I have lost count of how many times I have visited the Pendeda-Gerês National Park, and I have lost count of the people I met and who tell me that they have never visited this place that is so emblematic of Portugal.
This was one of the main reasons to write this article about some of the best places to visit in Peneda-Gerês National Park, without forgetting, of course, some photos to arouse interest. In each article, you will have a link to individual articles where you can find additional information and more photos of each place.
In addition to this Top 10 to visit in Peneda-Gerês National Park, there are still many other interesting places but I have preferred to focus only on some of those that have marked me the most and those I visit most frequently when I visit the Park.
These places can be visited on a long weekend of 3 or 4 days, without haste, and in order to take advantage of the landscape, the gastronomy and, depending on the time of the year, the crystalline waters of the rivers and waterfalls that are part this Park.
On my last trip to this magical place, I started the visit of the Northeast area of the Park, visiting the Monastery of Santa Maria das Júnias, and afterward finished the trip in the Northwest zone, in the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Peneda.
There are plenty of rural tourism places that you can enjoy for your stay, and if you are a local gastronomic enthusiast, you can delight in the potatoes of sarrabulho, lamprey, trout, sausages and ham, green wine and honey.
You can consult the complete map, with all the places marked, at the end of this article.
- Monastery of Santa Maria das Júnias
- Bridge of de Misarela
- Tahiti Waterfalls
- Arado Waterfall
- Pedra Bela Viewpoint
- Portela do Homem Waterfall
- Roman Route
- Vilarinho das Furnas
- Village of Lindoso
- Santuary of Nossa Senhora da Peneda
Monastery of Santa Maria das Júnias
The Mosteiro de Santa Maria das Júnias (Monastery of Santa Maria das Júnias) is located at the bottom of a valley, two kilometers south of the Pitões das Júnias village, in the province of Trás-os-Montes.
It belongs to the district of Vila Real, in the municipality of Montalegre, in the eastern part of the Peneda-Gerês National Park and although it can be seen from above, near the place where the car is parked, access can only be done on foot, through a path of irregular stone slabs, which leads us to the valley of the Serra da Mourela.
This Monastery, which some scholars claim to be dated 1147, is in ruins. Of all the set, the church is the only one that seems conserved. Around it, you can still find ruins of the arches of the cloister and other small buildings surrounded by vegetation.
This Monastery was destined to house Benedictine friars, having been delivered, during century XII, to the Order of Cister. It was abandoned in the year 1834, after the extinction of the religious orders in Portugal, having set off a fire in the place some years later.
More photos and other information in my article about Mosteiro de Santa Maria das Júnias (soon in English).
Location: 41.83111, -7.94254 | Google Maps
Bridge of Misarela
The Ponte da Misarela (Bridge of Misarela) is located on the Rabagão river, about a kilometer from its mouth in the river Cávado, in the parish of Ferral, municipality of Montalegre, district of Vila Real.
Built at the bottom of a steep canyon, resting on the cliffs and with some altitude relative to the river bed, it is supported by a single arch with about 13 meters of a span.
The descent to the bridge is made on foot since the road is narrow and rocky making impossible any means of motorized transport. By the way, a belvedere from where it is possible to observe part of the river, and the bridge, in the distance. On sunny days, the scenery is breathtaking and the silence soothing.
Built in the Middle Ages and built at the beginning of the 19th century, it has been classified as a Property of Public Interest since 30 November 1993.
To know the legend of the Bridge of Misarela, you can consult my complete article in Ponte da Misarela (soon in English).
Location: 41.692, -8.01949 | Google Maps
The Fecha de Barjas Waterfalls, better known as Cascatas Tahiti (Tahiti Waterfalls), is one of the most beautiful places in Peneda-Gerês National Park. The crystal clear water invites you to a bath on a hot summer day, or simply a contemplation on a cooler day.
These are natural waterfalls increasingly sought after by tourists and visitors from the region, which also forced some works on the access track, winding and rugged. Anyone who wants to go down to the bottom of the waterfall, where there is a serene lagoon with sandbanks, will have to pay about 1 euro (I can not understand if it is a concession or private access).
My recommendation is to go down by your right side where you can find some abandoned windmills and some small waterfalls, forming small crystalline lagoons. In the middle of the waterfalls, you can pass from one side to the other, or see the lagoon at the base. There are no protections and caution is therefore advised as the rocks may be slippery.
