Peneda-Gerês National Park and Its Hidden Gems – Undiscovered Portugal

Peneda-Gerês National Park has been since ever one of our favorite travel destinations in Portugal! From short breaks to full weeks, at least once a year we go there searching for relaxation and reconnection with nature. And, when the water isn’t freezing cold, it also offers great swims in crystal clear water!

If you already follow our story, you know, that this year due to COVID-19 we had to postpone our around the world trip. As a plan B, we decided to buy our campervanBenny, so we could hit the road safely and feeling ultimate freedom!

But before making big plans again, we decided to hang around Portugal for a while – to get used to our Benny and to help somehow smaller local Portuguese businesses. We spent a few days exploring the wonderful region of the Douro Valley and after a while, we decided to come back to our beloved Peneda-Gerês National Park. 

We usually go to the same favorite places, the proven spots we love, but this time we decided to find some new beautiful locations. If you want to discover the hidden gems of Gerês National Park, well then, this post is for you!

Normally we would choose one of the more known places, like Tahiti waterfall, viewpoint of Pedra Bela, or Arado waterfall, for example. But recently they became quite popular and may get pretty crowded, especially on the weekend. 

So, searching for peace and quiet, we found 3 amazing spots in Peneda-Gerês that are not as popular, and are equally, if not more, amazing!  Let’s start with our first surprise…

Soajo Village

This time we wanted to be close to waterfalls and lagoons that we have never seen before, and if possible to visit a few iconic places. No need to say, that after a short research, we chose going to Soajo

Soajo is a very small village with less than 1000 inhabitants and among wild horses, donkeys, cats, and dogs, everyone seems to live a peaceful and friendly life. You can feel the relaxation in the air, it’s impressive!

Soajo granaries

We parked in a motorhome parking lote with all the necessary means for a good stay and this spot was a few meters from the biggest tourist attraction in the surroundings, the Soajo granaries.

Peneda-Gerês National Park: Soajo granaries

What a place… on the top of massive stones, granaries were built with stone in specific locations to catch the most sun possible to dry corn. This spot at night is unbelievable… no lights and you can see the moon, millions of stars and even the milky way! Just don’t get frightened with animals around because a lot of dogs, donkeys, and horses (!) find there their shelter at night night! Definitely a highlight of our journey!

Peneda-Gerês National Park: Soajo granaries

Black Well

Day after, and still in the discovery mode, we drove around 2 km to the Black Well (Poço Negro) to spend most of our day. Again, crowd-free place with great spots to jump into this deep and clear natural water pool! The colors you see here are like from a fairy tale! Even better, it has a little jungle rope, like a liana, that you can use to swing around. And there is even a small waterfall as well!

Peneda-Gerês National Park : Black Dwell

The best thing, we parked easily, we didn’t need to walk much and after a  few dozens of stairs, we were in this paradisiac place. The day was great and while we were there we decided to investigate the next destination. This time we wanted a bigger challenge! So here is where we decided to go…

Peneda-Gerês National Park: waterfall next to Black Dwell

Fafião's Natural Pools

We didn’t have to do a lot of research to reach the conclusion that we had to visit Fafião and its natural pools (Lagoas Naturais de Fafião). The village looked so traditionally, picturesque, and calm and that was exactly what we were in need of. We also noticed that not far from the village (1,5 km) there was a beautiful little bridge offering a few lagoons below filled with transparent waters, so what else did we need? Just to hit the road!

Without a doubt, we drove to Fafião expecting one of the best days in Peneda-Gerês having the feeling of seeing something for the first time. And guess what? Yes, we had one of the best days in Gerês ever!

First, it wasn’t crowded which is immediately a big plus, especially during the summer months. Secondly, it was very easy to find, we literally just asked our friend Google for directions. Despite the inclination at some points, the road was smooth and you can reach these pools easily.

We had a small walk in the village and then, head to the little bridge of Pigarreira. Below this bridge, we found several small mountain lagoons where you could refresh yourself swimming in amazingly clear waters coming directly from mother nature. What a blast!

Peneda-Gerês National Park: Fafião's Natural Pools

The heat was asking for a dive, so we quickly found a nice spot on one of the massive stones that gently sit on the river. There we spent a great day… suntan, beautiful view, great water, not many people, so I think you get the picture! After this day we decided that we needed to explore Peneda-Gerês National Park much more. That brings us to our third great new discovery.

7 Lagoons of Xertelo

On the opposite side of Gerês National Park, there is a small village called Xertelo and it is a starting point of a painful but rewarding hike!

The 7 Lagoons are actually a quite known place in Peneda-Gerês but few dare to take the hike. Honestly, fear not and face the challenge because it is what we call “doable”. We are not physically prepared for big hiking adventures, neither basic ones. But if we did it, you can do it as well!

The night before we decided to sleep in the wild and close to our next adventure, so we crossed the entire natural park through interior roads (let us tell you that it’s totally worth the journey!). We end up in the middle of the mountain in a place we found on our favorite app for vanlifers – Park4night. The view was great and when we arrived there were a few cows, sheep, and even a bull hanging around eating! (Note: it’s not allowed to sleep out of the campsites in Peneda-Gerês National Park, we did it at our own risk).

We spent a calm night with great van-made food, candles, wine, and a million stars above us! It was so good that we extended the night session and as a consequence, we woke up late for our massive hiking challenge. We wanted to leave earlier because the heat makes hiking more difficult. But as we woke up late, we only managed to start our hike at 12:30… yeah we know, perfect timing :D!

To make it even better, we didn’t have proper directions so we got lost in the beginning a couple of times, but after teaming up with another adventurous couple, we found our way! 6 hard kms with ups and downs, through the mountain at 1 pm in July, so the sun was strong, and no water around… That day we felt that our LifeStraw water bottles were a real lifesaver.

In the end, what we needed was exactly what we found… 7 beautiful lagoons with gorgeous transparent waters where we immediately dived in!The best thing, we parked easily, we didn’t need to walk much and after a  few dozens of stairs, we were in this paradisiac place. The day was great and while we were there we decided to investigate the next destination. This time we wanted a bigger challenge! So here is where we decided to go…

7 lagoons of Xertelo
7 lagoons of Xertelo

The place is perfect, not just because it’s remote, so it’s isolated from mass tourism, but its natural beauty is really mesmerizing. We had our sandwiches for a small picnic and our water to hydrate so we spent a great couple of hours there. Between swimming, taking pictures, and socializing with our fellow hikers, the day passed smoothly exactly as we wished!

7 lagoons of Xertelo

The return hike wasn’t so bad, some clouds appeared to feel sorry for us and covered the sun most of the time so it was a piece of cake (except the beginning because it’s quite stiff). In the end, we had a couple of beers with our new friends and hit the road again!

And that is it, 3 spots we discovered this year and truly recommend for people that would like to avoid the most known places in Peneda-Gerês National Park. We hope you enjoyed this post, but most importantly that you visit these places because you won’t regret it!

If you have any questions, comments, feedback or just simply want to show us your support, please do get in touch with us through our blog or through our social media accounts! 😉

 

See you… Around the World!

You may find our other tips about Portugal here.

Check our travel resources section and start planning your next trip! 

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