Top 5 Natural Parks in Portugal

Author: Shortwalkme
Freshly baked in: May 1, 2020
Although Portugal is not known for its mountains (Being the highest 1993 meters in the mainland), you will be surprised though, by the diversity of nature in this country.
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National Park Peneda-Gerês

Created in 1971, considered by UNESCO as a World Biosphere Reserve, it’s one of the biggest natural attractions in Portugal. The park is located in the north-west region between Minho and Trás-os-Montes with a total area of around 70.000 acres

What characterizes mostly this park is the vast fauna and flora that “lives” in it, we are surrounded by Pine trees, Oaks, you can hear the waterfalls calling with their crystalline water, it is said that in the wildest areas you can find wild boars, wolfs, deer, wild ponies as other less common animals, since this area has helped a lot to preserve both fauna and flora.

For a bit of history, In this park you can find villages from the 12th Century, these are recognized by their granite stones that characterized the mountain lifestyle at that time and little have changed.

Where to Land: PORTO

Top 5 Natural Parks in Portugal 1 Portugal, Travel & Destinations

View from one of high points in Peneda-Gerês |© Rogério Moreira | Unsplash

Things to See & Do

This Park is very searched by hikers to fully enjoy the landscapes, the beatiful highland sceneries and the waterfalls, the water is so crystal clear that even in the winter it makes you wanna jump right into it.

For the more devoted ones, In the park also is possible to find two pilgrim centres “Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Peneda” and “Santuário de São Bento da Porta Aberta”, which are places of popular devotion.

In Village “Pitões das Júnias”, you can enjoy a waterfall with a small trail of around 600 metres. If you here during the summer, we then advise to head out to “Cascata de Tahiti”, this is where you will enjoy cinematic beauty, you can bathe and have a nap by the towel tanning yourself.

For some historical purposes, we recommend visiting “Lindoso”, a farmers and shepherd’s, you can see a small Castle dated from 1728 and the “Espigueiros”, these are small granite storage houses, used to store and dry the corn.

You can pop by then by Vilarinho das Furnas, where you find on the way a viewpoint “Miradouro da Ermida” and have a snack while enjoying the view, an old mill and small village “Brufe”.

Near Vilarinho, you can enjoy some unique experiences in the park, from Horse riding, Bike Trails, All-terrain excursions as well other activities.

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View from one of the waterfalls |© Josélomba | Wikipedia

Parque Natural Sintra Cascais

Created in 1994, this Natural Park is located in the district of Lisbon, distributed with Sintra and Cascais with an area of around 15.000 acres sheltering 200 vertebrate species, 33 mammal species as well many others.  Throughout this park it is abundant the effects of human presence since the Paleolitic. It was greatly influenced by Visigoths.

Where to Land: LISBON

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Viewpoint of Sintra, when you can see the "Vila Place" | ©Maik Selbmann | Unsplash

Things to See & Do

This park is perfect for all of those that live near Lisbon, Cascais, Sintra, or for the ones visiting Lisbon. It is the perfect place to escape the city and get lost in wonderful forest sceneries but also to Walk the mountain marked trails, through cliffs enjoying the ocean view and the salty fresh water breeze.

Next to it you can find Guincho, which is a very known area not only for its natural geological coastal lapiás but also the beach that has excellent conditions for the practice of surf and windsurf. Tip, if you are coming from Lisbon, make sure you take the “Marginal” road, it will give a nice view following the coastline and gorgeous view when arriving.

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Viewpoint of Sintra Cliffs to the Atlantic ocean | © Ruth Enyedi | Unsplash

Enjoy the traditional & local cuisine

The region is most known for the production of fruit and wine. On the north part of the mountain you can find productions of 4 typical fruits of the region, “Maça-Reineta de Colares” (Pippin Apple), “Pêssego-Rosa” (Pink Peach), “Limão-de-casca-grossa” (Thick-skinned-lemon) and “Pêra-Pérola” (Pearl Pear) and last but not least the internation “Vinho de Colares” (Wine from Colares).

If you head out to Sintra, you can enjoy the delicious sweet pastry, “Travesseiros” (Pillows) and “Pastel de Feijão” (Bean Tarts) as well other sweet pastry, and don’t forget to push it down with a nice creamy portuguese espresso.

Parque Natural da Arrábida

This Natural Park is located in the district of Lisbon, adjacent to the Arrábida mountain and maritime area, it occupies an area of 17.000 acres which 5.000 acres are maritime area.

This park is characterized by  its rocky limestone foundation mixed with 3 floral elements that compose the vegetation. On the north side a more dark, fresh and moist area from the Euro Atlantic, on the south more Mediterranean, more light, dry and sun and in the maritime the macaronesian.

Once arriving, you can feel the “Tropical” feeling, the greenery of the mountain, the white sand beaches followed by a crystal clear water, makes these place a summer dream destination for relaxation.

Where to Land: LISBON

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View from one of high points in Peneda-Gerês |© Rogério Moreira | Unsplash

Things to See & Do

This Natural Park is perfect if you are visiting Lisbon during Summer or Spring, or even if you just landed in Lisbon and going South, it is definitely worth to stop by. Great for hiking, for viewpoints and also to enjoy by the beach, whether summer or just a perfect sunny day.

You can take a tour through the natural park, visit one of the most known wineries around and experiment some degustation. Take a bout tour and observe the Dolphins. During the summer you can go for a Snorkeling adventure through the blue crystal clear waters.

Enjoy the traditional & local cuisine

This area has plenty of fish and Seafood to offer, although Portugal is know to eat a lot of fish in varied recipes, this area contains very special and traditional dishes.

