Hiking the Fisgas do Ermelo Trail – PR3 Mondim de Basto

The Fisgas de Ermelo trail (PR3 – Mondim de Basto) is a circular trail with about 13 km that starts and ends in Ermelo, Mondim de Basto, passing by several viewpoints of the Alvão Natural Park, and whose high point is, Fisgas do Ermelo, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Portugal.

In our opinion this is one of the best trails in Portugal as it presents us with beautiful landscapes, the opportunity to go swim in natural lagoons, and a highlight that is really worth visiting, Fisgas do Ermelo.

Furthermore, it is a trail that introduces us to the typical mountainous landscapes of northern Portugal, taking us through schist paths and traditional villages. Although the area is remote, access is quite good.

So, if you are looking for a beautiful walk with waterfalls and lagoons in the north of Portugal, the Fisgas do Ermelo trail is one of the best options.

PR3 MDB – Fisgas de Ermelo

  • Name: PR3 MDB – Fisgas de Ermelo
  • Start – Ermelo, junto Igreja
  • Finish – Ermelo, junto à Igreja
  • Distance – 12.4 km
  • Time – 4 a 5 horas
  • Physical Difficulty – Moderado
  • Technical Difficulty – Fácil, não tem pontos complicados
  • Máx/min altitude: 320/780 metros
  • Altitude Gain: 735 metros
  • Type – Circular
  • Signs (1-5) – 5, está excelentemente marcado.
  • Highlights: Fisgas de Ermelo, Natural lagoons of Piocas de Cima and Piocas de Baixo, Villages of Ermelo e de Varzigueto
  • Pode fazer download do panfleto da mistura de águas aqui
How to hike to the Fisgas do Ermelo
Fisgas do Ermelo in Mondim de Basto

Our experience on the Fisgas de Ermelo trail

The Fisgas do Ermelo trail officially starts in Ermelo, Mondim de Basto, next to the village’s church. We say officially because, in practice, the trail is circular, and therefore, you can start anywhere with access to it.

Thus, other start/end options could be in the village of Varzigueto or the Fisgas lookout. However, in this article, we will explain the route that starts/ends in Ermelo because that’s what we did.

how to hike the Fisgas de Ermelo trail
Aldeia Ermelo, where we start the Fisgas do Ermelo trail

Starting next to the Church, we have to walk through the village for a few tens of meters before turning left and going down towards the river Olo. The descent to the river is steep, but it is done very quickly.

Arriving at the river, we have a wooden bridge to cross and start a long climb of just over 2.5 km. The area next to the river is quite beautiful, but it is still too early on the route to think about going for a swim.

hiking the Fisgas de Ermelo trail
Bridge over the Olo river on the PR3 Mondim de Basto trail

The next 2.5 km is the most challenging part of the route and takes us from 320 to 720 meters in altitude. In addition to the climb, we have to consider that almost this entire stage of the route is done under the sun. If in winter is enjoyable, in summer it makes everything much harder.

Along these approximately 2.5 km, we pass by several viewpoints from where we can see Fisgas de Ermelo from different angles. But besides the falls, the whole landscape is beautiful, with the mountains, the ancient paths, and the valley of the river Olo. In spring, it is also usual for the mountains to be covered with yellow and lilac flowers.

Everything you need to known about the Fisgas de Ermelo
The climbing part on the Ermelo Fisgas Trail

The second phase of this walk is along the river Olo, and takes us from km 3.5 to 7.5 of the Fisgas do Ermelo trail. Here the route is undulating, without significant ups and downs, but with many points of interest.

Just at km 4.5, we have Piocas de Cima, the beautiful natural lagoons on the river Olo, where you can (and should) swim in summer. They are beautiful natural lagoons, and therefore, it is normal to have a lot of people in the summer.

Piocas de Cima in Fisgas do Ermelo
Piocas de Cima – natural lagoons of Olo River

Continuing the route, we will go to the village of Varzigueto, a small shale village. Here we are already about halfway through the journey, and so it’s a great time to think about resting and recharging your energies. If you don’t want to get too heavy with food and drinks, there’s a snack-bar in the village that serves meals.

In Varzigueto, the trail crosses the Olo river for the second time, and we start the return to the Fisgas do Ermelo area. Up to Km 7.5, the route is undulating and very similar to the previous one, but on the other side of the river.

How to visit the Fisgas do Ermelo
Varzigueto village on the Fisgas do Ermelo trail

Around Km 7.5, we start a long descent, sometimes steep and a bit technical due to the rocks, but nothing too complicated. About a km after the beginning of the descent, we arrive at a road and at the main viewpoint of Fisgas do Ermelo.

From the viewpoint, the view is fabulous, especially when the river has a good flow (winter and spring). This is not a very big river, so in summer and dry periods, the waterfall lose some of their spectacularity.

Make the most of the viewpoint, take pictures, and enjoy the landscape, because from here, we will leave Fisgas de Ermelo behind.

Fisgas de Ermelo trail information - PR MDB
Viewpoint for the Fisgas do Ermelo waterfalls

The descent is practically continuous. We only have a slight climb to reach Fojo, where there is a small chapel, but we quickly go back down until we reach an intersection where the Piocas de Baixo are indicated.

If you want to go there, you must make a detour of about 300 meters. Similarly to Piocas de Cima, these natural lagoons are perfect for bathing, diving, swimming, having a snack, and resting before returning to the trail.

