Chief town: BragaThe ancient province of Minho in the extreme northwest of Portugal formerly known, more accurately, as Entre Douro e Minho, the land between the Douro and Minho rivers lies to the south of the river of the same name.
It is bounded on the south by the province of Douro Litoral and on the east by Spain and the province of Trás os Montes; on the west it lies open to the Atlantic on the Costa Verde, an almost northern seeming stretch of coast.Formerly part of Castile the Minho region has, ethnically and culturally, a unity with Galicia, an affinity which is reflected also in certain linguistic features which the two provinces have in common.TopographyThe Minho region is occupied by an ancient mountain massif of granites, gneisses, argillaceous schists and quartzes which increases in height towards the east, reaching almost 2,000m/6,560ft in the Serra do Gerês, and is traversed from northeast to southwest by the three wide parallel valleys of the Minho, the Lima and the Cávado. These valleys allow moisture bearing winds from the Atlantic to penetrate far inland, making this the rainiest part of the whole Iberian peninsula (1,000-3,000mm/40-120in. a year). Numerous recent fault lines allow the water to sink deep underground, where it is heated and re emerges in many places as thermal springs.The Minho landscape is more reminiscent of northern Europe than of the south. The easy availability of granite has resulted in a very individualistic form of architecture in stone, giving a gray appearance to the towns and villages.PopulationThe people of Minho, the Minhotes, are particularly attached to tradition and to the Catholic faith, and the many church festivals and romarias are celebrated enthusiastically with music and dancing.Its very fertile soil has meant that the Minho region has always been densely populated. However, the very limited area of the smallholdings which form the farms, and the consequently unviable working that this entails, has meant there has never been adequate subsistence for its population so that many of the Minhotes, particularly the ablebodied younger men, have had to find jobs elsewhere.EconomyMinho's economy is predominantly based on agriculture. The fertile, well watered basins and valleys yield two harvests a year, wheat followed by maize, providing food for human consumption and feed for the flourishing livestock sector. The vines, trained in the ancient Roman fashion on young trees (mainly eucalyptus) or on trellises.The uplands, deforested in ancient times, now provide pasturage for sheep. In addition to agriculture the region has old established small scale industries: textiles (originally linen weaving, now also cotton), the manufacture of cutting instruments and blades, leather working, pottery and crafts such as embroidery and lace making. There is no heavy industry. In recent years hydro electric power stations have been established on the rivers in the mountains.
Peneda-Gerês National Park protects a natural area or forests and mountains near the Spanish border. Visitors can see the park either by car or on foot along the walking trails.
Throughout the countryside can be seen what amounts to the symbol of the region, the little grainstores that the Portuguese call espigueiros. Their walls are made of tablets of stone with slits in them that are designed, with an aperture of only 5mm, to let the wind in but keep the birds and larger insects out. The espigueiros have stone supports to render them dampproof by raising them off the ground, and the flat stone discs at the top of these supports serve to stop mice getting in, since they can't negotiate the smooth undersurface. Nowadays the grain they used to hold has largely been replaced by maize cobs.