If you head out to Sesimbra, you can enjoy several local fish dishes such as “Grilled fish in charcoal” (Goes amazing with a Tomato, lettuce, onion salad), Octopus rice, Fried black scabbard fish fillets, Stewed scabbard fish with peas.

In Portugal we do have a sweet tooth, so you can try amongst many others, the “Broas de Alfarim”, “Farinha Torrada” and “Tamarinas”.

Also near is Setúbal, very know for its “Choco frito” (Fried Cuttlefish/Sepia), “Salmonete Grelhado” (Grilled Striped red mullet fish) or just the all portuguese “Grilled Sardines”.

For Dessert we recommend a “Torta de Azeitão” (Azeitão Tart) with, you guessed it right, Portuguese espresso, or another round of wine, we won’t tell anyone.

Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina

The Vicentin Coast is very known for incredible beaches all the way down the coast entering Algarve all the way down to Sagres, located between Lisbon and Algarve, it occupies a total area of almost 90.000 acres of which around 29.000 are maritime area.

The park is comprised by beautiful beaches, Cliffs, islets (There is a nice one called “Ilha do Pessegueiro”, it is only inhabited by birds, but a boat can take you on a tour), which differs a bit more from the other parks, bringing more beauty from a coastal perspective of sandy beaches, Beautiful viewpoints in cliffs, cliffhangers and bushes instead of deep forestation, bringing a unique beauty to this park.

Where to Land: FARO, LISBON

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View from one of high points in Peneda-Gerês |© Rogério Moreira | Unsplash

Things to See & Do

The Park itself offers several bird species, such rare fishing eagles can be seen here often, being a unique species locate here, the white stork.

Another wonderful rare animal,  is the Sea Otter, this is one of the last places in Europe when you can observe them in a marine habitat.

In this park you can take countless trails that make up to 750km, so you can expect to come here the next day and enjoy a different trail admiring the wild flowers and sunny blue sky.

If you prefer more organized trails, you can choose the Historical Path, Fishermen’s Trail and the Circular Routes that offer from beginner to more advanced hikers.

The “Historical path” with European certificate “Leading Quality Trails – Best of Europe”, starting in Santiago do Cacém ending in Cabo de São Vicente consisting in  rural trails of historical villages and forests, that can be done by foot and/or bycicle.

The Fishermens’s trail goes mainly by the sea, it is done only by foot, it is not for everyone since most of it is done with sand paths, wind from the sea.

Circular routes is for all tastes and for those who just want to hike for some hours enjoying nature and ending up in the starting point.

More Details here.

If you are more on the beach side, there are enumerous beaches where you can surf or just relax by the beach and get tanned

 

Enjoy the traditional & local cuisine

There are so many options and places to choose when it comes to Eat & Drink, fresh fish is a constant, if you are coming from Lisbon, it is worth to do a Food tour, Starting in São Torpes and stopping by “Arte e Sal” with fresh fish from market, we recommend “Migas” (Fried bread and garlic dish), then passing through VIla Nova de Mil Fontes and eat at “Tasca do Celso”, we do recommend cold cuts, red meat and red wine here, the owners can recommend you several wines.

Don’t forget then to pass by Rogil town and stop at bakery “Pão do Rogil” to get some crunchy bread on the outside and fluffy on the inside, from oat bread to sweet potato bread, can you imagine this in the morning, warm with soft butter? You can also enjoy burgers, toasts and sandwiches if still hungry.

Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela

This Park is located in the highest mountain of Portugal (1993 meters). It’s characterized by its plain and polished surfaces, lagoons, glacial valleys due to the Würmian glaciation.
Due to the rigorous climate, its presence is more noticed during the summer by shepherds that use its natural pastures to feed the cattle. It possible to see “Casais”, little houses made of stone and thatched roofs that was used by Shephedrs and Farmers. The lower parts of the park where the plateaus are, is used for the rye farming, foresting and creation of sheep for artisanal cheese purposes in what is considered the oldest and most recognized Portuguese cheese.

Where to Land: PORTO, LISBON

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View from top of the Observatory Serra da Estrela | © Viator

Things to See & Do

On the sightseeing side, this is the only Ski resort that exists in Portugal and where snow is predominant during winter.

For the Hiking enthusiasts, you can walk on the mountain on marked trails, observing the flowering cervunais, take the opportunity to see some birds that are rare in other regions of the country, such as the Sombria (Emberiza hortulana).

We do recommend this area in the Winter or Summer, whether to enjoy the rich gastronomy, the pedestrian trails or enjoy a bit of Ski while visiting the surrounding villages and nature. Definitely the Cheese “Serra da Estrela” followed by a good full bodied red wine is a must on every family table during any time of the year.

Enjoy the traditional & local cuisine

For the gastronomic ones (Everybody right?), this region is where it is produced the most known Portuguese Cheese (A delicious intense sheep cheese, available in creamy or more mature) that blends perfectly with a full bodied red wine and a traditional pork sausage. Also very worth to taste is the Rye bread, the local honey, Lamb meat and traditional sausages.

Cheese "Serra da Estrela" |© Nuno Correia

Watch out for those puppies, they are furry and cute

If you are an animal lover it is possible to see a unique dog breed recognized by its black snout which is named after the Mountain, aren’t they fluffy and you just wanna get one?

Portuguese Dog Breed "Serra da Estrela" |© Wikipedia

Words mean less without pictures, check the photo work of this local to observe the beauty of Serra da Estrela. Click here.

Portugal has many Natural parks and wonders to share, so we will make sure to cover them all and share the beauty.

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