This is a tour for adventurous hikers and wildlife lovers, following trails that cut through roaring waterfalls, green oak woods, moorlands carpeted with wildflowers, challenging rocky paths, and cooling natural pools.
Created in 1971 to preserve the region’s natural wonders, its traditional local practices, and lifestyles, Peneda-Gerês is Portugal’s only National Park. An enticing blend of wilderness and civilization, the park has a dramatic and jaw-dropping topography. The terrain is rocky, rugged, and mountainous, the biodiversity is incredible, joining endemic species such as the wild pony (garranos), roe deer (emblazoned on the park’s logo), and the endangered Iberian wolf.
The region has a rich historical and cultural heritage with megalithic and Roman traces (castles, bridges, mills, dams, ovens, etc.). Small ancient churches and other religious structures dot the landscape. In the Peneda Valley, one of our walks descends alongside the River Peneda to an iconic pilgrimage centre with a remarkable sanctuary and grand staircase.
You’ll find clusters of quaint granaries built of granite which are still used by local farmers to store corn. These miniature stone houses are elevated and topped with a cross to bless the crops and keep the devil and plagues away.
Traditional tiny mountain villages, which remained unchanged for centuries, are also built with granite, blending seamlessly with the majestic rugged grey mountains of Peneda-Gerês Natural Park, rising from the greenest landscapes. The Gerês lily, a blue-violet flower endemic to the park, sprinkles the landscape in the spring, offering a natural spectacle.
Here, time seems to have stood still, but the mountains are very much alive. The local inhabitants still live off the land, the cereal crops, and the breeding of the splendid long-horned cattle (you’ll find them wandering freely through the streets). The harmonious co-existence of man and nature is the key to the park’s charm.
Mountain food is unpretentious, substantial, and delicious. Pair it with a glass (or a bowl, traditional in this region!) of Vinho Verde, a lightly sparkling wine after a day of exploring, and you have it all!