Peneda-Geres National Park is a unique place in Portugal, home to landscapes that you can’t find elsewhere in the country! It’s the only National Park in Portugal and integrates the UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves. It’s our favorite nature spot in Portugal and being so easy to access from Porto or Braga makes it a perfect day trip, or an even better a weekend getaway!
Having this in mind, we decided to compile all the travel information and create the ultimate Peneda Geres National Park Guide!
What’s the best time to go to Peneda Geres National Park?
It really depends on what you want to do while visiting Geres. If you want to go to the beaches and swim in the lagoons, it’s only possible from May to September. Most watersports (like canyoning) are also much more pleasant during summer.
On the other hand, if your idea is to go trekking, discover new places and relax, you can do it in any season. So, Peneda Geres National Park is a great choice all year round.
How is the climate in Geres?
Usually, summers are hot with a minimum average of 18ºC and Maximum 30ºC, with low levels of rain. Spring and Autumn are mild with average temperatures ranging from 8ºC to 23ºC. Winter is quite rainy and sometimes it even snows on the highest mountains. In winter average temperatures range between 3ºC em 10ºC.
How to travel to Geres?
The easiest and best way to go to Geres is self-driving. The roads are good and driving in Portugal is pretty easy. It takes 1h /1h 30 from Porto and less than one hour from Braga. If you are driving you can easily do a day trip from any of these cities. However, Peneda Geres National Park is big and full of things to do, thus we advise you to take at least 2 days to really enjoy it!
In case you don’t want to drive, you can use public transports to go to Geres, there are buses from Braga and from Porto. Or, you can even go on a Private tour. But, again, the best way to visit Geres is to rent a car and freely travel around.
Best things to do in Peneda Geres National Park
Peneda Geres National Park covers quite a big area, and in general, it is a great spot for adventure and outdoor activities. It has several villages, lookouts, forests, trails and many other attractions you can visit. These are our favorite places to visit in Geres.
Most interesting villages in Geres
Castro Laboreiro village
Castro Laboreiro is a village in the north-west of Penena-Geres National Park, in the municipality of Melgaço. It is considered one of the most interesting villages in Portugal because it’s home a few fascinating features. The Castro Laboreiro castle is probably the most famous, but the medieval bridges and churches, community ovens, mills, and even their own particular dog breed give this village a very special feel.
If you want to experience the local cuisine we suggest the steaks in the restaurant Miradouro do Castelo. It isn’t the best food you’ll ever eat but it’s good and with big portions. You can make a base in Castro Laboreiro and spend the night in Hotel Castrum Villae which offers great value for money. Click here to check current prices.
Castro Laboreiro Castle
This is not your ordinary castle, this one is hidden between the rocks almost invisible from afar! It’s also somehow difficult to access. There are no roads to it, only an 800 meters trail that goes from Castro Laboreiro village to the castle. The trail is very rocky with some steep parts but doable by almost everyone.
There isn’t reliable information about when the Castro Laboreiro Castle was built, but it’s ancient, older than Portugal itself! It was conquered to the moors in during the Reconquista by the first Portuguese king and later rebuilt to the current structure. From the castle, you get an incredible 360º view to the village and the surrounding mountains. It’s one of the most impressive lookouts in Geres!
- Price: Free
- Time required: 1h30 including the trail.
The village of Lindoso is located very close to the border with Spain in the municipality of Ponte da Barca. It’s a typical village with old granitic houses. Very close to the old village is the Lindoso Dam that completely changed the views creating a huge blue lake. The most important attractions in Lindoso are the Castle of Lindoso and the set of 50 stone granaries (the espigueiros).
Lindoso castle was built in the 13th century to protect and defend the country borders. Spain is less than 5 km away. It is considered an important military monument due to the innovative techniques used in its construction though it was only relevant during the Restoration of the independence war.
There is also a permanent exhibition about the human occupation in this region, from the Neolithic to the present. The castle is pretty well preserved and fun to walk around and enjoy the views.
- Cost: 1.5 Euros for the exhibition
- Time required: Less than 1 hour
Espigueiros de Lindoso
Right next to the Lindoso Castle are the espigueiros. The castle walls offer you the best overview of the espigueiros, though we highly suggest you to walk between them and explore the area for a bit.
The 50 espigueiros, from the 17th and 18th century, were used to dry corn and prevent animals from getting to them. The ones in Lindoso are entirely made of stone and together make quite a rare site.
- Cost: free
- Time required: 15 minutes
Pitões das Júnias Village
Pitões das Júnias is a village located in the eastern region Peneda Gerês National Park, in the municipality of Montalegre. It’s a very isolated area, probably the least visited region in the park, but it’s also home to some of the most interesting Geres attractions! Very close to this small but authentic village are the incredible Junias Monastery and the stunning natural waterfalls.
This village is also a great place to have lunch/dinner. The restaurant Casa do Preto serves amazing local meat. We suggest you have the T-bone steak of Barrosã beef! If you want to spend the night we really enjoyed staying there. It has a nice, comfortable, family atmosphere. The rooms are spacious, clean and WI-FI and TV. Check here to check the prices and here the TripAdvisor reviews.