More photos and other information in my article about Tahiti Waterfalls.
Location: 41.70372, -8.10955 | Google Maps
The Cascata do Arado (Arado Waterfall) is located in the heart of the Peneda-Gerês National Park. It is one of the largest and most famous waterfalls in the park. Located on the Rio Arado, near the village of Ermida and Pedra Bela Viewpoint, access is made by a forest road, sand, surrounded by abundant vegetation.
Located at an altitude of about 900 meters, it creates a succession of unique waterfalls among the rocks. On the right side of the river (looking north), there are a series of steps that lead us to a small belvedere to contemplate the waterfall through all the vegetation. I do not think it’s the best spot, especially in months with dense vegetation, but it’s the easiest and quickest access.
Access to the base of the waterfall can be done through this viewpoint, but it is very dangerous and steep access, only for the most adventurous, but careful. The best access is by the bridge, next to the place where the car is left, and it is possible to reach the base of the waterfall between rocks to escape the small puddles of water that are forming.
More photos and other information in my article about Arado Waterfall.
Location: 41.72379, -8.12986 | Google Maps
Pedra Bela Viewpoint
Miradouro Pedra Bela (Pedra Bela Viewpoint), located at 829 meters of altitude, is another place not to miss on a visit to Peneda-Gerês National Park. Just a few kilometers from the Arado Waterfall, it is a mandatory passage at any time of day, but more intense at the end of the day as the sun hits the viewpoint.
On a sunny day, the view is simply breathtaking. The mirror of the sky in the water of the Cávado river, or even the small houses in the Gerês Village, seem to fill the canvas with a picture that, say the ancients, was the divine hand that placed that place there, like that of a crib if it were, perfect and imposing.
Visiting this viewpoint you can see why. Whether it be the deep valley, the high mountains that surround the river, the Caniçada reservoir or the rivers that snake the mountains. Nothing better than to pause for a moment and contemplate such a landscape.
More photos and other information in my article about Pedra Bela Viewpoint.
Location: 41.71575, -8.15319 | Google Maps
Portela do Homem Waterfall
Cascata do Rio Homen, better known as Cascata da Portela do Homem (Portela do Homem Waterfall), is my most important childhood memory of the Peneda-Gerês National Park. I still remember the first time I visited that place of waters in shades of greenish blue. It is perhaps the most sought-after waterfall in the whole Park, and the influx of tourists in the summer proves this.
This waterfall is located two kilometers from Portela do Homem, a mountain pass on the Portugal-Spain border at 822 meters of altitude, in a gorge that descends to Galicia. To get there, from Caldas do Gerês, follow the border of Portela do Homem. The place is not only worth by the waterfall and lagoons, but also by all the beauty of the Mata da Albergaria that accompanies the trip there.
In summer, parking is not allowed along the access bridge to the waterfall and it is obligatory to go up to the car park and then walk down to the waterfall bridge again.
The crystalline waters, coming from Rio Homem, form several lagoons of clear, pure and deep water that is often only seen in movies, and where only the bravest ones dive by jumping from the cliffs around them.
This is definitely a must-stop, and I would almost say it’s a crime to leave the bathing suit at home.
More photos and other information in my article about Portela do Homem Waterfall.
Location: 41.80359, -8.12824 | Google Maps
Via Romana (Roman Route), also known as Geira, was probably built at the end of the first century and linked Bracara Augusta (present Braga) to Asturica (now Astorga, Spain), and had an extension of about 318 kilometers.
The construction of these routes was of utmost importance to the Roman empire, which, beyond the varied uses they had, the most important was undoubtedly the passage of their armies at a time when the conquests were of the utmost importance for the growth and maintenance of the empire.
These routes, whose layout was very well delineated, did not present marked descents or rises and their use was maintained well beyond the fall of the Roman empire, having been integrated into the ways of Santiago and crossed by thousands of pilgrims until around the beginning of century XX.
It is also possible to discover a magnificent collection of milestones distributed along this route. The landmarks served to indicate the distance, in miles, to the capital of the province, but also to honor the Roman emperors.
Leaving Campo do Gerês towards Vilarinho das Furnas Dam, a few meters ahead, on the right, there is a dirt road that you can drive to observe some of these landmarks.
