In the heart of the unique National Park in the Portuguese territory – Peneda Gerês National Park (one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Portugal) -, the Gerês Village is a must-see and the perfect tourism destination for those looking for the peace that only nature can offer. It is one of the most important natural attractions of Portugal, not only due to the unpaired beauty of its landscape, but also because of its immense variety of species of fauna and flora. Painted with various shades of green and blue, the Gerês Village is a little paradise on Earth, where any visitor promises to return another time. The beauty and freshness of its forest and the crystallinity of the water of its waterfalls make it one of the most sublime places to Portugal. Embedded in the Peneda Gerês National Park – considered World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO – is the ideal place to find nature in its purest state. Here, it is possible catch a glimpse of the majestic flight of eagles and falcons, walk along the wolf trails and experience the freedom of the garrano horses.
Concerning its landscape, the population nuclei are found in the most plane areas, with good exposure to the sun and near the water courses, and buildings standing on rocky ground so that the most fertile soil is available for crop plantations. Further up along the slopes appear the bouças and matos (bush), from where the population retrieves the necessary amount of firewood for the cold winter as well as fern, posteriorly used for the assembly of cattle “beds”. Found on the hilltops are the houses used by the shepherds during certain times of the year, meant for extensive agricultural work. These can be one of two kinds: the brandas, which consist of temporary housing centers occupied during the spring and summer for the feeding of cattle as well as realization of certain agricultural practices; and the inverneiras that consist of temporary housing centers occupied by the local population for the realization of similar practices but during the winter. The Wolf’s Fojo is a stone structure used as a trap used in the past for the local population to lure and kill this mammal, one of the main threats to cattle.
The landscape of Gerês is embellished with the presence of certain buildings, including mills, steakhouses and levadas (water irrigation ducts flanked by walking paths).
In Gerês, it is possible to discover more than 1100 different species of flora, like chestnut trees, pine trees and oak trees, ones that shelter innumerable treasures of the floral heritage of PGNP. It is possible to find all kinds of bush, among which are tojais, urzais and even bush on high and humid grounds, as well as mourners, which consist of semi-natural meadows of varying composition depending on the soil’s level of humidity. There are substances native to these environemts which all stand out thanks to their medicinal uses: the androsemo (better known by hipericão do Gerês), frequently used as natural antidepressant, the betónica-bastarda known by its diuretic benefits and the grape of the hill that favors a decrease in cholesterol levels. One of the most famous flowers of the PGNP is the Gerês Lily; the contrast between its yellow and purple hues and the granite of the region makes for an extraordinary sight. The riverside vegetation is very important (since this region is known for the beauty of its water courses), not only for its floristic component, but also because of the important role it plays in the stabilization of the river banks. Among the different species along the water courses, the feto-do-botão, the willow tree and the birch tree do stand out.
Relatively to fauna, in the whole Peneda Gerês National Park are registered 235 different species of vertebrates, a number which justly represents the diversity of species in this group, 204 of which are protected on national and international levels by conventions of specific legislation. Some noteworthy species from the courses of water are the river trout and the eel, the water mole, the otter, the water blackbird, the Iberian frog, the water lizard and the Lusitanian salamander. Regarding birds, 147 species are recognized but its diversity varies remarkably over the course of the year, as of their migratory movements. Remarkable among all birds are the royal eagle, the red beak crow, the royal snitch, the abelheiro falcon, the northern cartaxo and the narceja (whom find in the Peneda Gerês National Park their only known site of reproduction in Portugal). It is possible to find 15 different species of bats in all of the park and the importance of some species like the red squirrel, the marta, the ermine, the vipers and the wolf (this is a very protected species by the Berna Convention) is evident in terms of the conservation of nature. The roe deer, the symbol of the Peneda Gerês National Park, finds its home all throughout the region of the park, dividing up into various groups scattered about the territory.
