Whether you’re an outdoors enthusiast, a history buff, a culinary traveller or a weekend jetsetter, Peneda-Gerês National Park, Portugal has something to offer everyone. Less than 2 hours from Porto and sitting on the Spanish border Peneda-Gerês National Park is a 700-km-sq natural playground ripe to be explored by all travellers.
Here’s a whole bunch of reasons to visit Peneda-Gerês National Park.
There are trails everywhere! From 3 hour loops to 5 day expeditions towards the Spanish border. The bigger villages have tourist information offices with maps available or just download Maps.Me and make your own routes. For lots of detailed hiking information check out Wikiloc. Most of the trails are well marked and it’s possible to camp so the adventure can be as big as you make it!
You’ll feel really connected with nature in Peneda-Gerês National Park. The national park is in the middle of mountain ranges with valleys, rivers, lakes and waterfalls dotted over the landscape. Dense Oak forests, shrub and marshlands are home to incredible amounts of wildlife, including snakes, bats, wolves, deer, golden eagles and many, many others.
Easy to reach
Trains and buses connect Porto and the South with Braga. Depending on what part of the park you want to visit, buses can take as little as 1 hour and cost only a few euros. Within the park buses connect villages and it’s also easy to hitchhike on the bigger roads.
In Peneda-Gerês they’ve got it just right – the locals living in or around the park compliment it rather than hinder it and tourism seems to be bringing awareness rather than destruction. The trails are maintained and clear but not excessively, nature flourishes and you get an amazingly pure, natural feel so don’t expect to see much rubbish. After a long days hiking you can make your way down to the lake and have a dip in the crystal clear waters.
Year round good weather
Cross stream beds and hike to waterfalls in autumn and spring, see snow capped mountains in the winter and swim in emerald blue lakes in the baking summer. Late autumn and early spring have higher levels of rainfall however we spent 5 days here in mid October and the weather was 22-27°c each day. No rain, just a spot of wild fires!
It’s bloody huge!
Did I mention it’s huge? Peneda-Gerês National Park is over 700-sq-km filled with adventuring possibility around every corner! With tiny villages dotted through the mountains, outdoor enthusiasts take a map and a tent and you could spend months crossing the mountains, stopping by the ancient villages for supplies and to meet the local shepherds.
Save your pennies!
Peneda-Gerês National Park is much cheaper than the Portuguese cities and the south of the country. You’ll find beautiful double rooms, balconies overlooking the mountains, good kitchen facilities and breakfast for easily less than €20. This was our personal pick, Hostel Gerês was a real corker for the price and was actually one of the best value spots we’ve found in Europe.
Whether your making a pack-up for the trails or ingredients for a evening feast, even the smallest villages have fruit and veg stalls with everything you need for vegan munching. Spend the day on the trails and the evening cooking with friends in the hostel and you’ll have plenty of money left over.
Off the beaten track
For such a stunning destination it’s surprising that Peneda-Gerês doesn’t see more tourists – but who’s complaining? You can really escape humanity here with whole mountain ranges to yourself. Some of the more popular towns can be busy in the summer with Portuguese holiday makers but come in the shoulder seasons or adventure further into the 700-sq-km park and it’s just you and nature.
Peneda-Gerês, Portugal’s only national park was created in 1971 however the history goes much further than that. With sites from the Megalithic period and the Roman occupation you can still see these ancient areas within the mountains, preserving Portugal’s ancient traditions. With 16th century castle ruins, submerged villages and roman roads, history buffs will have plenty to discover.
Whether you want to sit on a balcony and read a book, climb mountain peaks or try some of the local foods, Peneda-Gerês has a lot to offer. The obvious draw to us was the miles and miles AND miles of hiking trails however the park is a hub to many other outdoor and adventure activities. The lakes have lots of water sport activities, as well as being a good spot to chill out for the day or take a quick dip. There are also natural thermal water spas and plenty of places to try local food and drink. As it attracts more Portuguese tourists than international ones it’s also a good place to experience local culture.
A Whole Bunch of Reasons To Visit Peneda-Gerês National Park
Did you think Peneda-Gerês National Park was as great as we did? Let us know in the comments box below!