Take a moment to review our TOP 10 reasons to visit Arouca Geopark.
It is not by chance that it is said that the true Portuguese historical and cultural wealth is found in its interior.
That said, it is in the middle of the valleys and endless gorges that Arouca emerges and presents us with its charms.
1. Arouca Geopark – UNESCO Heritage
The consecration of Arouca as a Global Geopark was the most decisive factor for the region’s development and sustainability in the last two decades. However, the most fantastic thing about this whole story is that it was due to the greatest of the chances that all this happened. Can you believe it?
In a small quarry from the region of its name “Pedreira do Valério” specialized in shale extraction, the first trilobite fossils in the region were discovered. Since the first discoveries the owner of the quarry Manuel Valério, felt the need to preserve them, without ever imagining their importance.
It was only in 1994 when a Spanish paleontologist who passed by the region, observed them and to his amazement they were the largest he had ever seen in the world!
Today they are known as the “Canelas” Giant Trilobites, the name of the village they come from, and thanks to their historical and scientific wealth, they justified without any doubt the creation of the Arouca Geopark in 2009, which comprises an enormous area of 327 km2 of beauty in its purest state.
However, the biggest event was in 2015, when UNESCO, consecrated the Arouca Geopark as a geological heritage of humanity, exposing all its importance across borders, bringing more and more tourists from different parts of the world every day, to contemplate is beauty.
And at Detours we are part of this mission of making it known.
Connoisseurs of the region and its kind people, we promise you will not regret it and we will be happy to guide you through the immensity of beauty with which this place presents us.
2. Geosites Route
After its creation, 41 sites of relevant geological importance were identified, which are called Geosites. Spread throughout is region, these are divided into 3 different areas:
The area comprising the Rio Paiva, the largest river in the region, has the largest number of Geosites, there are 16, and a large portion of them can be dazzled when walking along the famous walkaways of Paiva, which we Detours love so much to show you.
We also have the “Serra da Freita” area, one of the most beautiful in the country, to which Arouca serves as a door, it has 13 geosites surrounded by its incredible landscapes of earthy and yellow tones.
The third and last area with 8 geosites, comprises 2 valleys Arda and Arouca, as well as their ancestral Roman mines. The creation of these areas allows a better orientation at the time of the visit, all routes have relevant information, so that the visitor feels not only involved in the landscape, but also in the history, culture and scientific value of the region.
3. “Serra da Freita” and its endless views
When going to Arouca it is almost imperative that you go to “Serra da Freita”, beautiful and colorful is undoubtedly one of the biggest secrets of nature conservation in Portugal.
Equipped with imposing slopes of multiple colors, regardless of the time of year, it impresses even the least impressionable.
Owner of countless wonders, among them the famous Mother -Bearing Stones involved in science and beliefs, its magnificent plateau where pasture fields of the imposing “Arouquesa” cows, who are certainly owners of the place, graze.
We can dazzle its geological abundance, with its flaws and rocky folds, schist and granite formations, but that is not all, you can go back in time, with the Roman and Visigothic remains that once governed these lands.
Finally, its viewpoints, 1,200 meters high and imposing on the landscape, they allow us to cover kilometers without taking a single step.
On sunny days with clear skies the view can go from Figueira da Foz (and the Atlantic Ocean), in the center of the country, to the extreme North, to the Gerês National Park, still having the possibility to dazzle the “Serra da Estrela”, the largest mountain in mainland Portugal, with snow in the its highest peak. An unmissable place that memory will always remember.
4. Arouca Pedestrian Circuits: Roam around, to get to know better!
Our experience tells us that the best way to get to know a place is to walk through it, with the calm and firmness of a stride, just as we love to do.
The Arouca region is also well known for its pedestrian circuits, in its total 16 small routes and 1 Grand Route, these being one of its biggest attractions.
Nowadays people from all over the world satisfy their taste for walking in this magnificent place. It has longer and shorter circuits, of easy and moderate difficulty. It is always recommended to wear comfortable clothes and if summer, never forget the protection for the head and the essential water. We leave here the list of the circuits for you to know them:
- PR 1 – “Caminhos do Montemuro” (19km)
- PR 2 – “Caminhos do Vale do Urtigosa” (11km)
- PR 3 – “Caminhos do Sol Nascente” (13km)
- PR 4 – “Cercanias da Freita” (13,3km)
- PR 5 – “Rota das Tormentas” (8,1km)
- PR 6 – “Caminho do Carteiro” (6km)
- PR 7 – “Nas Escarpas da Mizarela” (8km)
- PR 8 – “Rota do Ouro Negro” (6km)
- PR 9 – “Rota do Xisto” (16km)
- PR 10 – “Rota dos Aromas” (11,5km)
- PR 11 – “Trilho das Levadas” (11Km)
- PR 13 – “Na Senda do Paivó” (4,5km)
- PR 14 – “Aldeia Mágica” (4km)
- PR 15 – “Viagem à Pré-História” (17km)
- PR 16 – “Caminhada Exótica” (9km)
- GR 28 – “Por Montes e Vales de Arouca” (85km)
PR – Small Route
GR – Grand Route
*The name of the routes isn’t translated, due to be easier to find them with the Portuguese name.
5. “Birthing” Stones
For hundreds of years, the locals, without knowing the importance of these geological formations, were letting their imagination be carried away by their strangeness, attributing mystical powers to them.
Many believed that the stones of his name “Birthing”, were the solution for female fertility, because if even the stones give birth, in a body of flesh and bone, it would be even easier. It was then that hopeful people placed the stones under the pillow of their loved ones, in the hope that a new life would be born. We know, it is difficult to understand, but in fact there are stones that give birth.
