Peneda Gerês National Park is located in the north of Portugal near the Spanish border and is Portugal’s only national park. This park is varied, it is rugged and you are always surprised by the breathtaking viewpoints. It has something to offer for every type of traveler. You can do the best hikes in Portugal here but if you prefer to do not that many hikes you can still discover the beautiful places by visiting them by car. In this article, you can read everything you want to know for your visit to Peneda Gerês National Park, such as things to do in Peneda Gerês National Park, where to stay, and many more tips.
Things to do in Peneda Gerês National Park
Peneda Gerês National Park is a huge park with 698 km2, so it is good to know upfront what you want to visit. There are some fun activities you can do. Read on to discover these 7 activities to do in Peneda Gerês National Park.
Tip: use the map below to see where all the essential things are in Peneda Gerês National Park. Click on the top right corner to enlarge the map. If you click on the star symbol next to the title you can save this map in your Google Maps account. In the folder, you can show or hide different categories. You can then use this map to navigate when you are at your destination.
#1 Hiking Peneda Gerês National Park
Peneda Gerês National Park is the best place to go hiking in Portugal. We have done the two hikes below that are recommended. You can combine both routes with the other activities because these are not day trips. If like us, you only have a few days, it is better to do these walks and therefore have enough time left to do other activities in the park.
Rota da Mata de Albergaria via Geira Romana: This is an easy 4 km / 2.5 miles route that can be found in the central part of the park. During this route, you will walk through an ancient forest, and pass two waterfalls and a Roman bridge. You will also see more Roman remains such as old walls.
The most popular waterfall is Cascata da Portela do Homem, we will tell you more about this on tip 6, but the most beautiful waterfall can be found at Ponte pedonal de São Miguel. This waterfall is hardly visited because it is located in the forest. The nice thing about this walk is that you see a lot of things in a short period and can therefore be easily combined with other activities. You can park your car for free at Bar da Fronteira. Without stops, the hike takes 1 hour and 30 minutes, but if you take the time to stop at the various sights, it will easily take you 2 hours.
- Distance: 4 km / 2.5 miles
- Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
- Ascent/descent: 214 m
- Departure and end point: car park Bar da Fronteira
PR5 – Trilho da Águia do Sarilhão: this walk is a bit more difficult and higher up in the mountains. The best thing about this walk is that you walk along a large lake where you pass various points where you have a nice view over this area. You also walk through forests and mountains where you can enjoy amazing views. The walk starts at Museu Etnográfico de Vilarinho da Furna.
- Distance: 8.7 km / 5.4 miles
- Duration: 3 hours
- Ascent/descent: 325 m
- Departure and end point: Museu Etnográfico de car park Vilarinho da Furna
Tip: Read our beginner’s trekking guide for useful information on how to prepare yourself, what to pack and more useful tips.
#2 Viewpoints Peneda Gerês National Park
Because there are many lakes in Peneda Gerês National Park with high mountains along, you have impressive viewpoints. To see them all you need weeks, during your trip you will visit several but the most impressive are the three below. All three are completely different because of the location and the view.
Miradouro da Pedra Bela: to reach this viewpoint you can choose to walk there or easily reach it by car. Normally we recommend hiking as much as possible but for this viewpoint, we recommend going with the car because the view is the whole time the same. This viewpoint is the most popular viewpoint of Peneda Gerês National Park because you can overlook the entire area.
Miradouro de Fafião: in the east of Peneda Gerês National Park is Miradouro de Fafião located which is hardly visited by others because it is unknown. This viewpoint consists of rocks that are connected by bridges. It is best to go here during lunchtime so that you can eat at Retiro do Gerês afterward, this is where we had our best lunch meal during our road trip in Portugal. The view is beautiful, as this point is higher than the surrounding area.
Miradouro de Junceda: if you do the road trip N308-1 that you read more about in the next activity you can visit this viewpoint. If you are on 75% of the route you can at some point choose to go deeper into the mountains to visit this viewpoint. If you look at our map you can see where this viewpoint can be found. Depending on the weather conditions, check on the spot whether you are going up by car. We chose to park the car at the beginning and then walk to this viewpoint. This takes about 2 hours to walk there and back.
Viewpoint Rocas: when you visit the various waterfalls in the east of the park you will pass a huge tower that you can climb to see the wider area. The climb is not difficult and worth it because you have a 360-degree view from the top.
#3 Road trip Peneda Gerês National Park
If you are short on time and want to see as much of Peneda Gerês National Park as possible, you can do a fantastic route in 1 day, visiting lakes, mountains, historic buildings, wildlife, and viewpoints. There are various routes to be found, only the route we have plotted on our map is the best in our opinion. We did this ourselves because this is the most complete route.
