Come to Portugal and enjoy a hiking holiday within the Peneda Geres National Park. Located in northeast Portugal, the Peneda-Gerês, the only Portuguese protected region classified as a National Park, is a proud member of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves. Its a majestic mountainous region covering an area greater than 70,000 hectares, the Peneda-Gerês is one of Europe’s greatest natural attractions due to its rare and spectacular landscapes, areas of ecological and ethnographic interest and the variety of its native flora and fauna. The Peneda-Gerês fauna includes Iberian ibex, deer, wild horses, wolves and birds of prey. Boasting some of the richest flora in Portugal, there are pine trees, yews, chestnuts and oaks, as well as a variety of medicinal plants.
The mountain villages of Castro Laboreiro, Peneda and Soajo are enchanting, mysterious places, where time appears to have stopped still amid the typical rustic architecture and ancestral traditions of their population. The local cuisine is a revelation of unique flavours and traditions. Experience the life of the local inhabitants as you discover the incredible granite maize stores that are still used today, visit the beehives that produce the famous pure Gerês honey, see how local ceramics are handcrafted and enjoy a glass of Vinho Verde wine and a slice of local corn bread. As you walk along the trails through the Park, keep your eyes wide open as it is not unusual to come across herds of wild horses, groups of unique Cachena cows, a local breed of cattle that roam free in the mountains, and Castro Laboreiro dogs watching over flocks of sheep in the brandas and inverneiras.
This itinerary ends in the millennial towns of Ponte da Barca and Arcos de Valdevez, doors to the World Biosphere Reserve, where can walk amongst medieval houses and across bridges where the sound of running water, birds and buzzing blue dragonflies fill the air. All around, spreading Vinho Verde vineyards and lush pastures form an idyllic scenario, the perfect end to your mountain walking holiday.
Castro Laboreiro, Castrum Villae Hotel
A small comfortable hotel, mountain village location with 32 rooms.
Peneda, Peneda Hotel Peneda
A small hotel embraced by the granitic massif of Peneda, mountain village location.
Soajo, Casas de Soajo Guest Houses
A combination of 6 rustic mountain houses, typical architecture, central small village location.
Arcos de Valdevez, Ribeira Collection Hotel
A charming riverside hotel, city centre location, recently refurbished, indoor pool.
It is a requirement of booking this tour with Hooked on Cycling that you have suitable travel insurance which covers you for the chosen activity and for emergency evacuation and hospital care.
Arrive to Porto airport and take your included transfer from to Castro Laboreiro, a village in the North of Portugal inside the Peneda-Gerês National Park. The transfer departs the airport at 3pm. Located at the top of the mountain at a 1,170m, this village boasts a remarkable historic and architectural heritage. A short walk from your hotel will take you on a walk past the buildings of the ancient mountain village, across Roman bridges to the medieval church, the community bread ovens, the maize stores and the water mills. The walk up to the castle is short and invites you to explore the ruins of this ancient fortress in defence of the realm. At the top, take advantage of the spectacular view to take the first of many admirable photographs that you will capture during the week.
On your first day of your walking holiday across the Gerês, your route will take you along mind-blowing ancient tracks that in the past connected the fortified villages of the mountain people. The geological landscape is unique – chaos created by impressive blocks of rough and austere granite, huge boulders rounded by erosion over time. Imagine that you are transported back in time to the Middle Ages, as you note the inverneiras next to low-lying villages in sheltered valleys, where shepherds and their flocks spend the rough winter months, and the brandas, villages at the top of the mountains where men and animals move to during the hot weather. All along the path you will be amazed by historical ruins, the beauty of the forests and the flora and fauna that shelter on the banks of crystalline streams. You may come across a Castro Laboreiro dog, a local native Portuguese breed and one of the most ancient on the Iberian Peninsula. A fearless flock guard with strong protective instincts, these dogs are loyal and docile and devoted to their owners. Suspicious of strangers, they will only bark if they sense something is wrong.
