TRAVEL UPDATE TO PORTUGAL
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Located in northeast Portugal, Peneda-Gerês is the only national park in all of Portugal. It’s also recognized as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. You’ll find nature and human activity connected harmoniously where ancient values and traditions are handed down from the ages live on in the villages and areas of the park.
A majestic mountainous region of 70,000+ hectares, Peneda-Gerês is one of Europe’s greatest natural attractions due to its rare and spectacular landscapes, areas of ecological and ethnographic interest and the variety of its native flora and fauna. Keep an eye out for Iberian ibex, deer, wild horses, wolves and birds of prey. Boasting some of the richest flora in Portugal, you’ll hike among pine trees, yews, chestnuts and oaks, as well as a variety of medicinal plants.
This tour is a fantastic mix of nature, culture and local cuisine. On sunny days, you’ll love hiking in the green landscape bathed in a blue light rising from the waters of the many rivers and lakes. You’ll love exploring the enchanting mountain villages of Castro Laboreiro, Peneda and Soajo where time appears to have stood still with the typical rustic architecture and ancestral traditions and cuisine.
You’ll discover the incredible granite maize stores that are still used today, visit the beehives that produce the famous pure Gerês honey, see how local ceramics are handcrafted and enjoy a glass (or two) of Vinho Verde wine. And of course, your trip wouldn’t be complete without sampling the local cornbread which was rated as one of the best breads in the world by CNN Slow Food.
As you hike along the trails in Peneda-Gerês it’s not unusual to come across herds of wild horses, groups of unique Cachena cows, a local breed of cattle that roam free in the mountains, and Castro Laboreiro dogs watching over their flocks of sheep.
Your hiking tour finishes in the 16th-century towns of Ponte da Barca and Arcos de Valdevez, the gateways to the World Biosphere Reserve. Explore the medieval houses and the 15th-century old bridge or the surrounding Vinho Verde vineyards that create an idyllic setting and the perfect end to your self-guided hiking tour in Peneda-Gerês.
HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR PENEDA – GERÊS NATIONAL PARK HIKING TOUR
✔ Hike in Peneda-Gerês National Park, one of Europe’s great natural environments and Portugal’s only national park.
✔ Discover centuries-old mountain villages where time appears to have stood still.
✔ Observe the wild Garrano horses, free-roaming Cachena cattle, and the Castro Laboreiro sheepdogs keeping watch over their sheep.
✔ Get acquainted with local cuisine – by visiting the beehives that produce the traditional Gerês honey and trying the famous cornbread.
✔ Explore Ponte da Barca, a medieval village surrounded by excellent Vinho Verde vineyards where you can sample the crisp and refreshing white wine.
✔ Choose between two hikes of different difficulty levels on selected days.
Day 1: Castro Laboreiro
Day 2: Castro Laboreiro
Day 3: Peneda
Day 4: Peneda
Day 5: Soajo
Day 6: Soajo
Day 7: Arcos de Valdevez
Day 8: Departure from Porto Airport
Day 1: Transfer from Porto to Castro Laboreiro in Peneda-Gerês National Park and a Short Hike to the Castle Ruins
We’ll pick you up from Porto Airport and transfer you to Castro Laboreiro, a village in the North of Portugal inside Peneda-Gerês National Park. Located at the top of the mountain at a 1,170m altitude, this village boasts a remarkable historic and architectural heritage.
You’ll love exploring this ancient mountain village, Roman bridges, medieval church, community bread ovens, the maize stores and the watermills.
As a perfect way to warm up for your self-guided hiking tour, there’s a short hike up to the castle. Here you can discover the ruins of this ancient fortress. At the top, you’ll get a spectacular view over Castro Laboreiro and beyond. It will be the first of many photos that you’ll undoubtedly be taking this week.
Day 2: Hike in Castro Laboreiro Unique Landscape and Reward Yourself with a Smoked Ham and Wine Tasting
Now that you’ve got a taste of the Gerês, you’ll start exploring more. You have a choice of two hikes as shown below. You’ll hike along ancient tracks that have been used for centuries by the villagers connecting the fortified mountain villages.