Amidst dense vegetation on the edge of the Homen river, it is possible to contemplate some small waterfalls and streams that tear the green and rocky ground to the river.
More photos and other information in my article about Via Romana (soon in English).
Location: 41.76704, -8.19036 | Google Maps
Vilarinho das Furnas
Vilarinho, now known as Vilarinho das Furnas, was a village in the parish of Campo do Gerês, located in the municipality of Terras de Bouro, district of Braga. Since 1971, this village is submerged by Vilarinho das Furnas Dam.
In a virtually isolated and lost area between Serra Amarela, north and west, and Serra do Gerês, to the south and east, it is still possible to observe some of the houses, in ruins, when the level of the water descends, during a period of drought, or when the dam releases water for cleaning. As usual in the Minho region, Vilarinho’s houses were composed of two floors: the ground floor to store cattle and collect agricultural machinery, and the upper storey which served as a dwelling.
It was known by the community regime that operated autonomously from general and national laws. Who made them and made them respected was a six-piece joint headed by a janitor. This consisted of elected heads of families where the man was dominant. Women could have been sitting on the board if they were widows or if her husband had immigrated. At the time of its extinction, in October 1970, the village inhabited about 250 people in 57 families.
The access is made on foot, about a kilometer, from the dam, through a dirt road that borders the river on the left bank, (looking north).
More photos and other information in my article about Vilarinho das Furnas (soon in English).
Location: 41.76343, -8.2091 | Google Maps
Village of Lindoso
Aldeia de Lindoso (Village of Lindoso), in the parish of Ponte da Barca municipality and inserted in the Peneda-Gerês National Park, derives from the Latin “Limitosum” (Limesitis) which will be some of the words King D. Dinis would have used to describe that place. “So cheerful and exquisite, he found him, and Lindoso soon called him.” As its name suggests, it is one of the most beautiful villages in Minho region, very close to the border with Spain, and has about 1300 inhabitants who are mainly engaged in agriculture and cattle raising, in a very mountainous area.
In this tourist village, you will find a Castle, rebuilt in 1278, that served to defend Lindoso and Portugal, being a reason of pride for the inhabitants of this parish, and much appreciated by those who visit it. However, not only the Castle is proud of the inhabitants of Lindoso. This village also has a valuable built heritage that includes a pillory, community wards, a medieval bridge, water mills, the famous gathering of granaries, among others.
The Castle of Lindoso is one of the most important Portuguese military monuments, due to its strategic location on the Lima river, and its border position with Spain, being the result of a military investment of the reign of D. Afonso III as a fundamental piece in the defense of the border. Never assuming residential functions, but only military ones, the Castle was occupied occasionally, especially in periods of regional or national conflicts.
Worthy of a closer look, perhaps because it is not normal, is the set of granaries of the village. There are more than 50 specimens in excellent condition, from the 18th and 19th centuries, which are still used today for drying cereals. In Minho it is very easy to see granaries, but perhaps not in as much quantity as in Lindoso. From the Castle, they can have a wide view of the place, but do not miss the opportunity to also walk through the middle of the granary as if it were a maze.
More photos and other information in my article about the Village of Lindoso.
Location: 41.866283, -8.199612 | Google Maps
Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Peneda
Santuário da Nossa Senhora da Peneda (Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Peneda), in Arcos de Valdevez, parish of Gavieira, was built from the end of the eighteenth century, and the church was finished in 1875 according to the date inscribed on a column at the top of the staircase that gives it access.
In this place, it is believed to have existed a small hermitage built to remember the appearance of Our Lady of Peneda, motivating later the construction of the sanctuary. In the triangular area were the dormitories for the pilgrims, now transformed into a hotel, and its unmistakable symbol is the staircase of the virtues, to the south, with statues representing Faith, Hope, Charity and Glory, dated 1854 by Master Francisco Barreiros.
With about 300 meters, the staircase of virtues contains about 20 chapels with scenes of the life of Christ (Nativity and Passion). Some of them with their interior recovered a very short time ago, and others closed, probably due to the deterioration of its interior. At the bottom of the staircase, in a circular square, you can find a pillar offered by Queen Mary I of Portugal.
The date that attracts more pilgrims and curious to this place is the first week of September when the great popular camp takes place.
More photos and other information in my article about Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Peneda. (soon in English).
Location: 41.973916, -8.223048 | Google Maps