhoso, so it’s a good time to visit the Póvoa de Lanhoso Castle, atop Monte de Pilar, and the Lanhoso Castro and its reconstructions of Celtic houses.

The third and final stop of the day is in Vieira do Minho, one of the gateways to the Peneda-Gerês National Park, where we suggest that besides the center, you visit some more distant places, such as the Caniçada Dam and the Sanctuary of São Bento da Porta Aberta.

Accommodation in Vieira do Minho

Day 2 of National Road 103: from Vieira do Minho to Chaves

Vilarinho de Negrões, Montalegre.
Vilarinho de Negrões.
Visitar Montalegre
Visit Montalegre.
Serra do Larouco
Serra do Larouco, in Montalegre.

On the second day, you will enter the district of Vila Real, and it’s a grand entrance indeed, as the first stop we suggest is in one of the most picturesque villages in the region: Vilarinho de Negrões, in the municipality of Montalegre.

Next, make a stop in the town of Boticas to visit the Nair Afonso Arts Center before continuing your journey to Chaves, where you will spend the night.

In the city of Chaves, the list of interesting places is indeed extensive; however, there are some that are truly not to be missed.

We’re talking about Chaves Castle and Trajano’s Bridge, but don’t forget to indulge in some gastronomic specialties, such as the Chaves pastry and Chaves folar.

In total, you’ve traveled about 100 km today on national roads, which means you must be tired, so take the opportunity to rest in one of the region’s hotels.

Accommodation in Chaves

Day 3 of National Road 103: From Chaves to Bragança

Museu da Região Flaviense (Chaves).
Flaviense Region Museum (Museu da Região Flaviense), in Chaves.
Ponte de Trajano em Chaves.
Trajan’s Bridge in Chaves.
Igreja Matriz de Valpaços.
Main Church of Valpaços (Igreja Matriz).
Ecovia do Rabaçal.
Rabaçal Ecovia, in Valpaços.

The third and final day of this road trip along National Road 103 takes you to the district of Bragança on a 120 km journey that passes through the district capital but continues to a small communal village: Rio de Onor.

So, leave Chaves heading towards Valpaços and spend some time exploring the center and the Rabaçal Ecovia.

Next, another incredible place, Vinhais, so make sure to include a mandatory stop at the Vinhais Biological Park.

Travel tip: If you have extra days, take the opportunity to extend your trip to the Montesinho Natural Park, as you won’t regret it.

The next destination is the city of Bragança, where we highly recommend exploring the historic center and, furthermore, Bragança Castle.

The journey along the N103 ends here, but you can’t miss the opportunity to visit a communal village just 25 km away.

We’re talking about Rio de Onor, a village that lives in community and where decisions are made collectively, so it will certainly be a unique experience.

National Road 103 Map (Road Trip)

All you need to know about National Road 103 (Portuguese EN103)

Estrada Nacional 103.
Kilometer 103 of National Road 103.

Where does the National Road 103 start and end?

Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês
Peneda-Gerês National Park.

The National Road 103 (EN 103) starts in Neiva, in the municipality of Viana do Castelo, and ends in Bragança.

How many kilometers is National Road 103?

Aldeia de Fafião
Community village of Fafião, municipality of Montalegre, located within the Peneda-Gerês National Park.

Officially, the EN 103 spans 274 kilometers between Neiva and Bragança.

However, the itinerary I suggest for the N103 includes some detours that I consider worthwhile for those visiting the region for the first time and extends to the village of Rio de Onor, on the border with Spain.

In other words, the road trip I took on National Road 103 totaled 347 kilometers.

What locations does National Road 103 cross?

Ponte de Trajano em Chaves.
Trajan’s Bridge over the Tâmega River, in Chaves.

The National Road 103 passes through 12 Portuguese municipalities, which are as follows:

  • Viana do Castelo;
  • Esposende;
  • Barcelos;
  • Braga;
  • Póvoa de Lanhoso;
  • Vieira do Minho;
  • Montalegre;
  • Boticas;
  • Chaves;
  • Valpaços;
  • Vinhais;
  • Bragança.

Additionally, it crosses the following rivers:

  • Neiva River (Forjães);
  • Cávado River (Barcelos and Barcelinhos);
  • Tâmega River (Chaves);
  • Rabaçal River (Rebordelo);
  • Tuela River (Soeira);
  • Baceiro River (Castrelos).

Is there a passport to stamp for National Road 103?

At the moment, there isn’t a passport to stamp stops along EN103.

However, similar to what happens with National Road 2 and National Road 222, it’s quite possible that such a passport will be created.

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