The Côa Valley, in Central Portugal, is considered one of the most important rock art locations in the world. More than 70 sites can be found here, still in their original positions, displaying breath-taking engravings from prehistoric, protohistoric and historic times.
In the heart of this culturally significant area is the Côa Museum. This beautiful facility is the starting point for an archaeological tour that provides visitors an up-close and personal look at the heritage of early man. It is a museum visit that prepares and educates visitors inside, for an awesome and rare experience outdoors. It is an adventure not to be missed.
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First, for art and architecture lovers, the museum building itself is worth the visit. Perched high on top of a hill between the Côa and Douro rivers, the museum appears to be embedded into the landscape.
The stunning contemporary structure was designed by the Porto-based team of Pedro Tiago Pimentel and Camilo Rebelo. It is four stories high and arranged in a system of vertical and horizontal connections. The roof is not only the parking lot, but also an open-air observation deck with spectacular views to the valleys and river below. A long narrow ramp cuts through the center of the building to the entrance. Inside, visitors are distributed to different parts of the museum. The café on the lower level has floor-to-ceiling windows to further enjoy the remarkable vantage point.
Rock art is the oldest graphic memory of mankind. Cõa museum curators and archaeologists have created an exhibition that tells the story of prehistoric rock art and how this early record is significant in understanding daily life and cultural of early man. Only a few actual artifacts are on display in the museum. Rather, curators have kept rock engravings intact, in the actual locations where they have remained for thousands of centuries. Organized tours of these sites are what make this museum unique.
The museum has programmed several tours to the three main sites of Paleolithic rock. They are Canada’s Inferno, Penascosa, and Ribeira de Piscos. The tours vary depending on time of day and length of visit. Tours are made in all-terrain vehicles, led by knowledgeable guides. Or, hikers may take the trails and visit at their own pace.
Some of the Paleolithic engravings shown to the public are time-worn, making them difficult to read and interpret. The museum advises taking tours at specific times of day chosen to visualize the drawing in the best natural light. Please consult the Côa Museum website for details.
In 1998, UNESCO distinguished the Cõa Valley as a World Heritage site for its rock art, archaeology and cultural heritage.
Museu de Côa
Rua do Museu
Vila Nova de Foz Côa
Phone: +351 279 768 260/1
■ Tuesday to Sunday – 10:00 to 13:00 and 14:00 to 17:30
■ Closed on Mondays
■ Tour 1 – Visit to the Coa Museum – €5.00 each person
■ Tour 2 – Night visit to the Penacosa place of Rock Art – €25.00 / €20.00 (+ 4 people)
■ Tour 3 – Visit to the Coa Museum + places of Canada do Inferno of Penacosa + Ribeira de Piscos – €12.00/person and place