Start the route at Gerês and follow the N308-1 until you reach the fork after about 20 minutes of driving and turn left here to drive into the mountains. Here you pass the lake Alburfeira de Valirnho da Furna on your right and you go back via Campo do Gerês to the valley village of Gerês (the M533 road). In total this road trip takes 5 hours with all stops. You can do this faster by making fewer stops or longer by doing more walks in between. Please use our map to stop at the various points we indicate.
#4 Discover the local cuisine
When we visited Miradouro de Junceda we discovered Retiro do Gerês by accident. When you’re outside, you don’t expect anything great, but the sliding door opens and you are surprised by a nice restaurant where people from the area come to eat on a Sunday. We had one of the best meals here during our trip to Portugal. If you want to try a local dish this is the place to go. The good thing about this place is they use ecological meat from the cows that live wild in the park. We recommend choosing the costoletao. Besides meat, they also have fish or vegetarian options. In total it cost us €35.50 / $35.50 for soup, the meat dish, bread, olives, water, and a drink for two people.
During our visit to Peneda Gerês National Park, we saw lakes and rivers that were amazing. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, we were not able to discover this with the kayak. If you like to go kayaking and you have the time, do this. This is a fun activity on the water where the perspective is completely different. It is best to go to the tourist office of Gerês to get detailed information.
If you are in Porto and are orienting yourself to visit Peneda Gerês National Park as a day trip from Porto and you want to do it in an active way this tour is highly recommended. During this tour, you will hike, swim, kayak, and see the coolest places in the park.
#6 Visit the waterfalls
Because Peneda Gerês National Park has high mountains and is relatively close to the coast, many clouds blow inland and then rain falls on the tops of the mountains. This allows you to see a lot of water and impressive waterfalls in this area. We recommend visiting the four places below:
Cascata da Portela do Homem: this waterfall is located against the Spanish border and you can visit it when you do the Rota da Mata de Albergaria via Geira Romana. This waterfall consists of several plateaus that you can admire up close by hiking to it. Be careful as it can be slippery which is dangerous.
Cascata do Arado: located to the east in the mountains, this waterfall is one of the highest waterfalls in the region. You can reach this waterfall by car, parking is easy at the bridge. From here it is a 100-meter walk to the waterfall. If you are working on the road, you can park the car at the viewpoint Rocas and walk from there to the waterfall.
Cascata Fecha de Barjas: this waterfall is easy to reach by car and is worth a visit as the waterfall descends via different levels. We have to say that when you are in the area it is worth visiting if it is too far away you can skip this one.
Poco Azul: when you come to the tourist office of Gerês they advise you to go to Poco Azul, but this can be quite difficult because it is not indicated. It is also a 3-hour walk there and back from Cascata do Arado. We did not do it because of the time. If you still want to visit this, it is best to buy a walking map to orient yourself during the hike.
#7 Villages near Peneda Gerês National Park
Of course, if you are in Peneda Gerês National Park you must visit the village of Gerês. This is the largest village with the most shops, restaurants, and accommodations in the region. It is nice to walk around the village and cross the various bridges and absorb the atmosphere of this mountain village.
Another interesting place to visit is to visit the Church São Bento da Porta Alberta. This is the largest church in the area and an attempt was made in the 18th century to build a building with strong influences from Roman times.
If you do the road trip we recommend in activity 3 you can take a trip to the mountain village of Brufe, where you can see an iconic old mountain village where time stands still.
How many days do you need for Peneda Gerês National Park
We recommend having 2 full days for Peneda Gerês National Park. This is why it is best to stay at for 3 nights. In 2 days you can do all the activities that we recommend in this article. You can stay longer, but we do not recommend this because there are simply so many more beautiful things to see in Portugal.
Where to stay in Peneda Gerês National Park
Peneda Gerês National Park is a large park so you have to choose the accommodation that is centrally located so that travel time during your stay is minimal. We, therefore, stayed in the largest village in Gerês. This is centrally located, has the most choices of accommodations and it is nice that there are several restaurants so you can walk here in the evening. If you travel during a busy period, it is best to book the accommodation well in advance.
The best accommodation in our opinion is Hotel Carvalho Araujo, the rooms are neat, the service is good, excellent location with a beautiful view over the village and essential if you compare it with the other accommodations it has a super value for money.
If Carvalho Araujo is full, Baltazar Hotel is a good 2nd option. It is a good hotel as a base to discover the area because of its location. The hotel is also neat but simple, so you can stay here for not too much money.