Returning to our trail, we have to continue our descent until around Km 11.5, when we reach the new bridge over the river Olo. We cross the river for the last time and start the last climb.

How to get to the Fisgas do Ermelo
Fisgas do Ermelo Trail in Mondim de Basto

This final part of the route is always uphill and is quite challenging, both because it is pretty steep and because we already have more than 11 km of mountain trails in our legs. But given that it’s relatively short, it’s perfectly doablel. In 10 or 15 minutes, we are back in Ermelo and ready to go back.

This is a typical mountain trail without extensive flat areas. Either we are descending or ascending, which requires a certain physical effort. In total, there are just over 12 km that take between 4 and 5 hours, plus the time to stop to go for a swim and have lunch.

Fortunately, the trail is very well marked and well cared for, so it is unlikely that you will get lost. In addition to the natural beauty and the waterfall, this is another reason why we consider the Fisgas do Ermelo trail one of the best trails in Portugal.

when should I visit the Fisgas de Ermelo - PR3 Mondim de Basto
The final section of the Fisgas do Ermelo trail

Best time of year to hike the Fisgas do Ermelo trail

The best time of year to hike the Fisgas do Ermelo trail depends a lot on what you want from the trail.

If the goal is to see the waterfall in all its splendor, then it’s best to do it in spring or winter, a few days after a heavy rain. At that time, the river will have a high flow, and the waterfall will be imposing. However, it won’t be possible to go to the water in the Piocas. The water and air temperature (especially in winter) do not allow this.

If you want to go swimming in Piocas, then it’s best to go in summer when the temperature is high. However, note that the trail will be very hard in summer due to the absence of shadows on most of the route. Furthermore, this is a very popular area for those who like natural lakes and mountains, so you will probably have a lot of people arround.

In our opinion, the worst time of the year to hike the trail is during the rains or shortly after. The cold and humidity on the ground can make the route a little dangerous, as a good part of the trail has a lot of stone on the ground.

best time of the year to hike the Fisgas do Ermelo Trail
Fisgas do Ermelo waterfalls

Who can hike this trail?

This is a moderate to difficult trail, so it is more advisable for those who are used to long walks and mountain trails. You don’t need to be an athlete, but you should be used to doing some exercise, as the distance and altitude gain are considerable.

It is not possible for people with mobility and flexibility problems, but it is perfectly possible for children who are used to walking.

The trail is very well signposted, so even if you don’t have much experience on trails, you can do it perfectly. In any case, we always advise you to take the trail route on your mobile phone.

Who can hike the PR3 Mondim de Basto - fisgas do Ermelo
Hiking to Fisgas do Ermelo

What to take on a hike to Fisgas do Ermelo?

The Fisgas de Ermelo trail is not especially technical or too long, so no specific material is needed. Furthermore, as there is a small cafe snack-bar in Varzigueto, you can always go there to eat or drink something. We still advise you to bring:

  • Plenty of water (minimum 1l per person in summer);
  • Snacks to eat along the hike;
  • Comfortable walking shoes;
  • Comfortable clothes;
  • Swimwear, sunglasses, hat, and sunscreen in summer;
  • Warm clothing in winter. Don’t forget that in the mountains, the weather changes very quickly;
  • Camera and cell phone, as there are many opportunities to take beautiful pictures. The phone is also to be used as a GPS;
  • Small backpack to carry all this;
Everything you need to hike the Fisgas do Ermelo trail
Viewpoint on the Ermelo Fisgas Trail in Mondim de Bastos

How to get to Fisgas do Ermelo trail?

As we said, you can start the trail at several points, namely in Ermelo, in Miradouro das Fisgas and in Varzigueto. The most common and officially advised way is to start in Ermelo and go counterclockwise – exactly as we did and explained above.

In Ermelo, the trail starts about 20 or 30 meters from the local church, where there is an information panel that makes the beginning of the trail easy to identify. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to park there, but you can always look a little further ahead or back in the village.

Getting to Ermelo is relatively simple, but time-consuming. From Porto, it is about 105 km, which takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes. First on the A4 until exit 20, and then on the N304 towards Mondim. Before reaching Mondim, turn towards Ermelo.

If you come from Braga, you should go to Mondim de Basto, and then take the same N304 and exit for Ermelo. We always prefer to go to Mondim, to have a second breakfast before the trail.

Where to start the Fisgas do Ermelo trail?
Ermelo village where we started the route has some places to park the car

Where to stay when you do the Fisgas do Ermelo trail?

As we said above, access to the trail is about 1 hour and a half from Porto and almost the same time from Braga, so it is possible to go there and back on the same day from most of the Nortern Portugal.

However, if you want to get to know the region and climb Monte Farinha, explore the Alvão Natural Park, go to Viso, and even eat some of the typical dishes of Minho and Northern Portugal, the best thing to do is to stay in Mondim de Basto.

There are some accommodation options in Mondim, but the one we recommend is the Agua Hotels Mondim de Basto. This is an excellent quality hotel with a pool and spa. Prices are very reasonable as it is not in an extremely tourist area.

In our opinion, this is one of the hotels with the best quality/price ratio in the north of Portugal. It is slightly outside Mondim, but close enough to go there for dinner/lunch.

Check prices and availability here!

If you prefer another type of accommodation, see the map below for all available options.


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