The Albergaria forest trail is in the Peneda Gerês National Park – a circular trail with only about 5 km that starts and finishes at Portela do Homem (on the border with Spain).
Despite walking through one of the most beautiful parts of the National Park, crossing two beautiful waterfalls with lakes and the Albergaria Forrest, this trail is still little hiked and sometimes even forgotten among nature lovers.
As it is quite a small trail and without technical areas, it can be done by almost everyone. Since it’s circular, you don’t have to worry too much about getting there and back. However, this trail is not signposted, so you need to be careful not to get lost.
So, suppose you are looking for a walk in a beautiful area (in our opinion one of the most beautiful places in Portugal), with waterfalls, lagoons to dive in, several bridges and an enchanted forest. In that case, this is one of the best options.
Lagoons of the Albergaria Forest – general information
- Name: Trail of the Albergaria Forest lagoons
- Home: Portela do Homem
- End: Portela do Homem
- Distance: 4.5 km
- Time required – 1h30 to 2 hours
- Physical effort – Very easy
- Technical difficulty – Very easy
- Max/min altitude: NA
- Altitude gain: NA
- Type – Circular
- Signaling (1-5) – unmarked trail
- Highlights: Bridges, Mata de Albergaria, Lagoons, Waterfall of Portela do Homem, Geira
- There is no pamphlet for this walk, it isn’t an official trail
Our experience hiking the Mata da Albergaria trail
The Mata de Albergaria trail starts in Portela do Homem, close to the border with Spain. As this is a circular trail, we could start the trail anywhere, but Portela do Homem is the only place on the trail where we can park.
Despite being a well-known trail, this is not an official trail and therefore is not marked. So here we will describe the route indicating the main points of reference and where we have to turn. Fortunately, there are few of them, and the trail is very easy to follow. In any case, we suggest you take a GPS in case you get lost or make a mistake on the route.
Portela do Homem has a relatively large car park, so you shouldn’t have any problems parking unless it’s high season. At this time, this area of Gerês usually becomes very crowded.
Starting the trail, we must choose whether to take the road (clockwise) or the forest (counterclockwise). Since we are talking about a circular trail, it doesn’t make much difference as you will have to return on the opposite side. We decided to start by the road and go back through the woods, and that’s how we will describe it here.
The first 2 to 2.5 km of the trail (about half of it) are along the N308-1 road, exactly the road that takes us to Portela do Homem. In summer, access is restricted, and stops are not allowed along the way, but it is also the busiest time of year.
It’s a little strange to walk a trail along a national road, but Mata de Albergaria is a special place, and this small section of the road is one of the most beautiful in Portugal. Pay close attention to traffic.
After about 500 meters, we arrive at the bridge over the river Homem, and from here, we can see one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Gerês – S. Miguel waterfall, also known as Portela do Homem waterfall. It is a small waterfall but extremely beautiful, especially due to the turquoise and crystalline waters of the lagoon.
You can stop for photos or go to the waterfall for a swim. The water is cold, but it’s worth it.
After appreciating and enjoying this waterfall, we must walk about 2 km along the road until we reach Casa da Albergaria. Although you are walking on the road, the setting is beautiful, and if you visit outside the high season and on weekends, it is possible that only 4 or 5 cars pass by you.
Arriving at Casa da Albergaria, turn right onto a dirt and rocks path down to the river. Note that the rocks slip a bit here, but nothing that paying attention won’t solve. We must follow this path for a few hundred meters until we reach the Homem River.
When we reach the Homem River, we have a bridge from where you can see the Lagoons and waterfalls of Mata de Albergaria. If you cross the bridge, the access to the water is easier. There are also many large boulders where you can lie down to sunbathe and rest.
If it’s hot, take the opportunity to go to the water. Although less known and much less popular than the waterfall we saw earlier, this waterfall is just as beautiful. As it is almost certain to be a lot fewer people, we suggest going for the water here.
To continue our route, we have to return a few meters and turn left (when coming from the bridge). This new path we will take is the Geira, the famous Roman road that connected Braga (Bracara Augusta) to Astorga, Spain.
If you go in the opposite direction, you can walk another 500 meters until you reach a road leading to the reservoir of the Vilarinho dam). This small detour is also beautiful, as it follows the river through a heavily forested area.
But continuing our trail, we turn towards the source of the Homem River, and we will follow it almost always until we return to the starting point. This entire area of Mata da Albergaria is densely forested, so the trail is almost always done in the shade.
We will cross several bridges and the river several times, including the well-known S. Miguel bridge, the last and largest on this route. We also pass several ancient landmarks of Geira, the reminder that although currently little traveled, this path is over 2000 years old and was once one of the most important in the Iberian Peninsula.