You’ll hike across a unique landscape that looks a little chaotic with its blocks of rough and austere granite and huge boulders, making the perfect spot to enjoy your picnic lunch. As you come across historical architectural ruins and shepherds tending their flocks, it’s easy to imagine that you’ve been teleported back to the Middle Ages.
Your efforts will be rewarded back in Castro Laboreiro with a smoked ham and alvarinho wine tasting, a type of white wine grape grown in Galicia and Northwest Portugal.
Short Hike Details: 10.5 km, 364 m ascent
Long Hike Details: 17.3 km, 477 m ascent
Day 3: Hike from Castro Laboreiro to Peneda – Watch for the Garranos (Wild Horses)
Today you’ll hike across the mountain that separates Castro Laboreiro from the former civil parish of Lamas de Mouro (population: 148). You’ll get breathtaking views over both these villages. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy your picnic lunch. Observe how the Peneda River winds its way through the trees and around the lima-covered fields, a form of cultivating the pastures typical of the higher mountain ridges. You’ll also come across free-ranging Cachena cows.
The downhill trail follows the Peneda River Valley, past small ponds of pure mountain water that invite you to refresh yourself when hiking on a hot summer’s day. You may also come across herds of Garranos, a local mountain breed of wild horses that roam freely.
You’ll arrive in the small village of Peneda, where you’ll spend the night. It’s picturesquely nestled between high peaks, surrounded by magnificent scenery. A highlight is the Senhora da Peneda Sanctuary an impressive neoclassic and baroque religious sanctuary for pilgrims. Your hotel is located in the centre of this small village where you’ll enjoy an enchanted evening.
Short Hike Details: 8.5 km, 121 m ascent, + a transfer.
Long Hike Details: 14.7 km, 335 m ascent.
Day 4: Hike from Peneda to Meadinha Hill to Lake Meadinha to Peneda
Today you’ll hike up to the top of Meadinha Hill. Here your efforts will be rewarded with a superb view of a variety of landscapes ranging from mountains to forests.
You’ll hike along an ancient trail used by pilgrims to Our Lady of Peneda Sanctuary, following the narrow road used by the Barrosã (cows) for pulling carts or take one of the many paths that lead across the massive granite mountain to the famous Lagoa de Meadinha where you’ll find a huge boulder in the middle of the lake. According to ancient legend, any woman who manages to place a stone on the top of the bolder will soon marry. Will you try your luck as many women do?
Your hike finishes on a downhill scenic trail through the green mountains back to the village of Peneda.
Hike Details: 10.1 km, 545 m ascent (one option for today).
Day 5: Hike From Peneda to the Village of Soajo
You’ll begin your hike by going down the majestic steps of the Our Lady of Peneda Sanctuary and continue on the stone paths along the river. You’ll pass through small villages with rustic stone houses with friendly locals, then begin your ascent to Tibo and to the breath-taking panoramic landscape from the Miradouro da Gavieira vantage point of the Peneda Mountains which is the perfect spot to enjoy your picnic lunch.
Then you’ll continue on following the river as it weaves its way down through local farmers’ green fields. You’ll continue towards Soajo, a rustic village in a unique and captivating setting. Stroll along its narrow streets up to the enormous granite surface on which numerous stone maize stores are built and are still in use today to store and protect the corn cobs. The shorter route includes a transfer.
Short Hike Details: 8.9 km, 374 m ascent.
Long Hike Details: 15.5 km, 544 m ascent.
Day 6: Hike from Soajo Along the Ancient Paths of Bread & Paths of Faith
Today you’ll be hiking on the ancient Paths of Bread & Paths of Faith. For hundreds of years, religious pilgrims would walk along these trails to fulfil promises and acts of faith.
The villagers would walk these paths with wooden carts pulled by pairs of cows. First on their way to fertilize and work their maize fields, and later to transport the corn to the watermills. From there they’d take the flour to the communal wood ovens to bake the traditional cornbread.
This bread is protected by Slow Food and is rated by CNN as one of the best breads in the world. You’ll return to Soaja after your hike for a visit to the beehives to taste some of Gerês famous honey, and do a visit and tasting at aVinho Verde winery.
Hike Details: 7.3 km, 265 m ascent (one option for today).
