Enjoy Plenty Of Outdoor Adventures At This Southern European National Park

Naturally beautiful, home to unique wildlife, and steeped in history, national parks around the world all offer something different and act as public resources for recreation and education. The beautiful Peneda-Gerês National Park is located in northern Portugal, just over 100 miles from Porto and 285 miles from Lisbon. It boasts breathtaking landscapes and offers ample opportunity for outdoor adventures. 

As a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the Peneda, Soajo, Armarela, and Gerês mountains comprise the park, which covers over 270 square miles of hiking trails, natural lagoons, and remote villages to visit.

If traveling by plane, fly into Porto Airport (Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport) and rent a car. While you may want to explore Peneda-Gerês National Park on foot, the region has minimal public transportation. Renting a vehicle to get from one fantastic attraction to the next can help you make the most of your time in the park.

Outdoor adventures in Peneda-Gerês National Park

There are many reasons why Portugal should be your next adventure destination, and Peneda-Gerês National Park is one of them. Hiking is a main attraction, and while the trails have different difficulty levels, the scenery remains stunning no matter the distance trekked. The Cidade da Calcedonia trail is challenging and suitable for experienced hikers. It's roughly 4 miles with a 1,407-foot elevation gain and lets hikers witness a fortified village from the Iron Age. The Miradouro Velho da Pedra Bela trail is 2 miles long and leads to the Arado waterfall. On the 2.4-mile Preguica loop trail, hikers will see the Gerês River, Gerês Valley, and plenty of flora along the way.

Swimming in the natural lagoons is another favorite pastime in Peneda-Gerês National Park. Arguably, the most popular is Poco Azul, known for its beautiful blue water and cascading waterfall. Other popular spots include the Sete Lagoas along the Cavado River, where the pools can be perfect for a brisk dip at 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and the Arado Waterfall Lagoon on the Arado River. The waterfall here is one of the largest in Peneda Gerês National Park.

Villages in Peneda-Gerês National Park

In addition to exploring the hiking trails, lagoons, and mountains of Peneda-Gerês National Park, outdoor adventurers may also want to explore the many villages in the region. There are dozens in Peneda-Gerês National Park worth a visit. While some are simply residential, others offer delicious local cuisine, churches, castle ruins, and gorgeous scenery. One popular example is Castro Laboreiro, home to approximately 500 residents. Visitors will find typical granite houses, Ponte Velha (an ancient bridge), and stunning views from a vantage point that houses the remains of an old castle. Soajo is another small town worth visiting. It offers views of the Lima River, stone granaries, the picturesque Ladeira medieval bridge, and excellent eateries, like Saber ao Borralho, a fine dining restaurant featuring dishes from the Alto Minho region.

Lastly, Termas do Gerês inspired the name of the entire national park with its unique thermal waters believed to treat various health issues. In this town, visitors can take a dip in the natural hot pools or stroll the streets amongst shops and restaurants.