Foz Côa is the area around the Coa river valley in which a huge concentration of upper paleolithic "rock art" is found, glacier scrubbed "panels" containing zoomorphic engravings (depictions of mountain goats, horses, aurochs, and deer) or etched symbols like spirals and zig-zag lines. Foz Coa has over 100 panels containing 5,000 animal engravings and was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status for the 30 discovered rock art sites, stopping further development on a dam that was being built near the confluence of the Coa and Duoro rivers. The rock engravings in Foz Côa and Siega Verde, date from the Upper Palaeolithic to the final Magdalenian/Epipalaeolithic eras (22.000 – 8.000 BCE).
Today the Foz Coa rock art sites are considered some of the most important in the world.
Where Is Foz Côa?
Foz Côa is in the eastern part of the Norte region of Portugal, near the border with Spain. The major city is Vila Nova de Foz Coa, in which the main Park Office for the Archaeological Park resides.
You are better off arriving at one of the three towns with access to the three open rock art sites in a car: Vila Nova de Foz Coa, Muxagata, and Castelo Melhor. The nearest train station is Pocinho in the Douro Valley.
Are There Other Rock Art Sites Like Foz Coa in Europe?
Another UNESCO World Heritage Rock Art site is found in Italy's Valcamonica, near Lake Orta in northern Italy. Over 140,000 engravings have been recorded.
These are petroglyph sites. Rock painting or pictograph sites are found in numerous caves in northern Spain (Asturias) and southern France in the Dordogne region.
Where to Stay
There are lots of little places to stay near the main town, Vila Nova de Foz Côa.
Visiting the Rock Art Sites of Foz Coa
You cannot visit the rock art sites on your own. You must show up at one of the Archaeological Park's three visitor centers with a reservation made at least a week in advance to get passage on a four wheel drive tour to one of the sites. These guided tours can be reserved online.
From the town of Vila Nova de Foz Coa, you can visit the rock art site called Canada do Infemo. From Muxagata you can visit Ribeira de Piscos, and from Castelo Melhor, you can visit Penascosa.
The Coa Valley Archaeological Park web site has an English language section in which you'll find information on the park and contact information for current tours.