From Ponte de Lima, the N203 runs 18km east to PONTE DA BARCA, a smaller version of Ponte de Lima. There’s not a lot to do here, but it’s an attractive if sedate base from which to reach the northern stretches of the Parque Natural de Peneda-Gerês. The Barca part of its name refers to a boat that once ferried pilgrims across the Rio Lima, before the bridge was built. Nowadays the Lima is spanned by a lovely sixteenth-century bridge, beside which is the shaded Jardim dos Poetas, dedicated to sixteenth-century brothers Diogo Bernardes and Agostinho da Cruz, monastic poets who were born in the town – their statue is situated at one end of the square.
The best time to come to Ponte da Barca is for the superb fortnightly Wednesday market (it alternates with Arcos de Valdevez), spreading out by the river by the bridge and drawing hundreds of people from outlying hamlets. The only other time the town becomes animated is for the annual Feira de São Bartolomeu, which takes place on August 19–24, with the big day on August 24; don’t expect to get any sleep once the party starts.