Peneda Gerês National Park – Portugal. A perfect day trip from Porto

Peneda Gerês National Park - Header. A perfect day trip from Porto Portugal
Peneda Gerês National Park - Header. A perfect day trip from Porto Portugal

**My trip was arranged for me by Oporto Tours, specialists in this region, in order for me to research for Rough Guides.  Despite any complimentary services received, all thoughts and opinions remain my own**

Originally written in March 2016.  Revised and updated in JUL 2017 and OCT 2018


When anyone asks me what springs to mind when they say “Portugal”, I think of a country attached to Spain in Western Europe (that looks like a man with a beard) that’s popular because of its beaches.  So imagine my joy when I was asked to go and research Northern Portugal on behalf of Rough Guides.  Part of my research entailed visiting Peneda Gerês National Park – and this proved to me that Portugal was more than just sun, sea and beaches.

**This post contains affiliate links. For more info, see here.**

Peneda Gerês National Park

It’s the only National Park in Portugal and offers 271 sq miles of nature, tiny traditional agricultural villages, slightly larger spa towns (the town of Geres itself) and nature that is out of this world: waterfalls, sweeping vistas and the most amazing views ever.  It’s located in the northwest of Portugal and extends to the Spanish border of Galacia.  I honestly felt as if I was stepping back in time.

Geres National Park in North Portugal
Just a selection of what you can expect to find when you visit Geres National Park in North Portugal

Getting to Peneda Gerês National Park

It’s about a 1 hr 20 min drive from Porto – it is possible to get a bus from Porto to one of the main towns just outside the park (i.e.; Porto – Ponte de Barca or to Braga (all major towns in the Minho region), but from there, you then have to get a very infrequent bus to one of the villages in the park such as Soajo or Lindoso (these towns in the centre of the park) or to Geres in the south of the park.


How about hiring a car then?  Well, you could.  As I said, it’s really not very far from Porto once you’re on the efficient highway, but instead of relying on GPS and the suspension of your rental (I suggest you hire a four-wheeled drive), why not go on an organised tour?

Oporto Adventure Tours

I was lucky.  As I had a lot of research to do, I was appointed a private tour guide for three days with Oporto Adventure Tours.  They are a local company based in Porto and have knowledgable guides and can offer group tours (starting from €85 – one day tour including pick up and drop off from your accommodation in Porto, lunch and only a minimum of two people) or private and tailor made tours for longer. I was very glad I did.  I would have had no idea the significance of what I was seeing and not paid attention to half the things I saw had I not had the very amiable Rui – a rather Che Guevara look alike (in the nicest possible way) whose knowledge of the area was phenomenal.  We drove for hours, seeing this and that and he knew every point about the park, as if it was where he lived year round.

Oporto Adventure Tours - Geres National Park
Oporto Adventure Tours – Geres National Park

Waterfalls, Cows and Espigueiros in Peneda Gerês National Park

The park has a phenomenal amount of dams and natural springs, so waterfalls crop up here and there along the roads.  My favourite was known locally as ‘Tahiti Waterfalls’ by the locals.  It’s easy to see why it reminds them of what Tahiti must look like.   In the summer, it gets crowded with locals and people from Porto coming to swim and relax for the day.

"Tahiti" waterfalls in Geres National Park
“Tahiti” waterfalls in Geres National Park

The cows are endemic to this region and can be found ambling along the side of the road, or indeed in the road, quite content not to move until you have to nudge them very gently with your 4×4. Or in the small paddocks belonging to the farmers.

Local cows - Geres National Park
Local cows – Geres National Park

Now the espigueiros are another thing endemic to Portugal: big granite medieval stone grain dryers that are risen off the ground to keep vermin away from the grains, with crosses on top to protect the harvest from bad omens.  To me, with my overactive imagination, they look a little like tombs – what do you think?

Espigueiros - or medieval grain storage in Geres National Park
Espigueiros – or medieval grain storage in Geres National Park
Espigueiros - medieval grain storage in Peneda Gerês National Park. A perfect day trip from Porto Portugal
Espigueiros – medieval grain storage in Peneda Gerês National Park. A perfect day trip from Porto Portugal

Accommodation

From converted monasteries (now a luxury boutique accommodation) to simple B&B’s to small ecological cabins in the woods (with all modern comforts), there is such a wide choice that can be found out here to suite everybody’s budget.  My favourite was Sobrenatura – three converted storehouses of various kinds, back when the place was run as a farm, in the tiny, tiny village of Gração. It has solar energy but also wi-fi – and look at my breakfast view.  See here for more rates.

