The Côa Valley Archaeological Park was inaugurated in 1996. With the mission to manage, preserve and control public access to the rock art within the Côa Valley. This unique collection of Paleolithic cave art was recognised by UNESCO in 1998. It was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Scientists recognise the historical importance of these carvings as rare insight from the dawn of human cultural development and the creative thinking of our ancestors.
The protected area spans over 77 square miles (200km2) and now includes similar engravings found over the Spanish border in Siega Verde. They are believed to date from the same time. These engravings are believed to date as far back as 22,000 years to the Paleolithic period and found amongst them are rock paintings and engravings from the Neolithic, Chalcolithic, the Iron Age, the 17th century and even more recent times, amounting to abbot 25,000 carvings in total. The earliest drawings are composed primarily of zoomorphic imagery of nature such as horses, cattle, human figures and abstract forms. They're ideographic in nature and represent a rare example of the first examples of human visual communication. Later inscriptions from the Iron Age consist of line drawings of stylised human figures, mainly warriors, armed with swords and lances, and many on horseback. A new craze of rock engraving occurred in the 17th century which continued right up to the creation of the park.
The PAVC authorities at the park have the delicate task of allowing public access to the sites whilst conserving the site and minimising damage. The Côa Archaeological Park consists of the main centre in Vila Nova de Foz, and two Visitor Reception Centres, from where the three most important groups of rock art can be visited. From Vila Nova de Foz, visitors can see Canada do Inferno; from Castelo Melhor they can visit Penascosa; and from Muxagata, the destination is Ribeira de Piscos. These Visitors' Centres have all the necessary infrastructure, with information about the valley and the art both in displays and computer presentations. Guided tours are conducted in all-terrain vehicles and each sight is open to the public in general. Sensible shoes and bottled water are advisable when visiting.
Tuesday – Sunday: 09h00 – 12h30/14h00 – 17h30, Monday: CLOSED
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The Côa Museum gives the visitor an insight into the dawn of human culture and mans earliest attempts of artistic expression representing man's relationship with nature. Three rooms of the museum introduce and contextualise the rock art of the Côa Valley, and four other rooms explain the monographic treatment of the sites. Incorporating various information techniques such as multimedia technologies, photography, and design are used alongside careful displays of found objects. Overlooking stunning views of the Côa Valley, the striking building is comprised of four floors containing an auditorium, educational services, an administrative area, a shop and exhibition halls.
Tuesday – Sunday: 09h30 – 12h30/14h00 – 17h30, Monday: CLOSED | €5.00
Museu do Côa, Rua do Museu 5150-610 Vila Nova de Foz Côa, Portugal. | 41º 04' 50.82" N | 07º 06' 35.24" W
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Head west out of Porto and join the A4 in Leca do Balio. After 110km take the exit 27 onto the IC5. Continue west for 84km and join the IP2/N102 at junction 10. Continue until you reach the village of Vila Nova de Foz Côa before turning right onto the road which will take you to the park.
Regular trains to Pocinho from Porto São Bento, alight here and take a taxi to the Park or the town of Vila Nova de Foz Côa. Use the Regional train service (comboios regionais)
Rede Expressos run services across Portugal. Website