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Nature tourism in Minho: Two days in the Peneda-Gerês National Park

Sergei Gussev CC BY-NC-ND

On your next visit to Porto and the North of Portugal you must visit the Peneda-Gerês National Park. This is the only national park in Portugal and one of the greatest natural attractions in the country, not only for its scenic beauty, but also for its ecological and ethnographic value.

It was set up by a decree in 1971 in order to promote - for educational, scientific and tourist purposes - the human activities and natural resources of this privileged landscape in the mountainous region of the Portuguese Northwest.

Biodiversity is undoubtedly one of the features of this protected area. The typology and position of the slopes, along with the changes in altitude and the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Continental influences, enable the existence of a rich flora and diverse fauna.

Take a weekend to explore this Park. We suggest a route that, depending on the time of the year, may need to be adjusted to weather conditions. But don't worry: you won't be short on alternative activities.

Discover the most ancient villages

Enter the Park from the north border, in Lamas de Mouro, Melgaço municipality, and before venturing into this vast green area, ask for additional information and tour suggestions at the local interpretation center. Along the way, be on the lookout for the "garranos", the wild horses of Gerês.

Then take a stroll through Castro Laboreiro and visit not only the Castle, the megalithic monument and the remains of Roman occupation, but also the famous sheepdogs that will touch the hearts of adults and children alike with their tenderness. Head to Serra da Peneda, whose settlement also dates back to Roman times and which preserves remains of dolmens.

Also, visit the Senhora da Peneda Sanctuary, built in the nineteenth century on a huge rock, the boulder of Meadinhas, which dominates the scenery with its 300 meters height. Breathe in the fresh mountain air and feel the sacred ambiance and religiosity of the sanctuary and of the monumental staircase with 20 small chapels depicting episodes in the life of Jesus.

Head to the ancient village of Soajo, with its granite houses and granaries and its rural traditions. If you want to approach the Spanish border, the village of Lindoso will also present you with impressive examples that form the largest cluster of ancient granaries. The granaries are stone structures that are used to dry corn. Since they stand on stone columns, they keep rodents at bay.

Built in th 1970s, the Vilarinho das Furnas dam submerged the homonymous village. In years of drought, the village's old buildings come to the surface, presenting a curious effect that is worth watching.

All this will certainly arouse your appetite. Taste the region's specialties: the Gerês kid, the Barrosã veal, the venison and the wild boar. To go with it, an Alvarinho wine, a typical green wine from the sub-region of Monção and Melgaço.

You will also need a good night rest to recharge batteries and prepare for the second day. Spend the night at the campsite, in one of the Park's houses, in a local village house, or in the wonderful Pousada de Amares.

Venture into the waters of Gerês

On the second day, and after a special night's sleep in the heart of this unique region, head to Vila do Gerês. Here you will get to know the best crafts in the region, this being a good opportunity to find some material memories of this tour. Depending on the time of the year you visit, and also according to your preferences, you can choose one of two activities.

In Vila do Gerês you will find the local Spas, highly recommended for treating liver and gallbladder diseases, obesity and diabetes, among others. If you feel like experiencing an adventure, the Caldo river offers the possibility of canoeing, taking pedal boat trips, or simply enjoying the beaches created along its banks.

Did you know that the Spanish Natural Park of Baixa Limia - Xurés is also part of this Protected Area? Head to Portela do Homem and venture for a while into the Spanish side of the protected area by going to Lobios, where there is a lake where the water is always hot regardless of the atmospheric temperature. This phenomenon is explained by the geological fault in Gerês-Lobios and by a shifting of the region's granites.

Pursuing the water theme, it's worth visiting some of the waterfalls in the park, such as the Arado River Waterfalls (better known as Tahiti Waterfalls) or the Homem River Waterfalls.

To conclude this visit, head to the easternmost area of the park, towards Pitões da Júnias, where the ruins of the Santa Maria das Júnias Monastery will surprise you.

Your weekend is over, but we are sure that you will want to come back and explore the approximately 71,000 hectares of the Peneda Gerês National Park more throughly. If you have more time to spend, take the opportunity to visit the cities that surround this park, such as Ponte de Lima, Braga, and Guimarães, among others.

Have any questions or need help to plan this visit? Contact us for a unique holiday in Porto and the North of Portugal.

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