Organizing a trip to visit Gerês can seem overwhelming at first glance. The Peneda-Gerês National Park has so much to see that it’ll seem hard to choose what to visit, when to visit and how many days you should spend there! So, I’ve put together this blog post to help you 😍.
Located in Northern Portugal and covering more than 70,000 hectares, the Peneda-Gerês National Park (commonly known as “Gerês”) is one of the largest and most beautiful natural parks in Portugal.
Prepare yourselves for waterfalls that will leave you speechless, secret places that few people know about, breathtaking landscapes, villages lost in time and fantastic cuisine.
Visiting Gerês is perfect for nature lovers, but not only! Honestly, I find it difficult not to fall in love with everything Gerês has to offer.
Winter is probably the least recommended time to visit Gerês due to the high probability of rain and also because of the cold weather. On the other hand, although summer has the most inviting temperatures, it is the most crowded time in this natural paradise.
Gerês is very popular during the summer so, besides the higher prices, everything will also be more chaotic. So, I recommend avoiding summer and winter and trying to visit Gerês between the end of spring (May, June) and the beginning of autumn (September, October).
The question about the ideal length of a trip to Gerês doesn’t have a single correct answer. Given the size of the Peneda-Gerês National Park, it would take several days (if not months!!) to really get to know this Portuguese gem.
There’s always a new viewpoint to visit, a waterfall or lake that we haven’t yet visited. There are so many places to visit in Gerês that there is always a reason to come back.
However, knowing that most people do not have endless days to visit Gerês, I suggest that you reserve 3 to 4 days for a first visit. This way you can visit the main points of interest and then maybe return years later to explore lesser-known places.
In this blog post, I will present you a version of a 4-day itinerary in Gerês, but also two alternative versions for 3 and 2 days.
The largest cities in Portugal closest to the Peneda-Gerês National Park are Porto and Braga. Travel time depends on the specific location we consider in Gerês, but from Porto the journey takes at least 2 hours and from Braga 1h15.
In fact, Gerês is inserted in 3 different districts: Vila Real, Viana do Castelo and Braga. And there are 5 entrance gates to the park:
- Lamas de Mouro
- Campo do Gerês
The choice of accommodation in Gerês depends a lot on what we intend to visit, as well as the time we have available. If we have little time and want to visit places that are distant from each other, I suggest changing accommodations during the trip. In terms of the locations to look for accommodation, these are the ones with more offers available:
If not, I suggest staying overnight in Vila do Gêrês. Apart from its more central location in Gerês, it is here that the largest offer of accommodation is concentrated.
In Vila do Gerês, I recommend Adelaide Hotel. The location is good and the rooms, although modest, are comfortable and clean. And the best part is really the room where breakfast is served, which has a superb view 🥰. Anyway, I’ll take this opportunity to share other accommodation options:
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Before starting the 4-day itinerary in the Peneda-Gerês National Park, I’ll share a map with the main places to visit in Gerês.
This itinerary does not include the outward and return journeys from Gerês. If the outward/return trip is to Porto or Braga, it may be possible to fit it in on the first and last day of the trip. However, these days will have to start very early in order to have time to visit everything.
💡 EXTRA TIP: This itinerary includes a stay in Pitões das Júnias on the first night and in Vila do Gerês on the other nights.
» Misarela Bridge
We started visiting Gerês in one of the most famous places in the park. The Misarela Bridge, also known as Devil’s Bridge, is a medieval bridge.
Access to the bridge can only be done on foot. However, the route is quite accessible and relatively short (about 10 minutes each way).
» Xertelo Lagoons
We continue the first day of this itinerary through Gerês, to one of the most extraordinary places in the park. I’m talking about the 7 Xertelo Lagoons! The access is only on foot or by 4×4 for authorized vehicles, so this visit involves more planning.
Most visitors opt for the walking trail that takes us to the lagoons, and this is an excellent option as the views along the way are breathtaking 😉.
The trail is properly identified and takes 1h15 each way (4,9 km one way). Thus, I suggest that you reserve half a day to visit the Xertelo Lagoons. Get more tips to hike this trail here.
» Pitões das Júnias
Pitões das Júnias is one of the most popular historical villages in the Peneda-Gerês National Park. Apart from a leisurely stroll through the streets that immediately make you want to slow down, I suggest you visit two other places.
