I have already lost count of how many times I have visited the Peneda-Gerês National Park, as well as I have lost count of the people I have met and who tell me they have never visited this emblematic place in Portugal.
That was one of the main reasons to write this article about some of the best places to visit in the 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.
Besides this Top10 to visit in the Peneda-Gerês National Park, there are still many other interesting places but I prefer to focus only on some of the ones that have marked me the most, and the ones I visit most often when I am there.
These places can be visited on a long weekend, of 3 or 4 days, without hurry, and in order to enjoy the landscape, the gastronomy and, depending on the summertime, the crystalline waters of the rivers and cascades that are part of this park.
On my last trip to this magical place, I started the visit to the Northeast area of the park, visiting the Monastery of Santa Maria das Júnias, having then finished the trip in the Northwest area, in the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Peneda.
There are many places of rural tourism that you can enjoy for your stay, and if you are a fan of the local gastronomy, you can enjoy the sarrabulho porridge, “rojões” (roasted porridge), “cozido à Portuguesa” (Portuguese stew), roast kid, lamprey, trout, sausages and ham, green wine and honey.
Enough talk, then let’s move on to the locals. You can consult the complete map, with all the places marked, at the end of this article.
- Mosteiro de Santa Maria das Júnias | Monastery of Santa Maria das Júnias
- Ponte de Misarela | Misarela Bridge
- Cascatas Tahiti | Tahiti Waterfalls
- Cascata do Arado | Arado Waterfall
- Miradouro Pedra Bela | Pedra Bela Viewpoint
- Portela do Homem | Portela do Homem Waterfall
- Via Romana | Roman Road
- Vilarinho das Furnas | Vilarinho das Furnas Dam
- Aldeia de Lindoso | Lindoso Village
- Nossa Senhora da Peneda | Our Lady of Peneda
Monastery of Santa Maria das Júnias
The Monastery of Santa Maria das Júnias is located at the bottom of a valley, two kilometers south of the village Pitões das Júnias, in the province of Trás-os-Montes.
It belongs to the district of Vila Real, municipality of Montalegre, in the eastern zone of the Peneda-Gerês National Park and although it can be seen from above, next to the place where the car is parked, the access can only be made on foot, on a rather irregular path of stone slabs, which leads us to the valley of Serra da Mourela.
This monastery, which some scholars say is dated 1147, is in ruins. Of the whole, the church is the only one that seems to be preserved. Around it you can still find ruins of the cloister arches and other small buildings surrounded by vegetation. This monastery was intended to house Benedictine friars and was handed over to the Cistercian Order during the 12th century.
It was abandoned in 1834, after the extinction of the religious orders in Portugal, and a fire broke out in the place a few years later.
More photos and other information in my article about the Monastery of Santa Maria das Júnias.
Location: 41.83111, -7.94254 | Monastery of Santa Maria das Júnias on Google Maps
Ponte da Misarela, often confused with “Ponte de Mizarela”, is located over the River Rabagão, about one 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 gorge, resting on the rocks and with some altitude in relation to the riverbed, it is supported by a single arch with about 13 meters of the span.
The descent to the bridge is on foot, since the road is narrow and rocky, making it impossible to use any motorized means of transport. On the way, a viewpoint from where it is possible to observe part of the river, and the bridge, in the distance. On sunny days, the landscape is stunning and the silence comforting.
Built-in the Middle Ages and in the beginning of the 19th century, it has been classified as a Public Interest Property since 30 November 1993.
To know the legend of Ponte da Misarela, you can consult my complete article in Ponte da Misarela.
Location: 41.692, -8.01949 | Ponte da Misarela in Google Maps
The Cascatas Fecha de Barjas, better known as Tahiti Falls, is one of the most beautiful places in Gerês. The crystal clear water invites to a bath on a hot summer day, or simply to contemplation on a cooler day.
These are natural waterfalls increasingly sought after by tourists and visitors to the region, which has also forced some works on the access trail, winding and rough.
If you want to go down to the base of the waterfall, where there is a serene lagoon with sandbanks, you will have to pay about 1 euro (I couldn’t understand if it is a concession or private access).
