Peneda-Gerês National Park Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês
The Peneda-Gerês National Park extends along the Spanish frontier from the Castro Laboreiro plateau by way of the Peneda, Soajo, Amarela and Gerês mountains to the Mourela plateau in the south. Large areas within the park boundaries, which were officially defined in 1971, are protected nature reserves. The park can be explored by car, and also has several good walks. Accommodation is limited: there are a few pensions in the spa town of Gerês. Detailed information about the national park can be obtained from the visitors centers in Arcos de Valdevez, Gerês and Montalegre.
Real Area: 50,000 hectares/193sq.mi
The park includes expanses of completely unspoiled country with magnificent forest and mountain scenery and beautiful artificial lakes. The highest peaks are in the Serra do Gerês, which rises within Portuguese territory to 1,545m/5,069ft in the Nevosa and 1,538m/5,046ft in the Altar de Cabroes.
The very varied pattern of relief gives rise to widely different micro climates, and in consequence the plant life of the park shows unusual variety. Moreover, the remoteness of this region has protected many endemic species from destruction by man, so that plants are found here which have disappeared from the rest of Europe. In addition to great tracts of coniferous forest there are stands of centuriesold oaks (particularly at Pincaes and Sao Lourenço), corkoaks (at Ermida), eucalyptus, and expanses of rocky country covered with heather.
The wildlife includes deer, wild boar, hares, partridges, wild horses, lizards, snakes and even wolves and golden eagles.
The many archeological sites show that the Peneda-Gerês National Park area was one of ancient human settlement. The dolmens (megalithic chamber tombs) of Mezio, Paradela, Cambezes, Pitoes and Tourém date from the third millennium B.C. PreRoman, presumably Celtic, castros (camps) have been excavated at Pitoes, Tourém and Cidadelhe, and there are believed to be still more prehistoric settlements as yet undiscovered. Today some 15,000 people inhabit over 100 villages in the park.