What to do

Nature Parks in northern Portugal

Município de Freixo de Espada à Cinta CC BY-NC-ND

The region of northern Portugal surprises with its beautiful landscapes, mountain ranges, plateaus, valleys, and with its rich flora and fauna. This region offers all visitors the healthy experience of surrounding themselves with nature and enjoying idyllic settings marked by the diversity of protected natural resources and natural spaces.

Montesinho Natural Park

In the north-east of the Transmontano region, the Montesinho Natural Park constitutes one of the largest protected areas in Portugal, making it the perfect place to enjoy nature and the rurality that harmoniously integrates itself into the landscape. Here you can go for a walk, unhurriedly, across hills and deep valleys which are home to villages and conserve traditional community ways of life.

The villages of Montesinho, Rio de Onor and Guadramil are villages that live at peace with nature and conserve the memory of rural life. You will feel this as you cross the Montesinho and Lombada mountain ranges. You can cross it peacefully by foot or bike or comfortably by car.

Inside the Montesinho Natural Park there are at least two dozen rural tourism and village tourism agencies as well as country houses where you can stay, in perfect communion with nature. Stay the night in an old water mill, on the banks of the Baceiro River and amongst a country scene of leafy vegetation and peace. It is 10km from Bragança, next to the Castrelo Bridge.

Another option is a house made from schist stone and wood, which was restored according to traditional Transmontano style and adapted for tourism. It is in the village of Gondesende, 7km from Bragan­ça. Granite houses with schist stone roofs are traditional in these rural villages, peaceful places where transhumance is still practiced. 

The Cepo Verde Country Park, which is next to the same village, is an option for those who enjoy camping. It is a calm place; it has natural shade under chestnut trees and a fantastic view. Staying in a hotel or the youth hotel in Bragança is another option. In the Montesinho Natural Park there are activities to suit all tastes. Go climbing, have an adventure going paragliding or try canyoning, rafting and canoeing in the imposing mountains of Trás-os-Montes. Have a fun day, combining physical exercise with the real feeling of freedom and spiritual peace that contact with the surrounding nature brings. In key locations, there are agencies which put customised tours together for those who request them.

If you like less radical adventures spend a morning on a relaxing bike ride through the region, challenge a friend to a tennis game or spot the wild boars on the hills. See here the species that inhabit the Park, such as otters and wildcats. More than 150 species of bird – as well as 240 species of vertebrates – cross the skies of Montesinho, accompanying the visitor whilst they explore. Look up at the sky. You will observe beautiful specimens of golden eagle and other birds of prey.

Local products and the flavours of local gastronomy deserve a mention too. In the Montesinho Vivo shop, organised by the association for the defence and promotion of the Park, you can buy – at the shop or online – Montesinho honey, hand-made oil and honey soap made by local producers and a map and guide of this protected area.

For a meal, let yourself be delighted with the Montesinho honey and Mirandesa beef. They are recognised, quality products. Don’t forget to toast the good times with a glass of red wine, you are in the region of the Douro River.

International Douro Natural Park

Continuing south, you can discover the Douro Valley, classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site; enjoy the river, its historical and architectural heritage, savour the characteristic Port wine and recharge your batteries in the hotels, guest houses or country houses.

The International Douro Natural Park is also an area rich in ethnological traditions, and its landscape is marked by vineyards and olive groves. This park includes parts of the districts of Miranda do Douro, Mogadouro, Freixo de Espada à Cinta and Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo, adjacent to the Rio Douro, covering an area of nearly 122 km.

Green plateaus, deep valleys and sloped riverbanks which form large ravines, make this an ideal place for different species of birds, some of which are endangered. Look out for the Egyptian vulture, which was chosen as the symbol for this park. Visit the traditional bird shelters, there are 650 in total in the park, and visit Miranda do Douro and Freixo de Espada à Cinta, both districts with extremely rich heritage.

The region’s climate varies between cold winters and very hot, dry summers, and in the months of February and March, with the almond trees in bloom, nature offers a show of beauty and colour, highly regarded and celebrated in popular celebrations.

Alvão Natural Park 

At the heart of Portugal and the north, very close to the town of Mondim de Basto, the Alvão Natural Park is really worth a visit (). Don’t miss the traditional villages of Ermelo and Lamas de Olo, departure points for the most interesting walking tours. The huge diversity of the fauna and the imposing waterfalls at Fisgas de Ermelo are the best remedy for curing the stress of daily life. The passing of the seasons transforms the Alvão landscape, giving it a dynamic which is a reason to visit any time of year. However, taking into considerations the climatic limitations and the harsh winters, we advise visiting preferably during spring, summer or autumn. 

Leave the day to day stress of the city behind and come and charge your batteries in Porto and the north of Portugal. Let yourself be surrounded by the beauty of the Natural Parks the region has to offer. Contact us for suggested itineraries in the region which will let you discover these places in a unique way.

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