When is the best time of year to visit the Peneda-Gerês National Park?
This may be the million euro question.
Due to its immensity, the park has an enormous diversity, be it in terms of fauna and flora or in geological and geographic terms.
For this reason, the most pertinent conclusion may be that the park carries magic in any time of the year, depending on your contemplation on the preference of each one.
Fans of the park as we are in any part of the year, we leave you with an idea of what you can find in each one of them, so you know what to expect when you get there.
Let’s start at the time of year when everything is reborn from the icy cold felt in winter, we speak of course about our dear Spring.
With its arrival, the green mantle so characteristic of the park, grows from day to day becoming bigger and bigger.
The trees, many of them devoid of leaves since the end of autumn, start by having small green dots on the branches, small leaves in formation, while closer to the ground, bushes such as gorse and broom recover their beautiful yellow flowers, until autumn takes them away.
They cover the park’s less wooded hills in a striking yellow shade that feeds the countless bee colonies that produce the famous “Gerês” honey and has a central role in the spread of pollens in the region.
The next color to emerge will be the purple of the heather and the lilies of “Gerês” that go on painting this picture, but as a picture it’s not only beautiful colors, it is at this time that the females of the wild horse “Garrano” give birth to their little foals, which come out of their mothers’ wombs already full of strength and desire to discover the wonderful world that is the national park.
It is also at this time of the year that the agricultural fields are filled with the people of the land who begin to prepare the harvests of the year, on these terrains a little bit of everything is planted, cabbages, carrots, tomatoes, onions, garlic, they arrange the trees so that they gain strength and produce bigger, richer and more tasty fruits is also the time when the shepherds gradually lead their flocks to the pastures that start to become lush.
And we should not forget the beautiful waterfalls, which at this time, due to the decrease in rainfall, start to have less flow and more accessible paths for those who want to visit them, however the baths will have to stay for later, since the water temperature that it comes from the top of the mountains passing by the icy granite rocks, it is not bearable for those who want to have a pleasant bath in its waters.
Still in our opinion, this is the best time to hike in the park. Temperatures are mild, the immense vegetation provides enough shade for the hottest days, allowing unbelievable walks to be made, believe us, we have already done a lot and we never get tired of repeating them.
This is a small glimpse of spring in the National Park, where an explosion of colors and life takes place at this stage of the year.
Welcome to the summer in the “Gerês” National Park.
In these lands, summer symbolizes the time of year when plantations made in spring begin to bear fruit, the first vegetables are harvested, such as onions, lettuces, cabbages and even the first potatoes.
It is also the time of year when fruit trees are loaded with fresh and 100% natural fruit, as the use of pesticides in these lands is never a very good option. Everything takes time to grow and must grow naturally according to the beliefs of many of those who live here.
Oranges, lemons, loquats start to appear and the arbutus trees also starts to produce fruit. The colors of the fruits are now added to the colors of the leaves and flowers.
It is also at this stage that the shepherds begin a seasonal tradition, called “Vezeira”, which consists of a community activity in which one person is responsible for taking all the cattle from the village to the mountain pastures, being replaced the next day by another one, thus allowing the rest of the village to concentrate on agricultural or commercial activities, essential to the proper functioning of the villages.
With the heat bathing the park the wolf packs become more active because there are new wolves to feed and believe me these young animals have an insatiable appetite, leading the wolves to sometimes attack flocks that walk in the mountains, despite not being common practice, wild animals never cease to be wild.
During summer, the park has its largest influx of people, but never becoming too crowded or uncomfortable, this is due to the fact that it has not yet been widely disseminated abroad, which maintained its status as a treasure to be discovered.
Those who pass by between walks and views, always try to take a nice dip and we are at the right time, with the high summer temperatures the icy water of the waterfalls reaches a very pleasant temperature.
Where always taking due precautions, such as comfortable shoes with a good soles, adequate clothes to walk and a lot of prudence in the access to the waterfalls because they are places where accidents can happen.
