Hiking in Peneda-Gerês National Park was high on my list of things to do in Portugal. Even though I only had less than two days to explore the park, I discovered an area of stunning natural beauty and managed to fit in a couple of hikes as well as explore a pretty town of Gerês. My first hike, known as PR3, was a great introduction to Peneda-Gerês National Park.
About Peneda-Gerês National Park
Despite Portugal’s many beautiful vistas, Peneda-Gerês, also known as Gerês, is the country’s only national park. It was designated in 1971 with the aim to preserve the landscape, flora and fauna of the area. Located in the northwest of the country, the park hugs the border with Spain (at one point I was only 12km from the border!). Its relatively out-of-the-way location makes it less touristy than many other parts of Portugal. The main town in the area is Caldas do Gerês (referred to simply as Gerês) where many visitors base themselves. It has quite a few accommodation options, cafes and restaurants, supermarkets and a helpful turismo (tourist office) with English speaking staff. You can get recommendations and hiking maps (€0.10 each) here before doing your hike.
PR3 – Trilho dos Currais (10km loop, 4-5 hours), Peneda-Gerês National Park
After arriving in Gerês late morning, I decided to tackle the PR3 hike that afternoon. While I don’t usually recommend hiking in the midday heat, I had limited time and wanted to make the most of the great weather. I picked up a map and followed directions from the tourist office, heading out of Gerês along the N308-1. I expected to see a sign for the trail closer to the town but after around 10 minutes I reached a small village of Vidoeiro. Just as the road took a sharp turn to the right, I finally saw the trailhead in a small clearing by the side of the road.
I followed the path and after crossing the road again, finally saw a more detailed sign next to a set of steps. The trail’s official name is Trilho dos Currais (Trail of the Corrals) is a 10km loop trail taking around 4-5 hours to complete. Armed with a big bottle of water and some pastries I picked up in a bakery, I started the hike.
The path climbed past houses and through pine forest, narrow and rocky to start off with. Soon enough, it levelled out and joined a track wide enough for cattle to use as hinted by the piles of fresh dung along the way. Needles and pine cones covered the trail while the midday sun tried to break through the trees
The trail was signposted using yellow and red markers on trees and rocks, using simple symbols to show the way. They were easy to follow but required me to keep an eye on my surroundings even more than usual so as not to miss a turn-off. The trail felt well maintained and I made quick progress, even in the heat.
Soon, I came out at a large clearing with fine 360 degree views of the forest and surrounding mountains. It also felt like the highest point of the hike (I didn’t climb any higher after this part). I had some food and water and enjoyed the sights and sounds around me – low clouds drifting lazily past, bees hurrying from flower to flower and geckos catching the sun’s rays on the rock-strewn plateau.
After taking in the serenity of it all, I continued on. I passed a small cottage built into a side of a rock, used by cattle herders in the summer but now standing abandoned underneath a tree straight out of a fantasy book.
The landscape was more open than during the ascent and I started seeing more of the rock formations that this part of the park is famous for. Nestled among the scenery, small rocks became boulders and before long I was walking past huge granite formations rising on either side of the path like stone guardians. Some balanced perilously on top of others while some offered natural viewing platforms for observing the area dotted with rocks of all shapes and sizes.
After a while, the unpaved trail ended and I saw signs for a miradouro (viewpoint). I followed the sign to find an area with a few picnic tables and access to a couple of platforms looking out over the valley below. Mountains rose up all around, covered in a green carpet while villages clung to the lower slopes. The waters of the Cavado River (not a lake like I first thought) glistened in the sunlight, slicing the way through the valley. Miradouro da Pedra Bela has an altitude of 829 metres.
After taking in the amazing views and having some cereal bars, I followed the path which now descended down the mountainside. The trail crossed the road linking the viewpoint with Gerês a number of times as it zigzagged down into the valley. A couple of horses blissfully grazed on the side.
This is where the path became really steep and rocky and I almost slipped a couple of times. Taking care on this final stretch is important! Eventually I came out by a house and a paved road which which I followed, overlooking the town of Gerês below. I walked past houses, the inhabitants busy with their afternoon chores and even spotted a snake on the side of the road. Eventually I found myself at the clearing where I started the hike. I was pretty pleased that I was able to tick off a great hike after planning my Gerês trip for so long!
Hiking in Peneda-Gerês National Park the Travel Lexx Way
Ok so the timing of the hike definitely wasn’t the Travel Lexx Way. I wouldn’t normally start hiking at 1pm and in 30 degree heat! However, as I only had little more than 24 hours in Peneda-Gerês, I couldn’t afford to waste time!
There are numerous trails in Peneda-Gerês National Park. PR3/Trilho dos Currais (10km loop, 3-4 hours) is the easiest trail to access without a car from Gerês. Being a loop, it starts and ends in the same spot in a small village of Vidoeiro, just outside Gerês. The route is well-signposted. It starts with moderate climbs for the first few kilometres before levelling out and going downhill for the rest of the hike.
I completed the hike in 3 hrs 20 minutes.
Top Tips for Hiking in Peneda-Gerês National Park
#1 Bring plenty of water and snacks – there are supermarkets and bakeries in town where you can grab food but most of them don’t open until 8-9 am so do your shopping the night before if you are planning to…
#2…Start Early. PR3 is not the toughest hike but I recommend doing it early in the morning as there is a chance to spot wildlife and also not be at the mercy of the sun for the open sections later in the hike. The temperatures in the park were a few degrees higher than Porto, only a couple hours away!
#3 Take bug spray with you. I was followed by flies for the first part of the hike which was pretty annoying
#4 Keep an eye on the yellow and red markers. They do a good job in pointing visitors in the right direction but it’s possible to take a wrong turn if you are not paying attention. Make sure to pick up a map of the hike at the tourist office or find it here.
#5 Don’t go off-trail. I have spotted two snakes in my 24 hours in the park and that was in built up areas!
Peneda-Gerês National Park Trip Details
What: Peneda-Gerês National Park is a national park in Northern Portugal. It’s the only national park in the country. As well as hiking, visitors can mountain bike, swim in waterfalls and explore in 4×4 vehicles. Trilho dos Currais is a trail which starts just outside Gerês.
Where: The town of Gerês in Peneda-Gerês National Park is about 45km from Braga, close to the border with Spain. It’s accessible by car or public bus. Buses to Gerês are operated by Empresa Hoteleira Do Geres and run from Braga’s bus station which is about 5-10 minutes walk from the city centre. The bus doesn’t have a number but has GERÊS written on the front and leaves from Bay 18. You can buy tickets from the driver (€4.35 one way). The journey to Gerês takes around 1.5 hours and Gerês is the last stop so you don’t need to worry about getting lost. Here is the timetable of the Braga-Gerês route. It’s in Portuguese but it’s pretty easy to figure out.
Getting There: The trailhead of Trilho dos Currais (10km loop, 3-4 hours) near a small village called Vidoeiro and can be reached by walking north out of Gerês along the N308-1. After about 10-15 minutes’ walk you will see some swimming pools to the left. Keep going past them and a small cafe and follow the road when it turns sharply to the right. You should see the clearing with a sign for the trail ahead on your left.
Accommodation: I stayed at the Hostel Gerês in Calda do Gerês – which has small but comfortable dorms, free breakfast and helps arrange activities. Oh and cute cats! Prices from €15. However there are plenty of other hotels and guesthouses in the town.
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