Museum and Archaeological Park of the Côa Valley

The Côa Museum, designed by the two architects Camilo Rebelo and Tiago Pimentel, was inaugurated in July 2010 and is one of the largest Portuguese museums. The building is located at the top of a high slope, defined by the confluence of the two World Heritage valleys on the region: the Côa Valley Prehistoric Art and the Douro Wine Landscape.
The museum thus serves as a gateway to the „real“ museum: the open air rock art sites of the Côa Valley.

Close-up of a rock, on which thin engravings are visible
Panel 1 of Canada do Inferno rock art site. Photo: Ken Williams

Open Air Rock Art Sites

Since 1996, the Côa Valley Archaeological Park offers guided tours in all-terrain vehicles open to the general public to three of the main sites with Palaeolithic rock art in the area: Canada do Inferno, Penascosa and Ribeira de Piscos.

The Côa Museum

Despite its size, the museum is seamlessly integrated into the surrounding landscape. The building resembles a colossal block of schist, and as stated in the project's descriptive memory, the museum's „unique premise“ is its flawless „harmony with the landscape“. This design approach results in a structure that, while making a „bold and assertive statement“, delicately interacts with the topography, minimally altering the hill's profile and engaging in a dialogue with the natural environment.

Exterior view of the museum building
Côa Museum. Photo: António Jerónimo

This museum transcends the confines of a conventional museological approach centered around „collections“. Instead, it offers an immersive experience where visitors can explore the Côa Valley rock art within an exhibition area. This captivating space features replicas of engraved panels, interactive information displays, and educational activities, all aimed at presenting the Paleolithic art and its archaeological context. Through this gateway, visitors gain access to the true essence of the museum: the open-air rock art sites themselves.

A large, dimly lit exhibition space featuring paintings and drawings of rock art.
Inside Côa Museum. Photo: Jaime António

Archaeological Park of the Côa Valley

In 1991, during the construction of the Côa dam, archaeologist Nelson Rebanda made a significant discovery—the first panel in the Côa Valley. Although the public announcement was delayed until 1994, the revelation sparked a widespread debate due to the impending submersion of the Côa Valley rock art caused by the dam's construction.

Following two years of intense deliberation among members of the scientific and political communities, a momentous decision was made in 1996. Under the leadership of António Guterres, the Portuguese government heeded the advice of experts regarding the artistic and scientific significance of the Côa Valley rock art and the sheer number of sites present (the largest known open-air rock art site worldwide). Consequently, they chose to abandon the dam project and instead establish the Archaeological Park of the Côa Valley. This park was tasked with the mission of „managing, preserving, researching, and showcasing the rock art to the public“.

Aerial view of the valley
Côa Valley. Photo: José Paulo Ruas

On December 2, 1998, the rock art of the Côa Valley achieved an extraordinary milestone as it was swiftly classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, setting a record for the fastest classification in the organization's history. This momentous decision, reached through the collaborative efforts of UNESCO and the Portuguese Government, ensured the in situ protection of the Côa Valley rock art.

Presently, the Archaeological Park encompasses a vast territory spanning 200 km2. It boasts over 80 sites adorned with rock art, extending for more than 45 km along the Côa and Douro Valleys. With a staggering collection of over 1,300 panels, this site proudly holds the distinction of being the largest known open-air collection of rock art in the world.

Canada do Inferno

Canada do Inferno is situated on the left bank of the Côa River, in close proximity to Vila Nova de Foz Côa, within the vicinity where the abandoned Côa dam project was underway. This remarkable site resides in what was once an ancient river beach, now submerged beneath the Pocinho reservoir. Here, visitors have the opportunity to observe four panels adorned with Palaeolithic motifs, including depictions of aurochs (wild cattle), horses, and an ibex. These magnificent artworks were predominantly created through the skilled techniques of fine line incision, pecking, and abrasion, and they bear a remarkable age of over 20,000 years.

