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Coa Valley and Siega Verde

Coa Valley and Siega Verde
Photo provided by David Berlanda
The Prehistoric Rock-Art Sites in the Coa Valley and Siega Verde date from the Upper Palaeolithic (22,000-10,000 BC) and are considered a masterpiece of prehistoric art. They were discovered in the late 1980s.

The Coa valley site is composed of a group of 16 rock art and settlement sites spread over some 17 km of the lower Coa river valley:
- Broeira
- Canada do Inferno/Rego da Vide
- Faia
- Faia (Vale Afonsinho)
- Vale das Namoradas
- Vale de Moinhos
- Vale de Figueira/Texiugo
- Ribeira de Piscos/Quinta dos Poios
- Meijapao
- Fonte Frieira
- Penascosa
- Quinta da Ervamoira
- Salto do Boi (Cardina)
- Ribeirinha
- Quinta do Fariseu
- Quinta da Barca

The site was extended with similar rock art 60 km away, just over the border in Spain.


Clyde (Malta):
I visited this WHS in August 2014. It's the first WHS I visited while in Portugal and it was quite an achievement to get there by car. The winding roads are in very good condition and the Coa Museum is a modern structure perched high up above the valley. There are enough parking spaces even for the summer months as I don't think it is ever packed with tourists. Having visited the rock drawings of Alta in Norway and the ones in Valcamonica in Italy, I thought that this transnational WHS was their equivalent. Well, I'm afraid to say that it definitely wasn't. I'm still happy that this WHS made it on the list if this meant preventing an industrial plant or a useless dam being built instead. The landscape is gorgeous and it's a beautiful continuation of the Alto Douro WHS. The engravings of the Coa Valley are extremely fragile and most of them are very small and hard to appreciate without a magnifying glass and good sunlight. Some examples were on display inside the Coa Museum and even with a magnifying glass and good lighting it was difficult to appreciate them. I went on a morning 4x4 tour to the sites of Penascosa and Canada do Inferno and did a long hike to the Vale de Cabrões site to see the deer engravings on Rock 1 which turned out to be the most visible engraving of my visit (picture). Perhaps filling them in with red ocre (like they did in Alta) would help to be able to better appreciate the engravings even though I suspect that most of them are to small to be filled in! So on the whole I'm glad I visited one of the most remote WHS in mainland Portugal but I don't think I will be visiting again any time soon!
Date posted: August 2014
John Booth (New Zealand):
The rock engravings are difficult to see and nowhere near as stunning as those of Alta (Norway) or Tanum (Sweden).
However having reached Pocinho by train, it was only a short ride by minibus to Vila Nova de Foz Coa. Here I visited the Archaeology Park office and manged to arrange a visit to the Penascosa site. This involved taking the same minibus to Castelo Melhor, a village about 10 km away. From the reception centre in the village I joined a guided tour (costing 7 euros) by 4WD down into the valley to see a number of the engravings.
Date posted: April 2010
Werner Huber (Austria):
We visited the WHS of the rock drawings as part of our trip through northern Portugal. The drive up the Douro Valley is beatiful anyway but I wouldn't have gone that far if there was no WHS.
We had prearranged a tour with the park rangers and the Coa Valley turned out to be a beautiful and tranquil place. There were no tourists there whatsoever, good on one hand but whether the park will ever be able to economically justify itself, is doubtful.

I have to admit that a good bottle of vinho verde attracts me slightly more than most of the rockdrawings we finally saw. One really has to be an anthusiast of rock drawings to appreciate them as much as our guide did. At the site near Vila Nova de Fozcoa where we've been the rockdrawings are few, they are tiny and difficult to see without being pointet to them. The antelope which became the heraldic animal of the park was detected here. Its about 10cm in size and so delicate that noone wearing glasses will be able to spot it without help. The whole place didn't meet my expectation level of rockdrawings. Maybe the other 2 sites nearby would have shown more.

I don't regret having been there as it is a beautiful landscape, and if the rockdrawings were not detected a huge powerplant would be here today. The artwork itself hasn't converted me into a rockdrawings-maniac.
Jose Gomes (Portugal):
Coa river is an affluent of the Douro river and so, a visit to the Coa Valley is obviously easy to achieve for any visitor that arrives in Oporto. For those who like beautiful landscapes is a place that will be for sure a good destination. As happens with some places in Spain (Seville, Toledo, Cordoba, etc.) the visitors are acknowledged to avoid months of severe temperatures (July and August).
Date posted: September 2006
Sheila Ross (Canada):
This place is a find if there ever was one - go, World Heritage conoisseurs, before mainstream tourists find out about it!

The rock drawings open to the public are split up into three areas, which you have to book separate tours for. Each trip involves a very bumpy 4WD ride into the valley. Be on the lookout for the guards and their very friendly dogs (in fact, watch out for dogs anywhere in Portugal, from what I've seen)! The most popular site is Ribeiro de Piscos - it had the clearest drawings and was the least strenuous walk (for people concerned about such things). Canada do Inferno was the more challenging of the three, with the fewest drawings; although it was a beautiful scenic walk and my husband and I were the only ones on the tour, which made it worth the effort anyway. The tour guides were excellent and were very helpful in pointing out drawings that were at times very hard to see. They answered every question we had.

I would recommend going in the cooler months - we were there in early November and the weather was almost perfect (one day it rained, but literally just when our tour of Ribeiro de Piscos was finishing). The guides told me that because the Coa Valley is a microclimate (hence the profusion of olive groves and wineries) it gets extremely hot and dry in the summer. So much so, that tours of the drawings are only run in the mornings during the summer.

We stayed in Figueira de Castelo Rodriguo, a lovely town in itself which is about 45 minutes' drive from the furthest of the three sites. We didn't have a car, but got around to the sites fairly easily with taxi cabs and buses. The area is gorgeous and inexpensive, with lots of other things to see nearby, however, so a car would have been helpful in that respect. The people there were just wonderful and I would love for them to see more business - their region certainly deserves it!
Date posted: January 2006

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Site info

Prehistoric Rock-Art Sites in the Coa Valley and Siega Verde
Country: Portugal Spain
Inscribed: 1998
Cultural Heritage
Criteria:  (1) (3)
Category: Archaeological site, Rock Art

Site history:
2010Name change
From Coa Valley into "Prehistoric Rock-Art Sites in the C?a Valley and Siega Verde" after extension
To include Palaeolithic Rock Art Ensemble in Siega Verde
1998 Inscribed
Reasons for inscription

Site links

Official website:
»Visit Portugal: Vale do Coa

In the news:
Not available

Related links:
» World Heritage Sites in Portugal.

Related Forum posts:
Not available

Getting there

This WHS has 17 location(s).


Petroglyphs .
Individual Rivers .
Palaeolithic and Mesolithic .
Late Pleistocene .
Guided Tour Only . Recently discovered .
WHS Hotspots
North Portugal hotspot .
WHS on Other Lists
World Monuments Watch (past) .
World Heritage Process
"Extended" Sites . Extended from a single national inscription .

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