The recommendation is to go down the right side where without finding some abandoned mills and some small waterfalls, forming small completely crystalline lagoons. In the middle of the waterfalls, you can pass from one side to the other, or sight the lagoon at the base.
There are no protections and for this reason caution is recommended as the rocks may be slippery.
More photos and other information in my article about Tahiti Waterfalls.
Location: 41.70372, -8.10955 | Tahiti Falls on Google Maps
The Peneda-Gerês Waterfall is located in the heart of the Peneda-Gerês National Park. It is one of the largest and most famous waterfalls of the Park. Located on the Arado River, near the village of Ermida and the Pedra Bela Viewpoint, the access is made by a forest road, of 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 take us to a small viewpoint to contemplate the cascade through all the vegetation. I don’t think it’s the best place, especially in months with dense vegetation, but it’s the easiest and fastest access.
The access to the base of the waterfall can be made through this viewpoint, but it is very dangerous and steep access, only for the most adventurous, but careful. The best access is through the bridge, near the place where the car leaves, and it is possible to reach the base of the waterfall through rocks escaping the small pools of water that are forming.
More photos and other information in my article about the Arado Waterfall.
Location: 41.72379, -8.12986 | Arado Waterfall on Google Maps
Pedra Bela Viewpoint
The Pedra Bela Viewpoint, located at 829 meters of altitude, is another place not to be missed in a visit to Gerês. Just a few kilometers from the Arado River Waterfall, it is a mandatory passage at any time of the day, but more intense at the end of the day as the sun hits the belvedere.
On a sunny day, the view is simply stunning. The mirror of the sky in the water of the River Cávado or even the small houses in Vila do Gerês seem to fill the canvas of a painting that, say the ancients, was the divine hand that placed that place there as if it were a perfect and imposing nativity scene.
Looking at the landscape one can see why, whether from the deep valley, the high mountains that surround the river, the Caniçada reservoir, or the rivers that wind through the mountain. Nothing better than to stop for a few moments and contemplate this landscape.
More photos and other information in my article about the Pedra Bela Viewpoint.
Location: 41.71575, -8.15319 | Pedra Bela Viewpoint on Google Maps
Portela do Homem Waterfall
The Rio Homem Waterfall, better known as the Portela do Homem Waterfall, is my most striking childhood memory of the Peneda-Gerês Natural Park. I still remember the first time I visited that place with blue-green waters. It is perhaps the most sought after a waterfall in the whole Park, and the influx of tourists in the summer proves it.
This waterfall is located two kilometers from Portela do Homem, a mountain pass over the Portugal-Spain border at an altitude of 822 meters, in a gorge that goes down to Galicia. To get there, from Caldas do Gerês, you must go towards the border of Portela do Homem. The place is not only worth the waterfall and lagoons, but also for all the beauty of Mata da Albergaria that accompanies the journey there.
In the summer it is not usually allowed to park vehicles next to the access bridge to the waterfall and it is obligatory to go up to the parking lot and then down, on foot, until you find the access bridge to the waterfall again.
The crystalline waters, coming from the Rio Homem, form several lagoons of limpid, pure and deep waters that are often only seen in movies, and where only the bravest dive from the rocks around them.
This is undoubtedly a mandatory stop, and I would almost say that it is a crime to leave your swimsuit at home.
More photos and other information in my article about Portela do Homem.
Location: 41.80359, -8.12824 | Portela do Homem Waterfall on Google Maps
The Roman Road, also known as Geira, was probably built at the end of the first century and connected Bracara Augusta (now Braga) to Asturica (now Astorga, Spain), and was about 318 kilometers long.
The construction of these roads was of extreme importance for the Roman Empire, which, in addition to their various uses, the most important was undoubtedly the passage of their armies at a time when the conquests were of utmost importance for the growth and maintenance of the empire.
These routes, which were very well delineated, had no steep descents or ascents and their use was maintained far beyond the fall of the Roman Empire, having been integrated into the paths of Santiago and traversed by thousands of pilgrims until about the beginning of the 20th century.