- Cost: Free
- Time required: 1 to 2 hours, depending on how fast you hike and how much time you take to enjoy the views
Santa Maria das Junias Monastery
This Cistercian monastery is located 2 km from Pitões das Júnias. The Monastery was built in the 12th century though its origins go back to the 9th century. This was abandoned after the extinction of the religious orders in Portugal in the 19th century. Nowadays most of it is in ruins but it still has some great Romanesque remains.
Located in a magnificent valley, isolated from civilization (and mass tourism) the ruins converged with Nature creating a bucolic place where one feels relax and comfortable. Usually, there’s very little (or no one at all) around and we can have the place to ourselves. This is one of our favorite spots in Geres National Park.
Vilarinho das Furnas Ruins
Vilarinho das Furnas is an old community village in Gerês National Park. It was abandoned and flooded after building the Vilarinho das Furnas Dam in River Homem. The Dam created a huge lake changing completely the scenery and making the village disappear.
You can still trek along the lake to the village, and during dry season you can see and even visit the houses, the ways, and walls of the old village. If it’s low enough you can even walk into the ruins. The trail to Vilarinho das Furnas and back is roughly 5.5 km (almost flat) and it’s much more worth it in summer when the lake is at its lowest…
- Cost: Free
- Time required: 2 hours will allow you to trek to and from the village and gives enough time to play around and take photos.
Best waterfalls in Peneda Geres National Park
Geres is also known for having some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Portugal. In some of them, one can even dive into the water and bath. Note that in the peak of summer (August mostly), some waterfalls may have to little water and too many people.
Tahiti Cascades (Cascata do Tahiti)
The Tahiti cascades are also known as Fecha de Barjas and are located close to the community village of Ermida on the River Arado. They are located very close to the road but that doesn’t mean they are easy to access. You’ll need to climb down a very steep and slippery hill and at some points, you’ll even need a rope. It isn’t safe for small children but for those who can descend they are really worth a view and if the weather allows it, a dive.
Peneda waterfall (Cascata da Peneda)
Peneda Waterfall is located in the Peneda mountain range, in Arcos de Valdevez municipality. This is a big waterfall (in winter particularly) and you can see it from far away because of the white foam created by the falling water. These falls are very close to the Peneda Sanctuary and the river actually goes through sanctuary before reaching the bigger Peneda river. The river and the sanctuary make this area very appealing.
Arado Waterfall (Cascata do Arado)
This one of the most beautiful, most visited and easy accessed waterfalls in Geres National Park. It’s located in Vilar da Veiga and it even has picknick facilities for anyone to use. Unless it’s really crowded (summer weekends and August) it should be easy to park close by. There are several touristic routes and trails in this area. It’s perfectly possible and enjoyable to spend the full day hiking and bathing around Arado River and waterfall. Note that in the of Summer this waterfall loses much of its water.
Portela do Homem waterfall (Cascata da Portela do Homem)
This waterfall is located in the edge of Peneda Geres National park, very close to the Spanish Border. It’s also located on the restricted access road in Albergaria Forrest, thus you have to walk the last stretch. Note that it’s much closer to park on the Border than on the other side. All this region is wonderful (check the Albergaria forest part of this article) and this small waterfall that ends on a perfect blue lagoon only makes it better. It’s possible and advisable to dive into the river Homem.
Pitões de Junias Waterfall (Cascata de Pitões de Junias)
Located on the edge of Pitões de Júnias villages referred above, this 30+ meter waterfall is a pretty site, particularly in winter, full of water. This is more of a waterfall to see than to bath. It’s almost impossible to reach it, but there’s a pleasant wooden walkway to a beautiful lookout. This is a lesser known area of Geres, so it’s unlikely to find huge crowds here.
Things to see in Peneda Geres National Park
Pedra Bela Lookout
Pedra Bela is by far our favorite lookout in Geres. Heck, it’s probably our favorite lookout in Portugal! It’s located at almost 900 meters high and allows an incredible view of the park! The mountains, Caniçada Dam Lake, the rivers snaking through the mountains, the native forest… everything is in your sight, and what sight it is!
- Cost: Free
- Time required: 30 minutes from Geres Village.
Albergaria Forest (Mata de Albergaria)
Albergaria forest is the heart of Geres, it’s probably the most important place and the reason why Peneda-Geres is a National Park. It’s a magical forest predominantly of secular oak and includes other local species of fauna and flora. You can’t go to Geres and not go to Albergaria Forest.
Albergaria Forest is also home to the Homem River Waterfall, one of the most famous in Geres and is crossed by the famous Geira – the famous Roman road between Braga and Astorga (Spain).
However, due to the increasing human presence, these woods have conditional traffic. There are 3 ways in/out and a fee of 1.5 Euros to enter. You can’t park or even stop until you get out of it. During the holidays and weekends in the summer season, it is even prohibited all motorized traffic!