Where to eat Peneda Gerês National Park
As you have read in activity 4, we recommend eating at Retiro do Gerês during lunch. Here you can sit comfortably, the service is great and the meals are delicious. For us, this was one of the best places we ate during our trip to Portugal.
If you want to eat something in the morning, it is best to do this at the accommodation where you are staying, as there are few options in the region for breakfast. If it is not possible to eat at your accommodation, it is best to go to the supermarket Supermercado Amanhecer Gerês. Here you can get a sandwich. Not the most luxurious food you’ll ever have, but okay to start the day with.
Lurdes Capela and Petiscos da Bó Gusta are nice places to visit in the evening. Lurdes Capela is a typical Portuguese restaurant where you can order meat, fish, and vegetarian dishes. You sit on the iconic wooden chairs and are served in its country style. It’s not fancy which makes it so much fun. Among the residents of the village, this restaurant is considered the best.
Petiscos da Bó Gusta is a Portugese tapas bar. A nice place to sit down if you want to eat Portuguese tapas. Price for a tapas costs between €4 / $4 and €7 / $7. We had dinner here at the weekend and a lot of students were working at that time, this is fun, but you have to pay attention to your bill because with us they had made a mistake.
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Around Peneda Gerês National Park you can use public transport but in the park itself very difficult. In order not to be tied to the times of public transport, it is therefore much better to have a car at your disposal to get around. The easiest way is to rent a car at Rentalcars, a nice platform where you can easily find the best deals.
How to get to Peneda Gerês National Park
Peneda Gerês National Park is located in the northwest of Portugal, making it easiest to visit the park from Porto, Braga, or the Douro Valley. You can also travel to this park from other places, but it will simply take you longer. If you do a tour through Portugal you probably come from Braga or the Douro valley. Due to the size of the park, it is best to choose a centrally located village such as Gerês to discover the various sights from there.
If you want to do the activities that we recommend in this article, you must have a car at your disposal, because otherwise you simply cannot do most of the activities. When you make a tour through Portugal you already have this, if this is not the case, you can pick it up in Porto. Below you see how long it takes to visit Gerês from the popular destinations.
- Porto to Gerês: 1 hour and 30 minutes | 96 km / 60 miles
- Braga to Gerês: 1 hour | 42 km / 26 miles
- Douro valley to Gerês: 2 hours | 130 km / 80 miles
- Coimbra to Gerês: 2 hours 40 minutes | 220 km / 136 miles
If you travel to Portugal by plane and you are looking for a car to rent, you can rent it through Rentalcars. We use Rentalcars when we want to travel by car to discover new destinations. They’re easy to use and book with.
Best time to visit Peneda Gerês National Park
In general, spring, summer, and autumn (April to November) are the best times to travel to Peneda Gerês National Park. However, each period has its pros and cons. We do not recommend traveling during the winter period (December to February).
The spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) months are the best months to travel, as the temperatures are very pleasant. Summer (June to August) has the longest days and most hours of sunshine alone can get very hot. Summer is a great time, but keep this in mind. Also, this period is busy during the summer holidays period of the school holidays. In terms of temperatures, it is on average 19°C / 66°F in spring, 27°C / 80°F in summer, 20°C / 68°F in autumn and 12°C / 53°F in winter.
Things to do Peneda Gerês National Park FAQ
1. You recommend two full days for Peneda Gerês National Park, can you share an overview of how best to divide the activities over the days?
Based on our experience we recommend following the below schedule, of course, you are free to make adjustments.
|Day 1||Miradouro da Pedra Bela|
Cascata do Arado
Cascata Fecha de Barjas
|Miradouro de Fafião|
Retiro do Gerês
|São Bento da Porta Aberta|
|Day 2||Rota da Mata de Albergaria via Geira Romana|
Cascata da Portela do Homem
Optional: PR5 – Trilho da Águia do Sarilhão
Miradouro de Junceda
Want to see more in Portugal
After reading this article, we hope you have a clear idea of the things to do in Peneda Gerês National Park. Of course, you can see many more things in Portugal besides Peneda Gerês National Park. The most obvious places to visit from this national park are Braga, Porto, and the Douro Valley.
Braga is a city with an impressive cathedral high in the mountains on the outskirts of the city that is worth a visit. Porto is the effortless city of Portugal where you see many historic buildings. Douro valley is the wine region where you can drive by car through the narrow roads over the hills with endless views over the vineyards.
If you follow our Portugal itinerary, Braga is your next destination. Our travel route is handy and is packed with tips to create your itinerary.
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