Peneda-Gerês National Park is Portugal’s only National Park, a world biosphere reserve, and truly a sanctuary for nature and wildlife. If you want to experience Portugal’s wild side, Gerês is the place to go. However, there’s much more to Geres than the treks, the waterfalls, the forests, and the beaches. Inside Portugal’s only National Park, there are many small villages and a few bigger ones. Here we will explore the best villages in Geres, explaining why you need to visit them, their main attractions and where to stay in each one.
Best villages in Gerês
Considered one of the most charismatic villages in Portugal, Castro Laboreiro is home to a few fascinating attractions. The ancient castle is the most famous, but the medieval bridges and churches, community ovens, mills, and even their particular dog breed give this village an extraordinary character.
Located in the extreme north of the National Park, in the municipality of Melgaço, it’s quite far to visit and not the most accessible destination when you have little time to travel in Penena Gerês. Nevertheless, it’s one of the best villages in Geres.
Castro Laboreiro is also an excellent place to experience the dishes of local cuisine, particularly the local meat. We suggest the restaurant Miradouro do Castelo. It isn’t the best food you’ll ever eat, but it’s good and with significant portions. The meat, in particular, is juicy and delicious.
Where to stay in Castro Laboreiro?
As it’s so far away from almost everything else, we suggest you spend the night in Castro Laboreiro. The best option in Castro Laboreiro is probably Hotel Castrum Villae. It offers great value for money, with accessible prices and comfortable rooms. Check prices and availability here.
Lindoso is also located very close to the border with Spain, but further south in the municipality of Ponte da Barca. This is a typical village with characteristic granitic houses. Very close to the old village is the Lindoso Dam, it completely changed the landscape creating a huge blue lake. Yet, the most important attractions in Lindoso are the Lindoso Castle and the 50-stone granaries (the espigueiros).
The 13th-century castle was built to protect the Portuguese border and is very well preserved and very fun to visit. It provides excellent views of the granaries and surroundings.
The 17th-century granaries are right next to the castle walls and were used to dry corn and protect it from animals. They are completely made of stone and, as a group, they make a very interesting tourist attraction. It’s also a reminder of life in the community not that much time ago.
Where to stay in Lindoso?
Incredibly there aren’t many options to stay in the village of Lindoso, so we actually suggest you stay in Parada, less than 2 km away. In Parada, you have the beautiful RH Casas de Campo Design, a group of wonderful villas perfect for setting a base in the region of the Park.
Fafião is a tiny village in Cabril, Montalegre. The actual village is nice, but not the most beautiful in Geres. On the other hand, it’s close to a handful of cool attractions and things to do. Despite the small size, the village has two restaurants, though we have never tried them. We tend to have a picnic when visiting this area of Geres.
The village hosts one of our favorite attractions in the Park, Fojo do Lobo. Fojo do Lobo is an ancient trap built to hunt wolves. This construction is a fine example of ingenuity and rural architecture. It’s also worth noting the energy spent to build it. Fojo do Lobo of Fafião has two V-shaped walls, with more than 2 meters high and 64 meters long, completely built with stones and ending on a pit.
In Fafião, there are two beautiful lookouts worth visiting. One is on the top of the village, and you’ll need to hike there, but it’s well worth the effort; the other is right at the entrance and right on the road. Also, very close by, you have both Tahiti and Pincães Waterfalls, which are two of the best waterfalls in Gerês National Park. Finally, you also have the pools, Poço Verde and Poço de Fafião, both great for a dive in the clear waters of Geres.
Where to stay in Fafião?
As far as we know, there’s only one accommodation option in Fafião, Casa da Quelha. This is a wonderful house, with a pool and everything you need. The high rating says it all. Though it’s a big house with three rooms, thus more suitable for a group of friends or family with children than a couple.
Soajo is a village in Arcos de Valdevez municipality, though it’s about 25 minutes drive. Located on the north side of Lima river, fairly close to Lindoso. Similarly to Lindoso, one of the most notable features is the 24 traditional stone granaries ( espigueiros ) used to dry cereals. In Soajo, they are built on the top of a huge boulder, creating a very interesting setting.
The village itself s very rustic and charming, with old traditional houses. On a short walk, you can visit the church, the old mills, the enigmátic 16th-century pillory, and obviously the famous granaries.
Similarly to every other village in Gerês, Soajo also has a few natural attractions close by. Poço Negro and Poço Bento are probably the most popular. They are both small pools of crystal clear water, perfect to refresh ourselves on a hot day.
Where to stay in Soajo?