Firstly, the ruins of the Santa Maria das Júnias Monastery. Access to the ruins is on foot and, although steep, is relatively easy and short. You can park your car here. The monastery is abandoned and we are even warned that the ruins are unstable. However, it is interesting to see a place like this and think about what it once was.
Another point to visit in Pitões das Júnias is the Pitões das Júnias waterfall (note: it may have almost no water during the summer). From the ruins of the monastery, it is possible to continue towards a viewpoint of the waterfall.
💡 EXTRA TIP: There is also a circular trail of about 4.5 km that passes the Monastery and Pitões das Júnias waterfall. The trail starts and ends at the Pitões das Júnias cemetery.
» Pincães Waterfall
Visiting Gerês means visiting at least one waterfall. And so, we start the second day of this itinerary with our first waterfall. The Pincães waterfall is a very beautiful waterfall, despite its small size.
In high season, the waterfall gets crowded very easily, so take that into consideration! To get here, we have to walk about 1,5 km each way from the village of Pincães. The path is quite smooth, although sometimes it is not well-marked.
» Fafião Viewpoint
We move on to the Fafião viewpoint – one of my favourites in the Peneda-Gerês National Park.
To get to the viewpoint, we should park the car next to the Fafião football field and walk the rest of the way. The trail is quite short, although steep.
» Tahiti Waterfall
Also known as Fecha de Barjas Waterfall, this is one of the most popular waterfalls in the Peneda-Gerês National Park.
📝 USEFUL INFORMATION: Although there is a (paid) car park in front of the waterfall, in high season this waterfall is always packed. I suggest you try to get to the waterfall as early as possible.
However, although the initial access to the waterfall is “easy”, to see the falls up close, we have to walk a path over slippery rocks. It is not by chance that this is one of the waterfalls where more accidents happen in Gerês. So, please be aware of this when visiting the Tahiti Waterfall.
💡 EXTRA TIP: If you think the risk is not worth it, I suggest visiting the Ponte Pigarreira Lagoons (Poços de Fafião) instead of this waterfall. Besides the much less dangerous and easy access, these lagoons are much less crowded.
» Ermida Viewpoint
After stunning views, it’s time to visit another viewpoint in Gerês. It is called Ermida Viewpoint and the access is very simple, with easy parking available. In the distance, we can observe the community village of Ermida.
» Pedra Bela Viewpoint
But the amazing viewpoints don’t end here! This second day visiting Gerês ends perfectly in Peneda-Gerês most famous viewpoint. And the best part? The easy and fast access!
» Vila do Gerês
I suggest you end the day in the Vila do Gerês, where most of the accommodations and many restaurants are located. Here, in addition to a walk through the village, you can take advantage of one of the several thermal spas that can be found here.
» Mirante Velho Viewpoint
Day 3 of this tour through Gerês begins at another viewpoint. Now it’s time to visit the Mirante Velho Viewpoint. This is a viewpoint that also has easy access and parking right next to it.
» Mata da Albergaria
Mata da Albergaria is one of the most magical places in the entire National Park of Peneda-Gerês. It is a forest, whose main section is the one that connects Casa de Leonte to Portela do Homem.
📝 USEFUL INFORMATION: From June to September, it is necessary to pay 1,5€/person to visit Mata da Albergaria by car. It is not possible to stop or park along the way.
» Portela do Homem Waterfall
After passing Mata da Albergaria by car, I suggest you park your car in the car park of Portela do Homem. Here you can start the trail of Lagoas da Mata da Albergaria which is circular and has about 5 km.
During the route, you will have the opportunity to visit the Portela do Homem waterfall, one of the most famous in Gerês. In addition, along the way, you will also pass through the old Roman road that linked Braga to Astorga.
💡 EXTRA TIP: It is possible to approach the waterfall, but this should be done from the left bank, as access from the other bank is limited. However, the rocks are quite slippery, so you should pay attention to this.
» Lobios Thermal Baths (Spain)
And because Portela do Homem it’s a short trip to Spain, the last point of interest I recommend you visit in Gerês on this day is in Spain. Lobios Thermal Bath is a natural hot water pool. And you can visit it for free! It’s worth the diversion to Spain, for sure😉.
