Paradise is the best word to describe the amazing Peneda-Gerês National Park. Among leafy mountains, typical villages, refreshing waterfalls and viewpoints with breathtaking views, it is an authentic Natural Sanctuary, which charms everyone who visits it. Its biodiversity is impressive, and it is even possible to find Iberian Wolves in this territory.
With a total area of 72 thousand hectares, covering the Peneda, Soajo, Amarela and Gerês mountains, in the area between Alto-Minho and Trás-os-Montes, it offers visitors a countless number of tours, activities and experiences, more or less extreme according to your preference. For the more extreme visitors, a buggy tour is a great option to discover the most hidden places, with a good amount of adrenaline.
All About Portugal, together with Arcos Tour, a company located in Arcos de Valdevez and specialized in excellence tourism with a touch of adrenaline, suggests what to do and what to visit among the magical corners that Gerês hides.
In this natural paradise, Nature is the queen. Crossed by an endless number of rivers and watercourses, the Peneda-Gerês National Park offers us the most beautiful waterfalls, authentic natural pools with clear and fresh water. Don't miss the Portela do Homem Waterfall, located on the road that connects to Spain and crosses the magnificent Mata da Albergaria (take the opportunity to discover this leafy and magical place, considered the only virgin forest in Portugal); the Tahiti Waterfall - Fecha das Barjas, a place that is difficult to access but of unparalleled beauty; the Arado River Waterfall, where you can, before cooling off in its waters, climb to the viewpoint and delight yourself in the authentic visual spectacle that the water falling in consecutive steps offers. And speaking of viewpoints, be sure to visit the most emblematic ones, such as the Pedra Bela Viewpoint, the Tibo Viewpoint and the Castro Laboreiro Viewpoint.
With a rich history, the Peneda-Gerês National Park presents us with a diversity of archaeological, religious and architectural constructions worth to visit. We highlight, as expected, the well-known Sanctuary of São Bento da Porta Aberta, the second largest sanctuary in the country, right after Fátima, with a viewpoint with impressive views, and the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Peneda, perfectly located in the mountainous landscape of Arcos de Valdevez, and the stage for one of the most popular national pilgrimages. Being impossible to mention everything, due to the richness of the region, we leave some other suggestions: the Geira Romana (Roman Road), the Misarela Bridge, the Espigueiros do Soajo (Granaries), the Lindoso Castle and the Castro Laboreiro Castle.
There are still several villages lost in time, some retaining their community essence, hidden among the mountains of the Peneda-Gerês National Park. One of them is the Sistelovillage which, thanks to its terraced landscapes, earned the epithet "Portuguese Tibet". Lindoso is a mountain village, where you can visit the typical granaries and its castle. Once in Soajo, a picturesque village in Arcos de Valdevez, known for its granaries, you can also visit the Soajo Interpretive and Ethnographic Center and learn more about the customs and traditions of this village. Castro Laboreiro is a hillfort village full of history and tradition, where it is worth lingering and discovering the various archaeological remains, the community ovens and granaries. Also a must is Pitões das Júnias, a village surrounded by a bucolic setting of great beauty, more than a thousand meters above sea level, where you can, after walking through its alleys, venture into the surroundings to visit the well-known Monastery and the Waterfall.
Where to eat
Between tours, there are a lot of regional dishes to regain your strength. Taste the regional gastronomy like goat, wild boar, deer, "cachena" meat and trout, not forgetting the traditional smoked meat and cornbread to go with it. Regarding desserts, there is a whole range of convent sweets to discover, such as Charutos dos Arcos. Don't forget to try Rebuçados dos Arcos.
To enjoy these and other delicacies, we recommend some restaurants: Tasquinha Ti'Mélia, in Sistelo; Lurdes Capela, in Terras de Bouro; O Abocanhado, in the Brufe village; Casa do Preto, in Montalegre; Miradouro do Castelo, in Castro Laboreiro; among many others.
The Arcos Tour website also has some options for places to sleep, so you can extend your visit and discover the Peneda-Gerês National Park without rushing.