Day 7: Arcos de Valdevez – Heritage, history, wine and culinary delights
We’ll pick you up and transfer you to the picturesque town of Ponte da Barca where you’ll start the last stage of your journey. Located in the heart of a flourishing green region along the banks of the Lima River, you’ll find charming stone and whitewashed houses and an elegant medieval bridge. Ponte de Barca is famous for the Vinho Verde wine produced in the surrounding vineyards. Stroll along its streets and beautiful riverside, following the Vez greenway through green fields and small farms.
You’ll hike beside the calm waters of the Vez River, replete with flora and fauna, as you make your way to the town of Arcos de Valdevez, your last stop. Here, you’ll find elegant houses, town squares and a charming historic centre. It’s a great place to indulge in a variety of regional culinary specialties: tasty soups, salads, meat dishes and sausages and wine. And of course, the famous Charutos dos Arcos dessert, one of the 7 Wonders of Portuguese Sweets. That’s why we’ve arranged a Vinho Verde wine and local specialties tasting for you.
Hike Details: 5.4 km, 38 m ascent (one option for today).
Day 8: Departure
You’ve now completed your hiking tour of Peneda-Gerês National Park and experienced local culture and cuisine. After breakfast, we’ll transfer you back to Porto Airport.
The closest airport is Porto. We offer a free transfer to the village of Castro Laboreiro where your tour starts (~ 2 hour drive) at 3:00 pm every Sunday. Many of our clients arrive in Porto beforehand and spend a day or two exploring there and then meet us at the airport for the free transfer.
If you arrive on another day/time we can also arrange a transfer for you at an additional fee.
You’ll stay in local family-run standard accommodation of 3-star or equivalent. Here is a sample of one accommodation that we frequently use. Note: exact accommodation depends on availability.
€899 per person based on double accommodation.
25% is due when you book. Your remaining balance is due 30 days in advance. If you cancel 31 days in advance you’ll be charged €75 per person. Refunds aren’t available if you cancel 30 days or less in advance.
✔ Accommodation, 7 nights in a double standard room, with 6 breakfasts included
✔Wine and Speciality Tastings:
- Day 2 – Smoked ham and alvarinho wine tasting in Castro Laboreiro
Day 6 – Visit to a small wine and beehive producer with wine and honey tasting in Soajo
Day 7 – Vinho Verde wine and local products tasting in Arcos de Valdevez
✔ 6 light picnic lunches for when you’re hiking.
✔ Luggage transfer between accommodations
✔ Shared Porto airport transfers to the starting point of the tour and from the ending point of the tour to the airport, in a car, van or minibus (for Sunday 3:00 pm arrivals)
✔ Shared mid-tour transfers: (Day 3) Castro Laboreiro – Lamas de Mouro; (Day 5) Peneda – Tibo; (Day 7) Soajo – Ponte da Barca.
✔ Login access to the app where the route is published in digital support, including a map, points of interest and route details (note, you must download it beforehand to your smartphone, using it online/offline to guide yourself during your tour.
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED
- Transfer to/from the airport on any departure day/time besides Sundays. at 3:00 pm
- Personal expenses
- Travel and trip cancellation insurance that includes pandemic and repatriation insurance. World Nomads insurance covers both of these which is why we recommend it.
- Anything else not mentioned
BOOK YOUR HIKING PENEDA – GERÊS NATIONAL PARK SELF-GUIDED TOUR NOW
Thank you for your interest in booking this tour. You’ve made a good choice. Our Peneda – Gerês National Park Self-Guided Tour is absolutely stunning and you can reward yourselves after hiking with delicious meals and superb local wine.
Please contact us to book this tour. Let us know what date you’d like to start, how many people and we’ll start the booking process.
+ YOU’LL GET THE FOLLOWING BONUSES WHEN YOU BOOK:
✔ BONUS 1:Trekking Tips Online Course (value $97)
so that you get the most from your amazing trek
✔ BONUS 2: Hiking & Trekking Gear Online Course (value $47)
so that you bring everything you need and nothing you don’t
✔ BONUS 3: Soft Copy of our Hiking Logbook (value $9)
so that you can remember your incredible hiking trip in Portugal.