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 in the direction of the Vilarinho das Furnas Dam, a few meters before, on the right, there is a dirt road that can be traveled by car to observe some of these landmarks. Among the dense vegetation on the banks of the Homem River, it is still possible to contemplate some small waterfalls and creeks that tear the green and rocky ground to the river.
More photos and other information in my article about the Roman Road.
Location: 41.76704, -8.19036 | Via Romana on Google Maps
Vilarinho das Furnas Dam
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, Braga district. Since 1971, this village has been submerged by the dam of Vilarinho das Furnas.
In a corner practically isolated and lost between the Serra Amarela, to the north and west, and the Serra do Gerês, to the south and east, it is still possible to observe some of the houses, in ruins, when the water level goes down, in a period of drought, or when the dam releases water for cleaning.
As is customary in the Minho area, the houses in Vilarinho were composed of two floors: the ground floor to store the cattle and collect the agricultural machinery, and the upper floor which served as habitation.
It was known for the community system that operated autonomously from general and national laws. A six-member board led by a caretaker was responsible for drafting and enforcing them.
This board was made up of elected heads of households where the man was predominant. Women could sit on the board if they were widows or if the husband had immigrated. At the time of its extinction in October 1970, about 250 people in 57 families lived in the village.
Access is on foot, about one kilometer from the dam, through a dirt road that runs along the river on the left bank, (looking north).
More photos and other information in my article about Vilarinho das Furnas.
Location: 41.76343, -8.2091 | Vilarinho das Furnas on Google Maps
The village of Lindoso, in the parish of Ponte da Barca and inserted in the National Park Peneda-Gerês, derives from the Latin “Limitosum” (Limesitis) which were some of the words that King D. Dinis would have used to describe that place that “so cheerful and exquisite that soon Lindoso called it”. As the name itself indicates, it is one of the most beautiful villages in Minho, very close to the border with Spain, and has about 1300 inhabitants who are mainly engaged in agriculture and cattle raising in a rather mountainous area.
In this tourist village, you will find a castle, rebuilt in 1278, which served to defend Lindoso and Portugal, being a source of pride for the inhabitants of this parish, and much appreciated by those who visit it. However, not only the inhabitants of Lindoso are proud of the castle. This village also has a valuable built heritage that includes a pillory, community threshing floors, a medieval bridge, water mills, the so famous gathering of granaries, among others.
The Castle of Lindoso is one of the most important Portuguese military monuments, due to its strategic location over the river Lima, and its border position with Spain, being the result of a military investment of the reign of D. Afonso III as a key piece in the defense of the border. Never assuming residential functions, but only military, the castle was occasionally occupied, especially in periods of regional or national conflicts.
Worthy of a closer look, perhaps because it is unusual, 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 such large quantities as in Lindoso. From the castle you can have a wide view of the place, but do not miss the opportunity to also walk through the middle of the granaries as if it were a labyrinth.
More photos and other information in my article about Lindoso Village.
Location: 41.866283, -8.199612 | Aldeia de Lindoso on Google Maps
Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peneda
The Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Peneda, in Arcos de Valdevez, parish of Gavieira, was built from the end of the 18th century, and the church was finished in 1875 according to the date inscribed on a column at the top of the staircase that gives access to it.
In this place it is thought to have existed a small hermitage built to remember the apparition of Our Lady of Peneda, motivating later the construction of the sanctuary. In the triangular square were the dormitories for the pilgrims, today transformed into a hotel and has as its unmistakable symbol the staircase of virtues, to the south, with statues representing Faith, Hope, Charity and Glory, dated 1854 by master Francisco Barreiros.
At about 300 meters, the virtues staircase contains about 20 chapels with scenes from the life of Christ (Nativity and Passion). Some of them with their interior recovered very recently, and others closed, probably due to the deterioration of their interior. At the bottom of the staircase, in a circular square, there is a pillar offered by Queen Maria I of Portugal.
The date that attracts the most pilgrims and curious people to this place is the first week of September when the great popular festival takes place.
More photos and other information in my article about the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peneda.
Location: 41.973916, -8.223048 | Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Peneda on Google Maps
Points of Interest to visit in the Peneda-Gerês National Park
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