Soajo has several lodging options, and a few of them are very good. Casas do Cavaleiro Eira is a good option for couples as it has a budget one-room house with a kitchen and everything you may need. It also has a big house for bigger groups and families. Casa de RioBom is another great option for couples. It’s a full house with an equipped kitchen, living room, and an incredibly high rating from travelers.
Pitões das Júnias
Pitões das Júnias is located in the northeastern part of the Park, in the Municipality of Montalegre. This is possibly the least visited area of the Peneda Geres National Park, but it most surely isn’t because of the lack of things to see and do. It’s just further away from Porto, Braga, and the other big cities in Portugal.
Maybe we are a little bit hipsters or just enjoy places with few people, but Pitões de Júnias has a special place in our hearts. This small village has a defined identity, history, and traditions. If this isn’t enough, it’s located in an area of incredible natural beauty, making it simply charming and pleasant to visit. Furthermore, it has two exciting attractions close by, Santa Maria das Junias Monastery and the waterfalls.
The monastery was abandoned in the 19th century after the abolishment of all religious orders in Portugal. With time, most of the monastery went into ruins, and then nature started taking over. Now, it’s a bucolic, even idyllic place where you can relax and enjoy… life! We usually call it the Portuguese Angkor Wat, though they are quite different…
Where to stay in Pitões das Júnias?
Pitões das Júnias has a few lodging options for you, but we have always stayed in the same, Casa do Preto. It is both a restaurant and a hotel. The restaurant serves local meat of superior quality – we recommend you to try the T-bone steak of Barrosã meat. The hotel is simple with a nice family atmosphere, but it has everything you need. Good food, a cozy lodge, and a nice host! What more do you need after a day exploring the region? You can check prices and availability here.
Peneda village is situated in an area of unusual natural beauty in Gaveira, Arcos de Valdevez. The existence of the village is closely related to the Sanctuary and pilgrimage to Nossa Senhora da Peneda. The village itself isn’t as interesting as others in this list, but the pilgrimage, the sanctuary and waterfall behind it, and the surrounding beauty make it a mandatory place to visit in Gerês.
The main pilgrimage to Peneda Sanctuary occurs between the 31st of August and the 8th of September. This is one of the best times to visit the area as you can enjoy the activities and fairs. On the other hand, the massive waterfall behind the sanctuary is usually very small or dry during that time. To see it in its full glory, one needs to go there in winter.
When visiting Peneda, don’t forget to stop at Tibo Lookout. It’s one of the best lookouts in Gerês and offers amazing views of the valley, and you can see the sanctuary on the horizon.
Where to stay in Peneda?
Our favorite place to stay in Peneda is located just outside the village and less than 2 km from the Sanctuary. Casas da Peneda is a wonderful place with the Peneda river beside it. It’s perfect for anyone looking for peace and relaxation. It has two houses, a one-bedroom and another with two, so it’s a good option for small groups, families, or couples.
Vilarinho das Furnas
Vilarinho das Furnas was a community village in the municipality of Terras do Bouro in Peneda-Gerês National Park. It was considered the biggest and one of the most traditional villages in Geres. Still, it was abandoned and flooded after the construction of the Vilarinho das Furnas Dam in the Homem river. The new dam created a huge lake changing completely the scenery and making the historic village disappear.
Nowadays, you can only see the old village during the dry season, when the dam is very low or under maintenance. However, when it’s possible, it’s a fascinating sight, as you can still see the streets, the ruins of the houses, and the walls. Furthermore, if the dam is low enough, you can even go to the village and visit it. The trail to Vilarinho das Furnas is about 2.5km (5 km return), but it’s mostly flat and easy to do.
Where to stay in Vilarinho das Furnas?
Well, you obviously can’t stay in Vilarinho das Furnas, but the best option is to stay in Campo Gerês, about 3 km from the Dam. Campo Gerês has a huge youth hostel, so it can be a good budget option. If you want a more comfortable option, we suggest Casa da Fonte, which has lodging options for couples, families, and small groups.
Honorable mention – Sistelo
Sistelo village is mentioned many times in the lists of best and most traditional villages in Geres National Park. However, we can’t include it here as it isn’t inside the Peneda Gerês National park. It’s close, but it’s outside the park’s perimeter.
Nevertheless, you should go to Sistelo, there’s a reason it’s considered one of the most beautiful villages in Portugal and Portuguese Tibet. Both the village and surroundings are as beautiful as you’ll find anywhere in Portugal and the world. We strongly recommend you to go to Sistelo and hike Ecovia do Vez.
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