Self-guided walking holidays in Peneda-Gerês National Park
Begin your adventure by exploring the delightful riverside town of Ponte de Lima in the heart of Northern Portugal’s Minho region. Explore its renowned gardens, medieval centre and Roman bridge before enjoying traditional Minho cuisine with a glass or two of locally produced vinho verde wine at one of Ponte de Lima’s excellent restaurants.
Once fully briefed and refreshed, your first day of walking will take you uphill from the postcard-worthy terraced plots surrounding the village of Sistelo in the Peneda foothills to a remote summer settlement used by local communities for seasonal grazing and cultivation. You may also encounter the long-horned cows as they wander freely to graze on the surrounding slopes before returning to their barns each evening.
Spend the night in a cosy rural dwelling before continuing your journey to the granite rock face, mountain lake and sanctuary of Peneda where you’ll spend the night in a comfortable hotel converted from the former pilgrim accommodation.
From here, you’ll make your way south to the former stronghold of this remote area to see Lindoso castle and its collection of communal stone granaries and threshing area. Rest and enjoy your cosy village cottage accommodation and a delicious traditional meal in a nearby restaurant.
Another impressive cluster of grain stores awaits you in the village of Soajo, along with ancient granite cottages and a series of stone watermills that were essential for grinding corn and wheat in an isolated self-sufficient community.
Using a charming country house in Soajo as your base for two nights, your final day of hiking encompasses some of the wildest and most spectacular scenery on this tour as well as curiosities like a wolf trap as you walk back to Soajo from the village of Avelar.
Your final day brings you from the wilderness to the fascinating city of Porto where you will have time to explore the UNESCO World Heritage centre, port wine cellars and fantastic restaurants. Spend the night in a comfortable city centre hotel before making your onward journey.
Make your way to the charming riverside town of Ponte de Lima where you will be greeted at your accommodation by a member of our team for a full briefing and handover of the support documents and equipment.
Spend the rest of the day exploring this attractive town at leisure. Among the highlights are the International Garden Festival, Arnado Park, the Gothic parish church, a riverside walkway and cycle path, the Roman bridge and a compact medieval centre with interesting squares, shops and cafés.
Choose from one of the town’s many excellent restaurants and enjoy tasty local cuisine with a glass or two of vinho verde wine.
Your private driver will meet you in the hotel lobby to drive you to Sistelo, a remarkably picturesque village in the foothills of the Peneda Mountains. The surrounding terraced fields have supported this community for centuries and graced many photographs of the area.
Today’s trail heads upwards through stunning scenery, partly sculpted by man and partly wild, uninhabited highlands with evidence of glacial activity and extensive views across the remote uplands of the Peneda mountains.
You’ll end the day in Branda da Aveleira, a summer settlement used by the community for ease of grazing and cultivation during the warmer, drier months. Settle into your rural cottage and enjoy the tranquil setting before tucking into a delicious meal at the village restaurant.
After a satisfyingly tasty breakfast, it’s time to head out in the direction of Peneda Mountain along an ancient shepherd’s trail.
Cross wild rocky highlands with sweeping views over the surrounding mountains and stroll through the small village of Bouça dos Homens. Towards the end of your hike through this majestic landscape, you’ll encounter an isolated reservoir, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
After a journey with relatively few hills, a steep descent along a dramatic stone stairway and path brings you to the sanctuary of Peneda, completely hidden and almost beneath your feet.
A comfortable overnight stop awaits you in the modern hotel that has been tastefully installed in the former pilgrims’ quarters alongside the sanctuary.
Leave Peneda Sanctuary by walking down the valley along a centuries-old pilgrim route used by people from surrounding villages to attend religious festivals at the religious complex.
Dramatic mountain scenery and enormous rock faces surround you as you follow the Peneda river through the small village of Tibo and continue down the valley to a place where two rivers converge. At this point, the river forms the frontier with Spain and it is easy to imagine the considerable flow of contraband that crossed this remote border.
From the village of Várzea it is an easy walk along a paved road beside the spectacular dam across the River Lima to nearby Lindoso, where the castle stands as testimony to its former importance.
Spend the night in a beautifully restored traditional village cottage and take a while to examine the traditional tools and examples of embroidery on display.
As you leave Lindoso, you’ll pass its incredible collection of 54 espigueiros (grain stores) huddled together beneath the castle as you retrace your steps to the Lindoso dam.
Walk uphill through pine woods with fine views over the reservoir and across to Spain before coming into the village of Paradela. The trail continues through terraced fields and the small settlement of Cunhas before dropping steeply down into the beautiful Adrão Valley.
A final climb brings you into the village of Soajo where you will spend two nights in a wonderfully restored traditional stone house. Spend the rest of the day exploring this village and reward your efforts with a chilled beer sitting in the shade of a tree outside a local café.
Your reward for a rather steep start to today’s walk is striking views of unparalleled landscapes; the peaks and dips of the Peneda and Soajo Mountains and the lush Ramiscal Valley. You will also see rare examples of local heritage in the form of wolf traps and shepherd shelters.
As you make your way down to the Mezio Park Gate, the going gets considerably easier. Stop here to learn about the natural and cultural treasures in this part of the vast national park.
Make your way back to Soajo through mixed woodlands and natural and semi-natural mountain meadows. The finest views on this section extend across the Lima valley to the Amarela Mountains opposite.
Enjoy your last evening in the mountains with a regional dish such as carne Cachena, a succulent steak from the long-horned mountain cows.
Your private driver will meet you at your country house accommodation to take you to a 4-star hotel in Porto city centre for the last night of this Northern Portugal adventure.
The rest of the day is yours to explore Porto at leisure. Roam the historical streets, go souvenir shopping, admire the views or go on a port wine tour and tasting in the cellars of Vila Nova da Gaia.
With a plethora of restaurants to choose from, you can end your holiday with a fine dining experience or in a more traditional setting.
After breakfast and check out, your onward journey begins.
What’s not included:
7 nights / 5 walking days
Cosy rural accommodation
Insights into rural community lifestyles
Authentic mountain villages
From 15th March to 1st November
Based in double room occupancy: 803 euros
Single supplement (minimum 2 paxs): 366 euros