You can spend a beautiful day with dives, sunbathing or just listening to the music of the waters that go down the slopes, but remember the park is like a sanctuary for biodiversity, it must always be respected as such, taking care of it we take care of ourselves.
This is summer, warm, refreshing and full of life!
This is the time of year when the fading of greens and the colors of flowers is most noticeable, which in a way can seem demotivating to those who don’t know the park and want to go there, but don’t fouled by the cover, because the book that is this park has a lot more to read.
Autumn completely transforms the park, the first shades of brown, orange, yellow toasted in the vegetation start to appear, which in some ways are bright colors that warm up the already cold landscape, the dried fruits of the region are ready for harvest, such as walnuts or almonds.
And with the cold season arriving, the time has come to protect the herds from the elements.
This is where the seasonal activity of the “Vezeiras” ends, with the shepherds bringing back all the herds that spent all summer feeding on the mountain meadows.
It is in this return that if you have the opportunity to see for the first time the still shy calves accompanied by their mothers, the thriving “barrosãs” cows, and the more extroverted baby goats, full of personality and energy.
With the announcement of autumn, corn is harvested and preparations begin for the famous cornbread, whose recipe is known back by heart by the elders.
The grapes are also harvested, regardless of not being abundant inside the park, they are very popular to make “Vinho Verde”, typical of the region.
Despite the fact that the green fades a little, the countless evergreen trees in the park, such as cedars and pine trees, keep the park green in all directions.
Autumn also means increased humidity in the park, an essential factor for the growth of the different species of mushrooms from the region, in the most diverse colors, so much that in certain areas the ground sometimes looks like a rainbow, beautiful to look at, but always away from the hands because many of them are poisonous and we must take the necessary precautions.
The abundant arbutus trees throughout the park area also show their colors, typical of the time, and a flavor with a mixture of citrus and sweet, a good snack if you pass by one.
With the temperatures dropping, the fog that is so characteristic of the park’s climate begins to claim it for itself, hiding long distances and incredible views from our view, however in everything there is beauty, the fog gives the park a mysterious aspect, so much that at certain points it is like being in an enchanted forest from where in the fog some mystical creature can come out.
It’s not that bad a little bit of this autumn weather, don’t you think?
Anyone who thinks that winter is an obstacle to enjoying this beautiful park is mistaken.
As the local connoisseurs we are, let’s face it, the park’s winter is not for everyone… the humidity is immense, the rains are constant and the cold marks its presence well…
Human activities decrease drastically, the locals focus on feeding the animals already sheltered in the corrals and acquire a more sedentary life, but the park doesn’t stop.
In the sunny days, which will be scarce, trees are prepared for the following year, removing too many branches that only take away their strength, so that when spring comes they are ready to bloom.
At the peak of the mountains, the first snows appear that can be contemplated at the peak of “Nevosa”, the highest mountain of the park, where many adventurers with the proper clearances given by the authorities of the park move in the search to get inside with nature, we ourselves have already did it and believe us… it is liberating.
One of the most meaningful things to visit the park in winter is the giant silence that we feel, and yes, you read well, here you can feel the silence.
It is like being in a house full of life and not listening to a single fly, it is for this reason, in our humble opinion, that visiting the park in winter makes perfect sense.
It’s a journey to find ourselves and realizing that we are part of a unique and incredible world, we realize what we are compared to the power of nature and that in a way enriches ourselfs, the irrefutable proof of that are some of the waterfalls accessible at this time, such as the “Várzeas” waterfall, also known as Tahiti, where from the rocks that form its sides we can feel the tremendous power of its waters passing by at enormous speeds, a spectacle of sensations .
We could never choose when it comes to the best time of the year to visit the Gerês National Park, because with our constant presence in its territory, we learnt that in every season there is something magical to see and know in this treasure lost in the North of Portugal.
So we leave it to you to decide in which one or in which ones you want to go there.
One thing is certain, we will be here to help you on this beautiful journey!