Peneda-Gerês National Park was created in 1971. It covers a total area of 72 000 hectares (177 915 acres).
This park is located in Minho region, in Viana do Castelo, Vila Real and Braga districts, northwest of Portugal, about 100 kms from Porto. The park is home to more than a hundred granite villages that have not changed since the creation of Portugal in the 12th century.
The oldest villages are mainly gathered in Serra da Peneda and remain distant from modern life. The oxen are still steered along the streets by women dressed in black and shepherds still let their flocks graze all by themselves for five months.
Some wolves, wild boars, badgers, deers and wild ponies still live in the remotest areas of the park. You can also find serpents and sometimes even black venomous vipers. Aside from the wild animals, domestic species also inhabit the park and are easily seen such as cattle with long horns, goats and autochthonous sheep and the rustic shepherd dog Castro Laboreiro.
Here are the places to visit in Peneda-Gerês National Park:
1. Castro Laboreiro
Castro Laboreiro is a village well known for its 16th century castle ruins (a castle built in 1505 over the foundations of a 12th century Moorish castle), bridges, medieval churches, community ovens, windmills and its inhabitants lifestyle.
Peneda is one of the most beautiful mountain villages and is located half way between Lamas de Mouro and Soajo. Near a deep ravine, with view to a round mountain and a waterfall, Peneda offers a fascinating spectacle.
The only hotel in the village (old pilgrim shelters) is next to Nossa Senhora da Peneda Shrine. This shrine was built between the end of the 18th century and mid 19th century; with its 300-metre stairway and 20 chapels depicting the life of Christ (Nativity and Passion), it is the centre of pilgrimage of Senhora da Peneda that takes place on the first week of September and where people gather at the square to witness the candle procession.
Soajo is a secluded village overlooking Lima river. The main attraction are the old stone granaries where corn is stored. We can enjoy a magnificent view over the surrounding landscape and walking is a good way to discover the beauty of the protected area.
Lindoso is a farmer and shepherd village (1300 inhabitants). This village is well known for its 1278 castle and its old granaries that, strangely, resemble mausuleums but with a very different purpose. These granite granaries were built over stilts and vented on the sides enabling the storage and curing of corn.
5. Vilarinho das Furnas
Vilarinho das Furnas is a village that was submerged in 1972 by the construction and filling of the dam with the same name. In a legal twist, the submerged land is still in the hands of the former villagers, but the use of the dam belongs to the Portuguese state.
Visit Vilarinho das Furnas at the end of summer and/or autumn – at this time the water level is low and the walls of the old village emerge through the water.
6. Geira Roman Road
This Roman road connected two important iberian cities: “Bracara Augusta”, present city of Braga, and “Asturica Augusta”, present city of Astorga, in a distance of CCXV miles (~318kms).
I invite you to visit the Roman road between Campo do Gerês and Portela do Homem, located in Mata da Albergaria, one of the most beautiful places in the park.
- Total distance: 8 Kms
- Mountain bikes location: equidesafios
7. São Bento da Porta Aberta
São Bento da Porta Aberta Shrine is located in Rio Caldo village, in Peneda-Gerês National Park. The monks of Santa Maria de Bouro influenced the beginning of the cult to São Bento. In 1640 they started building the chapel. According to tradition, this chapel had a porch and, as in many other chapels up in the hills, the doors were always open so people passing by could use it as a shelter. São Bento da Porta Aberta (“open door”) was named after this fact and is still known today for this name.
8. Miradouro (Viewpoint) da Pedra Bela
One of the most beautiful places to gaze at Peneda-Gerês National Park. This viewpoint is located 6kms from Gerês village.
9. Arado Waterfall
Arado Waterfall is one of the most famous waterfalls in the park and is located at 900 metres of altitude.
10. Pitões das Júnias
Pitões das Júnias is a small village well known for its Benedictine monastery built in the mid 9th century. Located in a spectacular valley, the monastery was meant to shelter Benedictine monks. In the 12th century, the monastery was donated to the Cistercian Order.
- How many days are needed to visit the Peneda-Gerês National Park: 4 Days
From/To Peneda-Gerês National Park
The Empresa Hoteleira do Gerês connects Braga to Gerês village (3.50€, 1h e 30min, once per hour from Monday to Friday and six times per day on Saturdays and Sundays)
Salvador buses cross Ponte da Barca in the week, twice a day, connecting Arcos de Valdevez to Soajo (2.10€, 45 min) and Lindoso (2.20€, 1 h) in Peneda-Gerês National Park.
Usually, the roads in the park are good but they can be tricky. Pay attention to small roads as they can be dangerous to your car, even though they don’t show up in the maps.
Where to eat
Saber ao Borralho
Saber ao Borralho has a great atmosphere, with excellent local dishes such as “posta à barrosã” (a meat dish), three codfish dishes and a tempting selection of desserts.
Located in Gerês village, this family restaurant is usually booked up because of its excellent cuisine. In the menu you’ll find fresh fish, potatoes and vegetables in butter, meat, codfish, etc.
Where to sleep
Chalé de Soutelinho (affiliate link)
Located in Peneda-Gerês National Park, the peaceful Chalé de Soutelinho has a garden and an outside pool. The house was recently renewed and is on the outskirts of Gerês village.
Peneda Hotel*** (affiliate link)
Peneda Hotel is located next to Nossa Senhora da Peneda Shrine. Peinador and Francisco Sá Carneiro airports are at 70 and 140 kms respectively. Bedrooms are comfortable, with modern amenities and private bathroom. The hotel restaurant serves Portuguese food.
Nossa Senhora da Peneda
The pilgrimage to Nossa Senhora da Peneda happens from 1 to 8 September of each year. The 5th and 6th September are the most important days with the eucharistic procession and Portuguese folk music.
São Bento da Porta Aberta
- 20 and 21 March: The death of S. Bento is celebrated on this date in Monte Cassino, Italy. The most important day of the pilgrimage is the 21st that used to be its celebration day;
- 10 and 11 July: People celebrate the Festival of S. Bento, Europe’s patron saint;
- 10, 11,12, 13,14 and 15 August: This is, by tradition, the biggest pilgrimage to S. Bento da Porta Aberta. On these days thousands of pilgrims go to the shrine to keep their promises.
Entrances to the park: Lamas de Mouro, Mezio, Lindoso, Campo do Gerês, Paradela and Montalegre. You can use your PDA or GPS to help you on orientation trails that you can find at one of the entrances to the park.
Peneda-Gerês National Park head office: portal.icn.pt
Booking central of the regions of Peneda-Gerês National Park: adere-pg.pt
Useful tips for your trip to Peneda-Gerês National Park:
1- Pay attention to the weather forecast and avoid doing any activities if it’s going to rain or if a stormy or foggy day is expected.
2- Sudden climatic changes may happen above 800 metres. Be alert.
3- Choose plain and comfortable clothing and footwear. Avoid to use the yellow colour and perfume because it will attract bugs.
4- In the summer, pay special attention to sun protection and take water if you’re going on a hike. Even in the winter, never forget to take water, food and a cell phone.
5- Take binoculars and a camera if you can.
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