Portugal is not just beaches and ocean, here we want to tell you about a very special corner of our country where Nature is king. Peneda-Gerês is a natural park, the only in Portugal and part of a Biosphere Reserve with Xures in Spain.
In Geres, the most attractive are the nature and all it has to offer rather than the popular white sandy beaches and the strong sun as Portugal is known. You will though, visit one of the most beautiful places in our country and definitely not full of tourists.
Know what are the highlights, where to stay, what you will need and how to get there.
This is an extremely rich place in fauna and flora where you will find the second highest mountain in Portuguese mainland. Prepare yourself because the terrain is quite uneven and extremely rocky making it challenging at some times. The Oaks and Granite set the landscape of the park and while visiting during the spring months you will see the flowers in full bloom making it an amazing scenery.
You can also cross ways with plenty of wild animals, several of them under protection. On the top of the chain is the Iberian Wolf, however, due to an organised pest hunt during the 50’s and 60’s, they were almost exterminated. The Iberian wolf is extremely aware of people, glimpse one might be hard because they try to be out of sight.
If you venture yourself in the protected areas you should be able to see some roe deer. If you reach highest peaks you might see some of the Iberian wild goats that have been extinct and recently reintroduced in the park.
One of the most important landmarks you can find is the Geira Roman Road that connected Braga in Portugal to Astorga in Spain. Along the way, you are able to find plenty of milestones and several signs of a road that was used 2000 years ago. The best part to visit is between Campo do Gerês and Portela do Homem, where several stones are still preserved and intact.
You will also have plenty of ruins to visit through the park, such as the megalithic necropolis in Castro Laboreiro and Serra Amarela, Monestery of Sta Maria das Júnias, Lindoso Castle and Castro Laboreiro Castle.
Another Roman reference is Vilarinho da Furna, a small village from the roman times, habited up to 1971, when a dam was built for the production of electricity. Nowadays, best chance to visit it is during a long dry spell where the water level drops and the old ruins become visible. The months of July and August would be the best option.
What to do
There is plenty to do in Geres and you don’t need to be a professional mountaineer to have a lot of fun. Most of the activities can be done with children, so families welcomed.
The full map of the park can be accessed here.
Hiking – With routes ranging from 2 Km to 77 Km, getting in the right direction is important, through ICNF you can find a list of all available routes. Through Sola Gasta, a site curated by an experienced Portuguese hiker you will have available to download some GPS routes worth exploring.
Guided Tours – Guided tours can be taken by walking, horse riding, and 4×4 Jeep. There is always an amazing adventure to have through the park. There are a few providers that can help you in all of this and more. Geresmont, Selvagem Aventura, Actividade Cerdeira, Equidesafios,
Apart from the traditional activities, you can also do canyoning, climbing, and kayaking
Aguas do Geres
After all these adventures if you feel like relaxing a little, there is another little gem in this area. Portuguese own version of thermal baths, with an ancient history shared with the Romans. In Aguas do Geres, you will find plenty of opportunities to relax and reinvigorate yourself. Apart from the health benefits that many entrust to these waters, in Aguas do Geres you also have an available spa service with massages, baths, electrotherapy and much more.
Where to stay
Regarding accommodation, there are several options that suit all pockets and spirits.
For people looking for a more comfortable experience, there are several hotels available at different budgets, such as Peneda Hotel, deep into the park isolated from local villages and with a waterfall just behind it.
If you are looking for a deeper connection with nature then you can also stay in a yurt, normally used by nomads. They are big circular tents design to offer extra comfort and great privacy as well. This should be an experience that you will remember and during the night you can easily pop outside to see the stars. Nomad Planet
For the wildest spirits, you also have several camping sites where you can stay for the night.
- Prices Range from €3.90 – €6.50 for tents.
- Caravans and Motorhomes accepted
- Rental of tents and camping pods available
- Activities available – Canoeing, Hiking, and 4×4 tours
- Prices from €13.00 – €23.00 for tents
- Caravans and Motorhomes accepted
- Rental of camping pods available
- Several Activities available, including Horse Riding, Via Ferrata, Climbing, and others.
What to take
Clothing Geres can have warm days, however during the night temperatures will drop considerably, having several layers such as a base layer, mid layers, and soft-shell would have great comfort.
Regarding the rain, it depends much on the season that you are going, closer to the time of traveling you should have a forecast of how the weather is going to look like, however, we would recommend a lightweight waterproof jacket just in case you get caught off guard. We would also advise taking trousers instead of shorts, your legs will be thankful due to the thorns.
Footwear – Because the terrain is very irregular we would advise taking some hiking footwear, a hiking shoe or a mid boot should work just fine, however, there are plenty of rocks consequently a reliable shoe grip is a must.
Make sure you also take a hat, mosquito repellent, sunglasses, and hiking poles can make it an easier journey.
How to get there
From Braga 45m
From Oporto 1h10
From Lisbon 4h
From Lisbon 4h30 with a change in Braga
From Oporto 2h with a change in Braga
From Braga 1h
So why not get away from the beach the next time and visit the wonderful park of Peneda-Geres, you will love the nature, its history, and the adventures that this area can offer you. Make sure you plan well your trip to enjoy it the most.