There are a lot of nature parks, protected areas and protected landscapes in Portugal, but only one real national park called Peneda Geres. This is a bit surprising, because Portugal is not poor in beautiful and worth protecting nature. What you can experience in the Peneda Geres National Park, why it is worth to go to the far north of Portugal and what the highlights of the national park are, you can find out now.
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Peneda Geres National Park in Portugal
The Peneda Geres National Park (or “Geres” for short) is actually the only national park in Portugal and was founded in 1971 to protect the nature and creatures of the region. The park has an area of about 700 km², which is about the size of Hamburg in Germany. The national park encloses the two mountain ridges da Peneda and do Gerês and therefore got its name and is located in the far north of Portugal on the border with Spain
The Peneda Geres is considered one of the most beautiful national parks of the Iberian Peninsula because of its evergreen landscape and wonderful nature. The nature here is really indescribably beautiful and shines with dense forests, many waterfalls and reservoirs. It’s hard to believe that you’re still in Portugal if you’ve been to the Algarve or the Atlantic coast of Portugal before. We’ll now tell you why you should definitely plan the national park on your Portugal road trip.
What can you do here?
In the national park there are a lot of hiking trails to discover. In addition, there are unexpectedly many waterfalls and reservoirs here, so that we felt in places like in Norway. There are also beautiful viewpoints and natural pools (mostly near the waterfalls) where you can swim in the summer. In general, the nature here is really incredibly beautiful, we could hardly get enough of the mountainous and evergreen landscape. There are also some smaller towns in the national park, which have restaurants, supermarkets and souvenir stores.
The Best Hike in Penedagerês National Park
There are really an incredible number of hikes to do. You can find a list on the official website of the National Park (which is unfortunately not very good) or on the hiking app Alltrails. If you only have 1 or 2 days and only one major hike is on your list, then you should definitely do the following hike.
Trilho das 7 Lagoas do Xertelo Hike
The hike to the 7 lagoons takes you through picturesque landscapes on a mountain ridge for 5 km to 7 natural pools. These have formed along a small river that is dammed by a small dam. The way is once again the goal here, because the views along the hike are really gorgeous. If the weather is good, you can see the surrounding mountains for miles along a valley.
The hike starts in a tiny village, the parking lot is outside the village. There is a large paid parking lot (2€) and also many free parking options along the road.The hike leads first through the small town and then steadily uphill through the forest and along a ridge. It goes steadily up, but so little that you hardly notice it.
Only shortly before reaching the destination, a wide gravel road goes downhill to the 7 lagoons. These are naturally formed pools in which you can also swim. But be careful: The water is really cold! The way back leads you on the same way back to the parking lot.
Short information about the Trilho das 7 Lagoas do Xertelo hike:
- Length: 9.7 km
- Circular route: no
- Altitude difference: 305 meters
- Difficulty: easy to moderate
- GPX: Hike at Alltrails
Spending the Night in the National Park
Officially camping is forbidden in the national park. Practically, however, it is no problem to stay overnight in the park with a camper or campervan. There are two official campgrounds and wild camping is not allowed, but is tolerated everywhere. If you are traveling with a rental car and need a hotel, then we can recommend the following chic guesthouse, which is located near highlights of the park: Hostel Retiro do Gerês*
Itinerary for Peneda Geres National Park
Since the park is really big, it can be a bit difficult to find the right route through the park or even the right entrance. Since you will probably come from the south of Porto, we would recommend you to start in the small town of Adpropeixe and then take the CM1267 to the east. You should drive at least to the hike to the 7 lagoons (see description above) and then take the much easier to drive N103 back to Adpropeixe to save time.
From there you drive north through the town of Caldas de Gerez to the Spanish border. The highlight there is the waterfall Cascata da Portela do Homem. From there you should turn around and if you have more time you can explore the other parts of the huge national park.
How much time should I spend in Penedagerês National Park?
We think that it should be at least 1-2 days to understand the beauty of this landscape. If you like to hike a lot, then it can be a few days more. If you don’t have much time, you can do the highlights in one day. If you are in Porto and can’t or don’t want to drive the route to the park on your own, you can also join a guided tour*.
The 5 Best Things To Do in Peneda Geres National Park
Cascata da Portela do Homem
This waterfall is located just a few meters from the Spanish border and is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful highlights of the national park. We did not find the waterfall particularly spectacular compared to the others in the park. Nevertheless, we do not want to withhold the details from you.
You are not allowed to stop or park directly at the waterfall, you have to drive about 500 meters to the Spanish border and park your car there. Here, by the way, free-running horses run around regularly or they just stand around in groups on the parking lot. Then you have to walk on the road back to the waterfall. Unfortunately there is no sidewalk so you have to be careful. On the way you will pass another highlight of the park, the Mata de Albergaria.
Mata de Albergaria
The Mata de Albergaria is a forest that looks like an enchanted magic forest. On the way to the Spanish border, you will drive through this dense, green forest on winding roads.To walk through it you will have to park at the Spanish border, as you did when you visited Cascata da Portela do Homem, and walk towards the waterfall. Just before the waterfall, some paths lead into the forest.
Cascata do Arado
Cascata do Arado is a large waterfall located at the end of a seemingly endless and very uneven dirt road. Many people park their car already at the beginning of the gravel road. On the one hand to not have to drive the very bad road, on the other hand because in the later course of the road there are only parking possibilities at the roadside and not very many of them.
Turning around is really difficult here though. But if you arrive in the afternoon, then most of the other visitors are already gone and you can drive almost to the end.The waterfall itself is quite nice, but certainly not worth the difficult journey. The special thing here are the natural pools that are nearby and are great to swim in.
Miradouro de Fafião
There are many viewpoints in Peneda Geres National Park, but Miradouro de Fafião is really a special one. Here you climb on a pointed rock and have a 360° panoramic view.
Trilho das 7 Lagoas do Xertelo Hike
We hope you enjoyed our tips for Penedagerês National Park in Portugal. If you have any questions or further tips, please leave us a comment.