Portugal // The Minho //

Monte de Santa Luzia

For a sensational view of the town, river and Atlantic coast you need to make your way up to the unmistakeable landmark basilica on top of Monte de Santa Luzia, which looms over Viana do Castelo. The funicular railway is a fun way to get there; otherwise it’s a punishing thirty-minute walk up the steps which start just past the hospital – take note of the inscription at the bottom which translates as “My God help me get up”. At the summit there’s a café and restaurant, picnic tables among the trees, plus plenty of stalls selling “artigos religiosos”. Other than its monumental presence, there’s little interest in the Santuário de Santa Luzia itself, though the climb to the top of the dome (marked Zimbório) is emphatically worth it. A narrow winding staircase leads right through the building, past traffic lights laid on in summer to keep tourist hordes in check, and emerges on top of the dome itself. It’s very steep and – at the top – pretty hair-raising when the wind picks up, but the magnificent views reward every effort.