This last day of the Gerês itinerary is tougher in terms of kilometres, but it also doesn’t include any trails or waterfall visits, which means we spend less time in each spot!
» São Bento da Porta Aberta Sanctuary
The first stop of the last day in Gerês is the Sanctuary of São Bento da Porta Aberta. It is one of the most important sanctuaries in Portugal, receiving over 1 million pilgrims a year.
Apart from the fantastic views outside, I suggest you enter the sanctuary (the visit is free)!
» Vilarinho das Furnas
This point of interest only makes sense to include in the route if the water level in the Vilarinho das Furnas dam is low, as only then will we be able to see the old village (now submerged) of Vilarinho das Furnas.
💡 EXTRA TIP: The dam is most likely to be low water in late summer or early autumn. However, to view the village, you’ll need to walk about 3 km from the car park next to the dam.
And the itinerary continues towards Germil – another of Gerês’ small villages. The best way to explore the village is really to let yourself get lost in the streets and alleyways of the village. You’ll certainly feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
The most emblematic points of the village include the Mother Church, the granaries, the Fragão viewpoint and the Portavense waterfall.
💡 EXTRA TIP: To get to the viewpoint and waterfall, you have to walk a short 600-metre trail, which is well-marked. In summer, the waterfall may not be worth much due to the lack of water.
We go from one village to another and now it’s time to visit the village of Soajo, known for its granaries. The granaries are indeed spectacular, but also take the opportunity to visit the village centre, where you can find the Parish Church, for example.
If you have some time to spare, you can also take a dip in the Poço Negro do Soajo. Just park your car on the M530 road and follow the steps that lead you down to the water.
If you like the granaries of Soajo, wait until you see the ones in Lindoso. There are much more granaries here.
But the visit to Lindoso does not end with its granaries. Take the opportunity to explore the Castle of Lindoso, where the Castle Museum currently exists.
» Castro Laboreiro
Castro Laboreiro is another of the most well-known places in Gerês. Besides the ruins of its Castle, we can also visit the Matriz Church, the Old Bridge or even the Castro Laboreiro Waterfall. Another obligatory stop on a visit to Gerês.
» Nossa Senhora da Peneda Sanctuary
And we finish our Gerês itinerary at the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Peneda. Besides the visit to the sanctuary, the surrounding area is well worth a visit. There are some cafés nearby and also some local shops.
If you don’t have four days available to visit Gerês according to the itinerary I proposed above, don’t worry 😉. Next, I’ll share two shorter versions for those who have less time to visit Gerês.
» What to visit in Gerês in 2 days?
- Day 1: Soajo – Lindoso – Lobios Thermal Baths – Portela do Homem Waterfall – Mata da Albergaria – Pedra Bela Viewpoint – Vila do Gerês
- Day 2: Vila do Gerês – Tahiti Waterfall – Fafião Viewpoint – Misarela Bridge – Pincães Waterfall – São Bento da Porta Aberta Sanctuary
» What to visit in Gerês in 3 days?
- Day 1: Soajo – Lindoso – Lobios Thermal Baths – Portela do Homem Waterfall – Mata da Albergaria – Vila do Gerês
- Day 2: Vila do Gerês – Pedra Bela Viewpoint – Fafião Viewpoint – Xertelo Lagoons – Pitões das Júnias
- Day 3: Pitões das Júnias – Misarela Bridge – Pinacães Waterfall – São Bento da Porta Aberta Sanctuary
The gastronomy in the Peneda-Gerês National Park is fantastic, and I have two restaurant recommendations that I simply loved.
The first recommendation is in the village of Gerês in the famous Lurdes Capela. They don’t take reservations, they work on a first-come, first-served basis and the wait can be long, but I assure you it’s well worth it. I recommend “posta à Lurdes Capela” and to finish off the “pudim de Abade de Priscos”.
The second recommendation is the restaurant Saber ao Borralho, located in Soajo. They only take reservations until 12 am and afterwards the queues are quite long, but it’s worth every minute of the wait. The house’s speciality is cachena (a type of cow) roasted in the oven. Apart from a very reasonable price, the dish is simply delicious. The service is also very friendly.
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