My Sobra Natura accommodation, with views in the morning at Geres National Park. How can you not relax?
My SobraNatura accommodation, with views in the morning at Geres National Park. How can you not relax?

So if you’re spending any time at all in Northern Portugal, or plan a trip to Porto, I really suggest taking some extra time to spend three or four days exploring the region of Geres National Park (longer if you can). It’s like stepping back in time and, at the time of writing, is as yet undiscovered to mass tourism…making it a perfect escape.

PIN for later

Come and explore Portugal's only National Park - Geres Penada. About 45 mins from Porto, it's beautiful <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/gaby1/25406961893/' target='_blank'>Parque nacional de Peneda-Gerês</a>&quot;&nbsp;(<a rel='license' href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/' target='_blank'>CC BY 2.0</a>)&nbsp;by&nbsp;<a xmlns:cc='http://creativecommons.org/ns#' rel='cc:attributionURL' property='cc:attributionName' href='https://www.flickr.com/people/gaby1/' target='_blank'>Gaby /</a></div>
Explore Geres National Park in Northern Portugal – Life Beyond Borders.  Parque nacional de Peneda-Gerês” (CC BY 2.0) by Gaby /

17 COMMENTS

  1. Hey Rebecca
    Loved the article. I am portuguese, live in Porto and Mvery proud of the northern region of the country.
    I’m also very keen on Geres, since my family has strong connections there (most of the hotels in the Geres spa town belonged to my family in the early 20th century), I own a house on the shore of Caniçada lake nad have spent a big chunk of my summers and weekends there.
    So I thought I might add a little spice to your article, if you like. You mentioned the Tahiti waterfalls. Now, maybe they’re not the same falls I am thinking of, but if they are, the reason for the name is entirely different from what you suggested and way more funny.
    Years ago (not sure how many, but certainly a lot more than I care to admit) there was a commercial for a brand of shower gel- Tahiti Duche – which was filmed on location at those falls. Although the models were all wearing bikinis and the whole commercial was very “summer”, it was filmed in winter, because there is so much more water coming down then and the falls look way better. As I said there could be more than one Tahiti falls, especially since it’s not even an official name… but my money is on that, no matter how many there may be, the reason for the name is the one I just told you about.

  2. Porto and Portugal just keep delivering. We’ll keep this post in mind when we plan our itinerary.

  3. Even the cows look picturesque in your post! And I can certainly agree with your initial thoughts about the espigueiros – they really do look like a family mausoleum or tombs, especially with the cross. There are so many places for us to visit in Portugal and I’m so glad you introduced me to Geres National Park. I’ve bookmarked your post for a visit in the next few months – maybe in the fall when the summer crowds are gone.
    Anita @ No Particular Place To Go recently posted…It’s All Relative: Old and “New” Fes, MoroccoMy Profile

  4. I haven’t explored Portugal at all, except for a few days in Lisbon for work. Geres National Park is beautiful, judging from your photos. I especially love the idea of staying in that SobraNatura accommodation and eating breakfast with that breathtaking view!

    • Yes Rachel, I switched all social media – even my phone for the morning (except when I took the photo!) and just absorbed it all in. It was very peaceful.

  5. I totally agree that the espigueiros look like tombs. What a large thing to build just to protect the grain and ward off bad omens! One day I will get to Porto and this would be a great adventure to try. At first when I read your comment about the suspension of your rental and then looked at the scenery, I understood. Kind of like the Grand Canyon. Sometimes it’s easier just joining a tour!

    • And the great thing with the tour I was on with Oporto Adventure Tours, you can make a tailor made tour for just you, or if you’re as a couple, or with a group of friends if you don’t want to be with strangers!
      When I saw the distances involved, I was glad I had a tour guide with so much knowledge and insight…plus sitting in the 4×4 was perfect, just the guide and myself.

  6. Wow spectacular, I would love to visit the national park there. How nice to have a guide take you to all the amazing vistas and must see spots which are probably difficult to manage on your own without a guide.

LEAVE A REPLY

The following GDPR rules must be read and accepted:
This form collects your name, email and content so that we can keep track of the comments placed on the website. For more info check our Privacy Policy where you will get more info on where, how and why we store your data.

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.