- Cost: Crossing with car costs 1.5 Euros, trekking is free
- Time required: It all depends on what you want. Driving through is only 15 minutes… But you can trek all day…
Geira – Roman Military Road
Geira is the old Roman military road that connected Braga to Astorga, which crossed Peneda-Geres National Park. You can still see parts of this road, particularly the one in Mata da Albergaria where most of the milestones are. The distance to civilization and without human pressure this part of the Road was well preserved and it’s now part of Geres’ archaeological patrimony.
Misarela Bridge – Devil’s Bridge
Misarela Bridge is hidden in the gorge created by the Rabagão River. To go there one has to hike down from the village for about 1 km. It’s a steep descend but perfectly doable by everyone. It’s estimated that the original bridge dates the middle ages and it was rebuilt in the XIX century. Legend says it was built by the devil itself, thus the name.
The bridge has only one arch and it’s 13 meters long, though more relevant it’s the whole bucolic environment created by the gorge, the huge rocks, the bridge, and the river. Furthermore, very close to the bridge there’s a waterfall making the already amazing scenery even more memorable!
- Cost: Free
- Time required: 1-2 hours – more if you want to relax or even dip into the river.
Peneda Geres National Park Hiking
Peneda Geres has a seemingly endless amount of hiking trails for you to try. They go deep into the park, to places where it’s impossible to reach by car or bicycle. If you love nature, this is a great way of enjoying yourself in the park. These some of our favorite hiking trails in Geres.
Pitões de Júnias Trail
This short but steep trail allows you to see the Monastery and the waterfall of Pitões de Júnias while enjoying contact with nature. If you don’t like to lose too much time just walking, but still enjoy doing trails and nature, this is a great option. As said above, this area is less visited so you’ll probably encounter few people around.
- Length: 3 to 4 km;
- Duration: about 1h30, but it depends on how much time you stop in the village, the waterfall, and monastery;
- Level: Average, due to some steep parts;
- Location: Pitões de Júnias, Montalegre;
Roman Geira Trail
We have talked above about the Geira, and you still can drive through it, but it’s much more fun if you walk it! You can stop and enjoy each part of it. Plus, the Geira goes through some of the most beautiful parts of Peneda Geres National Park.
- Length: 10km
- Duration: About 5 hours
- Level: Easy, the trail is pretty flat.
- Location: Campo Geres & Terras do Bouro
The biggest point of interest in this trail is the huge Calcedónia Rock with the also huge gap that crosses completely from one side to the other. It’s also one hell of a lookout. If you like trails that have a destination, this is a great option. There also used to be a Roman (and pre Roman) settlement in the area. One can still see some (few) signs of it.
- Length: 7km
- Duration: About 4 hours
- Level: Average
- Location: Covide, Terras de Bouro
Portela do Homem – Minas dos carris Trail
This is a very long, and probably the hardest trail on this list. It’s also our favorite. The highlights of the trail are the abandoned wolfram Mines and the whole Homem River valley, starting and ending in the beautiful Portela do Homem Waterfall.
- Length: 22km
- Duration: 8 hours
- Level: hard (long and with high accumulated vertical meters)
- Location: Homem river high valley
Note: we are only listing trails that you can do in one day. So, no long, multi-day trails here, but they do exist in Geres.
where to stay in Geres
If you are thinking of staying at least one night in Geres National Park and are wondering where to stay in Geres, you should know note that there are a huge variety of Hotels in Geres. From the small boutique hotels to bigger ones, from low budget hostels to more expensive Hotels and Spas. Here we’ll list some of our favorites Geres’ Hotels.
Low budget hostel or guest house
Hostel Geres is a great option in central Geres. If you are traveling on a tight budget this hostel is centrally located, very cheap and clean. Due to the great prices, this hostel usually sells out very quickly…
Mid-range good value for money hotel
Hotel Lagoa Azul do Geres is our best mid-range option in Geres! The hotel is centrally located, with nice rooms, wifi, and all the expected commodities. However, the best thing about it is the breakfast with a view. The hotel is right in front of the Caniçada dam, and you get to have breakfast looking at the beautiful scenery created by it. This one is very appreciated by couples and families.
Best Hotel & Spa in Geres
Tempus Hotel & Spa – Singular’s Hotels isn’t located in Peneda Geres National Park, but it’s close enough for you to be able to go there and return quickly. However, this hotel is amazing, with indoors and outdoors pools, spa treatments, wellness center and restaurant. If Geres wasn’t so great you could be tempted to stay the full day enjoying the hotel! Furthermore, it’s much cheaper than you would expect for so many amenities.
Finally, a historic hotel, the Águas do Gerês – Thermal & Spa Hotel. This is one of the oldest if not the oldest hotel in Geres. It still retains its old style but with new and modern comfort. If you want a thermal hotel inside Geres National Park, this is your option. With the plus, of being a historic and well-preserved hotel.
Finally, in Peneda Geres National Park ( well, in Portugal, actually) we strongly advise you to use booking.com to book your accommodation. It’s easily the biggest provider in Portugal and in our experience almost always offers the best prices.