Today’s itinerary is pleasant and relaxing. You walk across the mountain that separates Castro Laboreiro from Lamas de Mouro, from which you will come across stunning views over both these villages. The Peneda River winds its way through the trees and around the lima-covered fields, a form of cultivating the pastures typical of the higher mountain ridges. Here you will come across free-ranging Cachena cows, a breed of cattle native to the Gerês mountains, easily recognized by their elegant lyre-shaped long horns. The downhill trail follows the Peneda River valley, past small ponds of pure mountain water that invite you to refresh yourself on a hot summer’s day. You may also come across herds of Garranos, a local mountain breed of wild horses that roam freely in the region in all seasons. Small sized, chestnut brown in colour, they have bushy manes. Peneda, a small village nestled between the high peaks and surrounded by magnificent scenery, is your final destination. A feature of this village is an impressive neoclassic and baroque religious sanctuary.
The shorter route includes a transfer.
Today you walk up to the top of the Meadinha hill. All your efforts will be rewarded by the superb view. You will be amazed by the variety of landscapes before you, from the mountains to the forests. You will wander along an ancient trail used by pilgrims to Our Lady of Peneda sanctuary, then follow the narrow road used by the carts pulled by Barrosã bullocks, or take one of the many paths that meander across the massive granite mountain. The hike to the famous Lagoa de Meadinha bolder, lying sleepily in the middle of a crystal-clear lake, is amazing. According to an ancient legend, any woman who manages to place a stone on the top of the bolder will soon marry! Many women still try their luck today. Downhill, the scenic trail through the green mountains takes you back to the village of Peneda.
You begin your day by going down the majestic steps from the sanctuary and continuing on the stone paths along the riverside. Passing through small villages of rustic stone houses where the local inhabitants are always happy to lend a hand to passing visitors who wish to hike uphill to Tibo and the spectacular, breath-taking panoramic landscape at the Miradouro da Gavieira vantage point. Stop awhile and enjoy the view over the impressive Peneda Mountain Range, the village where shepherds and their flocks spend the winter months. Now continue towards Soajo, a rustic village in a unique and captivating setting. Stroll along its narrow streets lined with typical houses, up to the enormous granite surface on which numerous stone maize stores are built and are still in use today to store and protect the corn cobs.
The shorter route includes a transfer.
Today’s itinerary takes you along trails, so-called the Paths of Bread, Paths of Faith. In older times, deeply religious pilgrims would walk along these trails to fulfil promises and acts of faith. The inhabitants of the village would travel these paths with wooden carts pulled by pairs of cows, first on their way to fertilize and work their maize fields, later to transport the grains of corn to the water mills from which they would take the flour to the communal wood ovens where they baked the traditional corn bread. In an authentic school-village we suggest a tour of the beehives and the producer of the famous Gerês honey, a visit and tasting of the local Vinho Verde wine and a stop at a local ceramics workshop.
At the beginning of the day, you have a transfer to Ponte da Barca where you will start the last walk. Located in the heart of a flourishing green region along the banks of the Lima River, Ponte da Barca is a picturesque town with a charming stone and whitewashed houses and an elegant medieval bridge. It is famous for the fresh Vinho Verde wine that is produced in the surrounding vineyards. Stroll along its streets and beautiful riverside, follow the Vez greenway through green fields and small farms. The calm waters of the Vez River, replete with flora and fauna, will accompany you all the way to Arcos de Valdevez. In this lovely town with its elegant houses and squares and a charming historic centre, you will delight in discovering a range of regional culinary specialities: tasty soups, salads, meat dishes and sausages, wine and the famous Charutos dos Arcos dessert, one of the 7 Wonders of Portuguese Sweets.
Transfer back to Porto Airport leaving your hotel at 10am.
Fly into Porto airport where a transfer is included to your first accommodation. At the end of your tour, a transfer back to Porto airport is included.