Peneda Geres National Park in Portugal: Best Things to See and Do

Peneda Geres National Park

Natural Area with Waterfalls, Lakes and Hiking Trails

Peneda Geres National Park is a relatively unknown nature reserve in the far north of Portugal. It is known to the locals for several waterfalls, lakes and granite mountains. This is the oldest protected natural area in Portugal and the only national park. Where you can hike very well. These are the sights of Peneda Geres National Park.

The national park is 702.9 square kilometers and was established on May 8, 1971. The mountain ranges have beautiful names such as Serra da Peneda and Serra do Gerês which lie between the Alto Minho and Trás-os-Montes. The highest peaks are Peneda (1,340 m), Soajo (1,430 m), Amarelo (1,350 m), Gerês (1,545 m), and Altar dos Cabrões (1,538 m). Many of these peaks give you the feeling of being insignificant between so much natural violence. Since 1997, the park has been part of the European Union's Natura 2000 network.

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Many Waterfalls

The park is easily accessible from the popular city of Porto. I did several hikes and went swimming at one of the (cold) waterfalls. For many visitors, the waterfalls are a wonderful refreshment, especially on a hot summer day. And ideal for washing off sweat.

One of the many waterfalls in the park. ©Corno van den Berg

Fecha de Barjas Waterfall

The most famous, and easily accessible, waterfall is Cascata de Fecha de Barjas. Also known as Cascata do Tahiti. It is located in the southern part of the park, right next to the road. Which makes this waterfall accessible to everyone. The water falls down here in various layers, all of which you can view. Although you have to climb a narrow and steep mountain path to see it.

The beauty of Fecha de Barjas Waterfall. ©Corno van den Berg

Hiking

You have countless options to discover the area on foot. From short to multi-day hikes. It is best to ask the local tourist office about the various trails. Several hiking trails have recently been closed or modified, making it difficult to provide current information.

There is a hiking trail from the town of Fafião to the Fecha de Barjas waterfall. You walk through forests, but also with a view of the surrounding hills and mountains. Eventually, you will reach the bottom of the waterfall. Where you can swim, but also climb up.

Wildlife at Peneda Geres National Park

The wolf is the park's symbol. ©Corno van den Berg

Wild animals such as roe deer, wild boar, various species of birds of prey, otter, fox, European wildcat and the Iberian wolf live here, which is a subspecies of the European wolf. The image of the wolf can also be seen in various places. The most special is the Pyrenean desman, which is a mole-like animal that lives in the water. I myself saw the colorful emerald lizard up close, according to many this is the most beautiful species of lizard in Europe.

Ancient Wolf Trap

The Wolf Trap at Fafião. ©Corno van den Berg

The wolf and man have had a difficult relationship over the past centuries. Now, these animals are protected, but this was once very different. At Fafião you will find an ancient building for catching wolves. Or to kill actually. These traditional stone walls ended in a deep pit where the animals were hunted. You can still visit this wolf trap.

Granaries of Soajo

The famous Granaries of Soajo.

You can still find ancient granaries in the park. At the town of Soajo in the west you will find the most beautiful and most famous ones. A granary is made of stone and has a unique architecture. They are built on poles of stone, so that vermin cannot reach them. It also protected against cold and snow. These barns were essential for the residents, especially for the winter. You can visit them for free.

Location of Peneda Geres

The nature reserve borders the Parque Natural Baixa Limia – Serra do Xurés in Spain. From Porto, it is just over 100 kilometers by car or rental car. It takes you a little over an hour. Especially the last part is meandering through the mountains. Mind you, then you are at the entrance of the area. Several roads run through the park, but most visitors mainly set out on foot.

The park has 7 entrances. From west to east they are: Caldas do Gerês, Lamas de Mouro, Mezio, Campo de Gerês, Ermida, Fafião and Pitões das Júnias. The towns of Gerês and Ermida are very popular places to stay. This also applies to the atmospheric Fafião, where I stayed.

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