From the S. Miguel bridge, it’s only another 500 meters through the Albergaria woods, always along Geira. If you enjoy walking in forested areas, this section of Geira is ideal for you. In our opinion, Albergaria is mainland Portugal’s most beautiful forest area.
A final note to indicate that if you do not want to walk along the road, you can easily transform this route into a linear path. Just follow the Geira track from the Portela do Homem car park to the lakes and then return along the same path. However, this way, you won’t see the S. Miguel waterfall.
Best time of year to take this hike
As this is a trail with lots of shadows that takes us to waterfalls and lagoons, Summer or hot days in general should be the best time to do this trek.
However, the trail is also in the restricted access area of the Albergaria Forrest and passes by the extremely popular Portela do Homem waterfall. Consequently, the waterfall area will likely be crowded and the access road will have heavy traffick in summer.
Furthermore a good part of the route is along the road and the traffic ends up spoiling the trail experience. Plus, it can be problematic to park at Portela do Homem.
Our suggestion is to hike this trail outside the high season, especially on weekends. Therefore, we suggest you do this walk in May, June, and September.
When it is colder, it is perfectly possible and pleasant to walk in this region. Still, you will not be able to enjoy 100% of the waterfalls and lagoons, and you are always subject to the unpredictable mountain weather.
Who can take the trail?
This trail is quite easy to follow, so it is accessible to anyone who is used to walk for about 5 km. It has some slopes, but nothing special, or that prevents anyone from doing it.
There are also no technical difficulties. The only thing to remember is having a GPS or a map, as the path is not marked. Note that it is quite easy to follow the route, and we only have 2 or 3 points to be aware of to turn, as mentioned above.
Thus, this is a great trail to do as a family, including children and even elderly people without mobility problems.
What to take?
This route is quite short, and without major difficulties, so you don’t need any specific material. Not even hiking boots, though that helps a little.
Note, however that we are in the heart of the National Park, so there are no cafes or restaurants nearby. The closest establishments are in the village of Gerês.
Still, we suggest you bring the following:
- Water (about 1l per person);
- Snacks (be careful not to litter);
- Comfortable walking shoes;
- Comfortable clothes;
- Rain jacket in winter;
- Swimwear, sunglasses, hat, and sunscreen in summer;
- Camera and cell phone, as there are many opportunities to take beautiful pictures. Cell phones are also to be used as GPS.
- Small backpack to carry all this;
As always, please don’t litter. Bring everything you take with you.
How to get to the trail?
As mentioned above, the trail starts at the Portela do Homem car park, so access is very easy, and we have a free and organized car park.
There is only one road to Portela do Homem, so access is relatively simple. We have to go to Vila do Gerês and continue straight towards Spain. You will pass through the Preguiça Forrest area, where we have another beautiful hike with two waterfalls, enter the conditioned access area (only in summer), cross this area to the end, and there you will find the parking lot.
From Braga to Portela do Homem, it is about 55 km, which takes 1h15 minutes. Don’t worry, the roads are good. From Porto, it’s another 30 minutes on the motorway.
Where to stay when visiting Mata de Albergaria?
The closest accommodation options to Mata de Albergaria and this walk are in Vila do Gerês and Vilar da Veiga, so these are the best places to stay.
If you don’t want to stay in Vila do Gerês or its surroundings, we suggest you read this article, where we explore where to stay in Peneda Gerês National Park, discussing some of the best villages and accommodations in the National Park.
Blue Lagoon Hotel
Located in Vilar da Veiga, the Hotel Lagoa Azul do Gerês is very close to our destination, Mata da Albergaria, but also to the viewpoints of Pedra Bela, Mata da Preguiça and Caniçada.
It is a hotel with excellent views of the Caniçada reservoir and a very pleasant accommodation option at an attractive price. It is an excellent option for families and couples. This hotel has the advantage that the rooms are actually studios with a kitchenette, which can save you even more.
It is a very popular hotel, so it sells out easily—book in advance.
Like the Lagoa Azul, the Adelaide Hotel is excellently located, but in this case, it is right in the center of Vila do Gerês. Which in our opinion can be an advantage as it gives easy access to restaurants, cafes, shops, etc.
It is one of the best options for those visiting Gerês for the first time as it gives easy access to many tourist attractions. It can also serve as a base for trips to more distant park areas.
It is a hotel with quality, comfortable rooms with private bathrooms, TV, AC, and Internet. In summer, there is an outdoor pool which is always a nice bonus. The price-quality ratio is usually excellent.