Always ready to welcome attentive visitors, the National Park and Nature Parks are open spaces that combine nature and human constructions in balance, conserving a unique beauty that compels us to visit them. Their sustainability is very important to their local ecosystems and, therefore, there are pre-defined paths that take you to get to know them better. We suggest to you a route through five of these incredible parks, all different from each other, and each one enchanting.
Join us and we shall traverse valleys, plains, mountains, rivers and waterfalls that dreams are made of. Put on some comfortable shoes, slip into your bathing suit, sling on your backpack, and feel like an explorer in nature.
Natural Park of the Northern Portuguese Coast
We begin very close to Porto, in the extremely rich Natural Park of the Northern Portuguese Coast, situated in Esposende (Braga). Among the dunes and birds that nest here, we shall take a long walk by the sea, along wooden walkways that allow one to arrive close to the Apúlia mills, admire the curious gathering of wrack (a seaweed native to the coast that serves as a natural fertilizer in agriculture) and breathe healthy air. The wind, the colours of the plants that grow on the dunes, ranging from white to purple, and the Neiva river and dipping into the sea, are all things that make for an interesting visit. The next dives will be into colder waters, so make the most of it now.
Peneda-Gerês National Park
The second park we recommend to you is considered a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, and it is the downfall of many nature lovers who love to camp here, walk through the mountains and tall trees, go birdwatching, examine rocks and much more. In this natural scene where the Cávado, Lima and Homen rivers converge, jump joyously from stone to stone and take amazing photos while you enjoy each wonder that nature gives us.
Feel free and romantic when you reach the most sought after waterfalls at Gerês. Some are easily accessible (the Portela do Homem or the Cascata do Arado, this last one hosting canyoning frequently); others are harder to access but equally stunning (the famous “Cascata do Tahiti”). The magic of these places filled with translucent waters in green and blue tones has certainly inspired several love stories, and will inspire many more.
Alvão Nature Park
And now refreshed, we shall go on to Vila Real to discover Alvão Nature Park, where you can also find marvellous waterfalls to bathe in, and its most famous point, the Fisgas do Ermelo. Here you can witness a waterfall from the Olo river measuring more than 300m and be dazzled by its vividness. The traditional villages of Ermelo and Lamas de Olo also charm with their granite houses covered by thatched roofs and traditional arts that comprise the manufacture of linen, baskets and straw hats – all crafts designed to make life easier for these mountain communities that were once very isolated. Among the oaks (the predominant trees), animals from wolves to eagles can be spotted. Taking a walk through the park is pleasant in any season, because although this is the smallest park, it boasts great natural diversity and very different landscapes in the spring and autumn.
Montesinho Natural Park
We now travel up to the extreme northeast to enjoy Montesinho Natural Park, situated in Bragança. This is one of the largest parks, with even greater diversity. This time we shall make the most of the marked trails to ride bicycles through valleys, rivers and mountains, appreciating the animals that allow you to admire them (keep an eye out for butterflies, for here reside 1/3 of the country's population), and stay to discover the native plants. The Coroa mountain range (at 1,272m above sea level) is one of the highest points, and is a great spot for birdwatching.
There two possible routes for cycling: one of 40km (“Serra de Montesinho”), the other of 8km (“Termas do Tuela”), where we invite you to appreciate the rurality of the population's ways of life and the traditional transmontano style houses, as well as enjoying the hot springs at Vinhais and to take part in sporting activities like canoeing, climbing and orienteering.
Douro International Nature Park
In all the places through which you pass, take a pause to learn some secrets and indulge in the local food. You can enjoy all the flavours in the last park: The Douro International Nature Park. This land of vineyards, set alongside the most charming river in the country, the Douro, presents a landscape both natural and rugged, with steep cliffs and a maximum altitude of 895m, two plateaux and deep valleys carved by the passage of the Douro and Águeda rivers. Climb up to the São Leonardo da Galafura viewpoint to appreciate the terraced vineyards and farms of the Alto Douro Wine Region; travel down the Douro river on a cruise guided by the charm of traditional stories and flavours, and take the chance to watch the birds that fly over or nest there; return to the past by visiting the Archaeological Park of Vale do Côa; and visit the bushy forests of Mogadouro, as well as its castle and quiet village. If you can, pay a visit to the town of Lamoso and walk along its footpath that leads to the Faia d'Água Alta waterfall, with water cascading down from a height of 35m.
February and March are the most spectacular months to visit this park because the almond trees in bloom fill nature with lots of colours and beauty.
Porto and Northern Portugal are full of unique, singular and surprising wonders! There is so much to experience that we suggest that you embark with us on great nature adventures like this one. Contact us so that we can help you find the best experiences in Porto and Northern Portugal. We are here for you.