The Pedra Bela View Point, at an altitude of about 800m, is one of the most famous places in Gerês, as its position allows for the contemplation of the beautiful minhota village landscape in the best of ways. Looking ahead, one can see the mountains painted on the blue sky. In the distance, the Caniçada reservoir, the Cávado and Caldo rivers drawn from the mountain range and their fusion into one, the various shades of green spread across the immense vegetation and the flight of the birds through the mountains. The grandeur of Pedra Bela has always charmed whomever visits, as the elderly said, it was a work made by divine hand, so perfect and imposing. Near the Pedra Bela View Point there is a cozy picnic park in the shade, beneath the oak trees, the perfect place for a picnic full of some of the best delicacies accountable for the distinction of the portuguese gastronomy.
One of the main reasons many people visit the Peneda Gerês National Park is, without a doubt, the beauty and diversity of its water courses and waterfalls. Many are, in fact, the waterfalls, like the Arado and Leonte waterfalls, however, the most famous is the Fechas das Barjas, commonly known as “Tahiti’s Waterfall”. It is a source of ever-flowing clean water that culminates in a small areal. Its beauty is unique and no photograph, no matter the quality, shall not be able to capture its innate delight. It is a heavenly place where the granitic shades on the rocks are brought out in contrast with the clear blue of the waters and the greens. In this waterfall is possible to dive in the freshness and sharpness of the purest Portuguese waters and experience unique moments and feelings.
The National Mata de Albergaria is one of the most important natural reserves of the Peneda Gerês National Park, constituted, in its majority, by a group of secular oak trees and is a home to various species of fauna and flora of Gerês. It is possible to find the roe deer of Via Romana XVIII, also known as Via Nova. During roman times, the road network was of extreme importance, as it allowed for the displacement of people and products as well as of armed forces during times of battle for land. At this time, it was conceived, in the Northeast of the Peninsula, a way to satisfy this necessity. The Via Nova, possibly built sometime in the last third of the 1st century A.D., began in the current city of Braga, carried out through the Amares and Terras de Bouro counties, through the Gerês Village, crossing the border with Spain and following through to Galiza until its end in the current monumental city of Astorga, making for a stretch of around 318km. Part of this course, whose planning has very well structured (having been used up until the 20th century A.D.), is now found within the boundaries of PNPG, in a part entitled Geira. Its Gerês-bound route is comprised between miles XIV and XXXIV, mostly marked by millennial marks. Beyond the presence of these millennial marks carved with phrases and pictures, there are more traces one can look out for, such as ruins of bridges. This site is home to so much beauty, like its wealth and variety of natural species (fauna and flora), it has been registered as part of the European Biogenetic Reserve Network, a status awarded by the European Council, as well as a Zone of Partial Protection of the Natural Environment Area. Therefore, the National Mata of Albergaria is a place enabling those who visit to know the secrets of the roman archeology in harmony with the beauty of nature.
Vilarinho das Furnas is a little village belonging to the county of Campo do Gerês, that had been inhabited till 1971, since it was that year when it got submerged by the Vilarinho das Furnas dam, rebuilt in the meantime. This village had an exemplar organization method of the community, manifesting the superiority of an economy that includes the benefits of the agricultural culture and the shepherd. The buildings were strategically built such that they were facing the direction of daybreak at the feet of the Amarela mountain range, remaining sheltered from the wind, from the right bank of the Homem river. On the left bank (belonging to the Gerês mountain range), the ground was more forested, with little spaces reserved for pasture. Nowadays, whenever the dam is drained for its cleaning or when the water level lowers during a period of drought, it is possible to see the houses, walls, ways and other structures of this “Portuguese Atlantis”.
Established in 1997, in society with the National Park of Baixo-Limia – Serra do Xures, the Gerês – Xures Cross-Border Park and the Reserve of Biosphere with the same name, the Peneda Gerês National Park is, most definitely, one of the most beautiful places within Portuguese territory; that includes not only the diversity of its fauna and flora and the beauty if its natural landscapes, but also the unique characteristics of its villages and other buildings, the hospitality of its people and the tasty palate of its gastronomy.
Do you want to discover all this??
We can assure you we will take you out for a day to remember! This Detour will show you the most amazing spots of the Peneda Gerês National Park while details about the local traditions, flora and fauna are given by our guides. Also, we will have a Picnic in one remote relaxing location!