Close-up of a rock, on which thin engravings are visible
Panel 3 of Canada do Inferno rock art site. Photo: Ken Williams


The Penascosa rock art panels are situated on the right bank of the Côa River, and the journey to this site commences from the village of Castelo Melhor, at the Park's Reception Center. Visitors embark on a captivating experience, traversing a scenic dirt road spanning 6 kilometers, surrounded by picturesque fields adorned with almond trees, olive trees, and vineyards. This location holds the distinction of being the most frequented site in the Côa Valley, not only due to its convenient accessibility but also for its remarkable clarity and comprehensibility among the three sites.

The engravings found here predominantly exhibit the artistic techniques of abrasion and pecking, dating back to the oldest phase of the Palaeolithic era. This characteristic makes the Penascosa site an ideal place to explore some of the most captivating features of Côa art, including the fascinating superposition of engravings and the extraordinary representation of movement. These exceptional traits serve as a gateway for visitors to truly appreciate the rich artistic heritage of the Côa Valley.

Close-up of a rock, on which thin engravings are visible
Panel 3 of Penascosa rock art site. Photo: António Jaime

Ribeira de Piscos

The Ribeira de Piscos rock art site is situated near the estuary of this tributary on the left bank of the Côa River. The journey to this site commences from the Côa Museum and continues along a scenic dirt road for approximately 6 kilometers, passing through the charming village of Muxagata.

While this site may have the most scattered arrangement of panels among the three, it holds a remarkable distinction. It offers a rare visual treat in the form of a human figure dating back to the Palaeolithic era. Here, visitors can witness a captivating representation of two horses with interlocking heads alongside three magnificent and life-sized aurochs. This artistic portrayal holds remarkable accuracy in scale, providing a glimpse into the artistic excellence of the Palaeolithic period.

A group of visitors on the valley
Visit of Ribeira de Piscos. Photo: José Paulo Ruas


Fundação Côa Parque
Rua do Museu
5150-620 Vila Nova de Foz Côa

Getting there

The museum and park can be reached by car, bus, and train. Visit the museum website for more details:


Opening hours of the Côa Museum and for booking of visits to the rock art sites:


Tickets can be purchased in advance through the online shop:

Other services

The Côa Museum Shop offers a wide range of high quality products. Ceramic items, textiles, publications, among others, allow a journey through time in order to promote the heritage of the Côa Valley.

Facilities also include a cafetaria and restaurant, lockers for the safeguard of small volumes and a cardiac defibrillator.


The museum provides ramps, an elevator, and wheelchairs for accessibility.

A group hiking up a hill

A group visiting Canada do Inferno. Photo: António Jerónimo

On the floor, various prehistoric utensils are spread out, being explained by an educator. In front of them, sit female students.

Experimental Archeology Workshop. Photo: Côa Park Fondation

Three kayaks on a river

Kayak Visit. Photo: António Jerónimo

A white exhibition room with large coloured pictures on the walls.

Temporary exhibition room of the Côa Museum. Photo: Dalila Correia

A group of students in front of a archaeological site

Visiting Penascosa. Photo: António Jerónimo

Exploring the Côa Valley

The Côa Museum offers a comprehensive introduction to the vastness and interpretive complexities of the rock art in the Valley. It serves as the central hub for activities organized by the Foundation, including regular programming, special events such as the captivating nocturnal visit to Penascosa, educational workshops, temporary exhibitions, and various commemorative events held on specific dates. Additionally, in collaboration with our partners, we offer a selection of unique experiences for visitors to enjoy.

There are many great ways to explore the cultural heritage in the Côa Valley:

  • Guided Visit to the Park
  • Boat Visit
  • Kayak Visit
  • Night Visit
  • and more!

Find all offers here:

The region around the Côa Museum and Park is brimming with tourist attractions. From ancient rock art sites and scenic river cruises to historic villages and outdoor activities, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Coa Map
Coa Map