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Trip Report A trip to the Peneda-Geres National Park

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Hi, Clousie, Here's the write-up from my trip to the park -- it was in February, 2009 and we had great weather. Here is a link to my pictures: http://picasaweb.google.com/laurie.reynolds/PenedaGeresNationalPark?authkey=Gv1sRgCJWXia2F6tugUw#

Our base was the Hotel Aguas do Geres, one of those old Victorian hotels that has been renovated and is quite comfortable. Off-season rate was 56 euros including a decent buffet breakfast. Website is aguasdosgeres.com

Day 1 – With an early departure from Lisbon, we headed straight up through Braga and over along the southern edge of the park. Our first destination was Pitoes das Junias, a little hamlet with a lot of stone houses, stuck against the mountains, and with a romanesque convent off in the woods. We were there by about 1 pm. We first walked around the little town (not much to see, with a lot of the houses renovated but closed up, so it must be hopping in summer). Decent coffee in the café in the main square. Then, with our picnic lunches prepared by a very nice woman in the only restaurant open in town, we headed off to walk to the waterfalls and then on to the convent. Very nice trails, nothing too strenuous, probably about a 5-6 km total loop. The waterfalls have a wooden path to a lookout. From the lookout, you can see part of the falls, but to get an unobstructed view, you have to scramble down (paths abound) somewhat steep but never dangerous paths. There had been months of rain when we arrived, and the falls were spectacular.

Retracing our steps up part way, we hit the detour for the monastery. It’s in an incredibly beautiful site, at a slight oxbow bend in the river running by. An old mill on the other side of the river, then the church (closed) with a nice romanesque portal, and the ruins of the buildings. Partially standing cloister, the huge stone oven chimney is still standing as well as remnants of their water supply system. Just a beautiful setting, very peaceful.

The drive from Pitoes das Junias back to the turnoff to Geres was about 1 ½ hours. You pass several reservoirs, all bright blue water, and the views are really pretty. We arrived in Geres just as dusk was falling. The town has a few shops and tons of moderately priced accommodations (most of which are located up above the town’s “center” and were closed till May or June). A couple of restaurants were open, so we had our pick and had a very good meal – grilled cod, grilled dourada.

Day 2 – With a picnic lunch from the hotel, we spent the day visiting in the area – the Roman mileposts, some nice walks in the forest, lots of stops for views over the reservoir, etc., one 10 km circular hike. We were so thankful to be out in the fresh sunny air after months of rain. Dinner in the other restaurant in town that was open.

Day 3 – We drove north to Portela do Homen on the Spanish border, over to Spain, back into Portugal to Lindoso. It was a beautiful drive. Lindoso is espigueiro heaven (espigueiros are unusual Portuguese stone granaries). In that town, there must have been about 50 or more all packed in under the castle. We spent a while walking around in Soajo, our next stop, your basic stone house village. From there we drove through more mountains to the church at Peneda – it’s a smaller replica of Braga’s Bom Jesus, lots of steps up to the church. Had a picnic lunch by the river, lots of crystal clear water splashing on lots of boulders. When we left the park, we still had a couple of hours of daylight and decided to stop for a few hours at Ponte de Lima, which is one of our favorite towns in Portugal, with its very long Roman and medieval bridge across the Lima River. The downtown is very pretty and gentile. We had a good coffee with milk with three local pastries (one of pumpkin, one apple, the other an egg yolk affair) – total bill 2.8 euros. From there it was about a 4 hour drive back to Lisbon.

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    Laurie. I am noting this also. We didn't spend nearly enough time in the area.
    I tried without success to buy a replica of those stone granaries to take home with me. You know, like you can get those minature Leaning Tower of Pisa things all over Italy. But I did not have any success.
    They are missing out on a great marketing plan if they would only sell those things.

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    Thanks so much for sending this, Laurie. Your photos are certainly an incentive to see more of the park.

    Tried to find Pitoes das Junias on several maps, but couldn't locate it. I was wondering if we might have any snow in April, but it seemed to be okay for you in February, so guess that isn't an issue. You know my issues with roads, and I'm just trying to get an idea of what we may encounter. Would you advise the route you took into Spain and back? We have driven in many of the western US and Canada national parks, and weren't too bothered by the roads, but most were in rather good shape. Being from NJ, we're also used to crazy drivers, but then we usually know where we're going and can read the signs, so the impatience of drivers can be somewhat ignored.

    I really want to get my plans finalized this week. Already some of the places are full for the time we'll be visiting Portugal.

    Perhaps you've mentioned this before, but could you give me a little background on yourself? It sounds as though you're an American who lived in Portugal for a while. Was this as a student or for work? Where are you currently located? Hope you don't mind me asking these questions, but it's just always interesting to know more about such a knowledgeable poster.

    Keep tuned---I'll be back

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    Hi, Clousie,

    Pitoes das Junias is on googlemaps, and the driving directions between Pitoes and Geres show it to be 65 km, about an hour and 15 minutes. It's a pretty amazing ride, too. The roads are all good, I don't remember crazy narrow hairpin turns or anything at any point in the park area.

    The route we took north from Geres was beautiful until we went down into Spain and back into Portugal. I don't have an exact memory of what everything was like, but I distinctly remember some not so scenic stretches on that last part. And from the reentry into Portugal, through Lindoso, Soajo,and the church (which I wouldn't say is a "must see"), I also don't remember it as spectacular. But if you are going to go to Ponte de Lima from Geres, this is the only way to go from Geres, you have to loop in and out of Spain if I remember right. If I were to do it again, I think I would have stayed another day in the Geres and Pitoes area hiking and then just drive back to Lisbon from Geres rather than going up through Lindoso.

    I'm from the midwest US and have lived two non-consecutive years in Portugal for work, 2004-05 and 2008-09. I go back to Lisbon for about 2 1/2 weeks a year and always try to take a three to five day trip to a new part of the country. I just love Portugal, the people, the towns, the food.

    I'm surprised you're finding accommodations full already, because I think April is still pretty low season.

    Would love to see your revised itinerary as you finalize things, Laurie

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