They are called “Birthing” Stones, they are the result of a geological phenomenon of granitization, which consists of nodules embedded in granite rocks, which over the years and erosion, erode and finally release the encrusted nodules that are expelled from the rock as if it were a birth.
This phenomenon is extremely rare on the Planet due to the numerous specifics for its formation. Given its importance, an Interpretation Center based on the phenomenon was created, in which you can obtain a very detailed description. You can also walk through 2 areas where the presence of the phenomenon is very clear.
6. Conventual Sweets of Arouca
Now it is time to sweeten your imagination.
Portugal is immensely known for its conventual sweets, due to its high number of convents and religious organizations. And “Arouca” is no exception.
Right in the historic center is the imposing Monastery of “Santa Maria de Arouca”, home to countless nuns over hundreds of years.
As an occupying part of their time after daily religious practices, the nuns began to dedicate themselves to sweets, the majority of which was made from eggs and sugar, using the rich fruits of the region, such as chestnuts and almonds, immensely abundant.
A very common question is: Why does everything carry eggs and sugar? The question is quite pertinent and as in almost everything in Portugal, there is a historical reason.
In their convents when the time comes to iron clothes, due to the lack of fabric softener as we have nowadays, the nuns, in order to have softer clothes, used the white part of the egg as a natural fabric softener, leaving huge amounts of yolk afterwards of egg to spare. And it was from the reuse of these egg yolks adding the sugar that the conventual sweets arose.
In Arouca you can and should try them in the friendly and contemporary space “Casa dos Doces Conventuais”, where in all of our detours in the region (Paiva Walkways Tour) we stop so that the mouth and soul of our customers go sweeter for an incredible day on the hill.
7. Museu das Trilobites
It is usual to say that the events of the past help to build the bridge between the present and the future.
And why not go back millions of years so that we can better understand what surrounds us today?
It was with this mission that the “Canelas” Trilobites Museum emerged, which is why the idea of the Geopark arose.
Located in “Canelas” halfway between Arouca and “Areinho” beach, the entrance to the walkways where our fantastic walks start, this museum shows us an almost unimaginable reality, that the entire territory of Arouca for millions of years was submerged across a huge ocean and was located on the South Pole, hard to believe isn’t it?
Trilobites, prehistoric aquatic animals, are continuously found in complete preservation in the shale stones of the region, but they aren’t any type of trilobites, they are the largest ever found in the world, with some reaching 70 cm.
8. Going down the Paiva River – Endless adrenaline
Coming to Arouca and not experiencing the Paiva River, a river that sculpted the gorges of the region, is like going to the Vatican and not seeing the Pope.
Equipped with fantastic waters, with areas of relative calm and areas where the heart almost leaps from the chest, it is the perfect experience for the more adventurous.
With a wide range of water activities, for the most different tastes, physical complexions and ages.
Depending on the time of year you can go kayaking, rafting, canyoning, river trekking and canoeing. As connoisseurs of these waters that we are, we can assure you that after experiencing, the love for the waters of Paiva will never disappear, come with us for a rafting session, we show you the true meaning of strong emotions and unprecedented freedom.
9. Paiva walkways: 8 km of pure joy and connection with nature
And since we talked about River “Paiva”, it’s time to present you one of its greatest attractions, an attraction that in a way put Arouca on the map, the “Paiva” Walkways.
If we told you about the beautiful days we spent there, you wouldn’t believe it, the smile and admiration of those that we take there is undeniable, talk to us and see for yourself.
This wooden structure located between “Areinho” beach and the village of “Espiunca”, comprises 8km of unique beauty, with breathtaking landscapes and biodiversity.
As connoisseurs of the route, you have nothing to fear, the difficulty is moderate, accessible to the vast majority of people, having numerous flat areas, however also ascending and descending by means of wooden stairs from the top of the escarpments to the bank of the River “Paiva”, but there is no rush here, stops are recurring, as the walkways are a marathon, not a race.
During the walk you can see animals grazing on the other bank, plants and wild animals from the region, the smells, the sounds, the sensations, a whole panoply of experiences in one place.
Depending on the time of year, we recommend the use of appropriate clothing for the season and for the journey.
In the summer it is necessary to pay special attention to the high temperatures of the region, it is imperative to use protection and constant hydration during the tour.
10. “Posta Arouquesa”: taste the famous steak
We know it seems like it was done on purpose, but after a long walk the body needs to recover energy and calories, nothing better than a fantastic “arouquesa” steak, from the cows with the same name.
The richness of flavors of this meat is closely linked to the way animals are treated, as they feed freely in the mountains, not being confined in a closed space. As they say, animals return the love we give them, and this is the irrefutable proof.
This type of meat is considered from protected origin, so production standards are taken very seriously, in order to achieve an exemplary quality and sustainability of the product.
The “Arouquesa” steak, is characterized by a thick, grilled or fried steak never well done to preserve a soft texture in the meat, hence its bloody appearance after being cooked, but do not be scared is to eat and cry for more.
Our recommendation is the restaurant “O Abrigo do Paiva” located in Alvarenga, where the owners, Rui and Rita, will welcome you with the greatest taste and professionalism, you will certainly feel at home.
We hope you enjoyed our TOP 10!
Soon a new attraction will be open for visitation in the Arouca Geopark… We are talking about Arouca 516 – Suspension Bridge!
Learn all about it soon!
Take a Detour!