We had a WONDERFUL time with Sérgio!! If you want to have an off-the-beaten path experience in northern Portugal and experience the region like a local, he is absolutely who you want.
Sérgio accommodated us at the very last minute when our plans to take a rental car to Gerês failed. I am SO glad we found him—I would never ever have survived driving on those roads, ha! But Sérgio is a brilliant driver and knows the roads like the back of his hand. I have a fear of heights, but in his car I felt perfectly safe. He knows what he is doing.
My partner and I didn’t want to do the typical tourist stuff, like seeing the waterfalls or the lagoon, or going to Gerês town (they are all very beautiful, but PACKED with people). However, we didn’t really have a particular destination in mind; we just told Sérgio that we wanted to see a small mountain village, experience local life, and enjoy the beauty of the mountains. He knew exactly where to take us!! We drove to the 12th century village of Soajo; while some tourists go here, Sérgio knew of a secret path down a hillside, where after some hiking we came to a beautiful river with an intact Roman bridge, part of what used to be a road between Rome and Braga. It was truly spectacular, peaceful, and not another person in sight. As we walked, we enjoyed freely eating the ripe blackberries that grow all along the paths and roads of this village, and seeing the green fields, the grapevines, the traditional stone dwellings with ponies in the backyard, and even sharing the path with some wandering cows! Sérgio knows the true heart of Gerês. His love and joy for this land spilled over to us and we had the most memorable experience we will never forget.
In addition to Soajo, Sérgio took us to Spanish hot springs, through old forests on Roman roads, to a WONDERFUL restaurant in the village of Covide (yeah, yeah, they’ve heard it before…) where we had the best steak and bacalhau that I’ve ever had. Sérgio knew what wine to order, what food would be best, everything. To finish our day, we stopped in Braga to appreciate the beautiful architecture of the churches and to visit the start of the Camino de Santiago.
While my partner and I probably would have gotten along fine on our own, I am so, SO grateful that fate united us with Sérgio. He took all of the worry and trouble away and let us sit back and marvel in the wonders of Portugal, full of surprise and local color. Most of all, by the end of our day together, we considered him truly to be a friend, not just a guide. We want to go back to northern portugal just so we can travel with him again! (Like I said, Sérgio—next time we want to see the Douro, but *your* Douro. Not the one in the guidebooks. ^_^)
Listen. I never thought I would be the type of traveler who would hire a guide—my partner and I like to set off on our own, talk to people, figure things out, and enjoy being surprised. However, I would hire Sérgio a million times over. I wish we could go back in time so we could spend multiple days with him! (Our day with him was our last in Portugal, so alas, we could not.) We had many wonderful days on our trip, but the one we spent with Sérgio was undoubtedly the best. We will remember our experience forever, and are so grateful.
In summary: if you want to really see Portugal, the Portugal known to the Portuguese that tourists never get to see, hire Sérgio. Plan ahead and book multiple days with him. You will not regret it.