Europe,  Portugal

Gerês in Portugal, what to visit in 3 days including the beautiful waterfalls

The most beautiful area of Portugal for nature lovers is located in the north of Portugal, next to the Spanish border and is a National Park with many attractions. From its famous waterfalls to the hiking trails, there is much to discover in the Peneda-Gerês National Park.

The Peneda-Gerês National Park is one of the favourite places for nature lovers, being one of the most beautiful places in Portugal. It is the ideal place to spend a mini-vacation, take walking routes and enjoy the various waterfalls. No matter how much you visit Gerês, there is always a reason to come back and you will always discover something different.

In this article, we take a short three-day tour that allows you to discover some of the most beautiful spots in the National Park.

Cascata Geres
Geres Waterfall

The Peneda-Gerês National Park 

The Peneda-Gerês National Park is located on the border with Spain, thus encompassing the Baixa Limia Natural Park – Serra do Xurés on the Spanish side. Since May 2009 it has been declared by UNESCO a Transfrontier Biosphere Reserve encompassing the PNPG and the Baixa Limia Natural Park due to its importance.

First Day

Distance: 100 km (Round trip)

Route: Even in summer, the route is made with little movement, always on good roads but with many curves.

A – São Bento de Porta Aberta

São Bento de Porta Aberta is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in Portugal, being just behind the Sanctuary of Fátima. Located on the shores of the lake formed by the Caniçada Dam, it has a spectacular location with a breathtaking view. Next to the church, there is a garden with picnic tables, a hotel (Hotel São bento de Porta Aberta – it was the hotel where we stayed on this trip and we recommend it), a small daily fair and several restaurants/cafes.

São Bento de Porta Aberta
São Bento de Porta Aberta
São Bento de Porta Aberta
São Bento de Porta Aberta
Vista de São Bento
São Bento de Porta Aberta View

A – Vilar de Veiga

This small village between São Bento de Porta Aberta and Vila do Gerês is the ideal place to enjoy the water mirror formed by the dam. During the summer months, there are several small river beaches. However, it’s not quiet due to the high affluence and the numerous water sports practised there. It is the place of passage when the destination is São Bento de Porta Aberta.

Vilar do Veiga
Vilar do Veiga
Vilar do Veiga
Vilar do Veiga
Vilar do Veiga
Vilar do Veiga

B – Vila do Gerês

In Vila do Gerês there are many options for accommodation and restaurants. The village is also known for its thermal waters and is one of the gateways to the National Park. The Termas Park is a green space where in summer you can enjoy swimming pools and is also worth a visit.

Gerês Village
Gerês Park
Gerês Park

DICA: Vila do Gerês has the main hotels in the area and is also a shopping and restaurant area.

C – Albergaria Forest

The Albergaria Forest seems to be the heart of the entire National Park, essentially due to the oak forest, which has already been classified as one of the biogenetic reserves of the European continent. In this place, there are still traces of an important Roman road and the only preserved section is in the Albergaria National Forest. Next to it, millenary landmarks can be observed. In addition to the signs of the civilization that has been around here, it is also the home of the Iberian wolf, the main predator of the fauna that inhabits Portugal.

To get to know the forest, the best way is to walk along the marked paths, as parking is prohibited throughout the entire area. However, by booking a tour, it is possible to go through it and discover the Albergaria Waterfall.

Mara da Albergaria
Road Passing throw Mata da Albergaria
Mata da Albergaria

On the outskirts of the forest, you can still find, right next to the road, the São Miguel Waterfall or Portela do Homem Waterfall. It is a very busy and easily accessible waterfall. The car park is located next to Portela do Homem ie the old border with Spain.

Waterfall in Mata da Albergaria

TIP: To pass through Albergaria Forest it is necessary to pay a small fee charged by the Forest Guards. Furthermore, it is prohibited to park and also stop the vehicle. 

E – Caldas de Lobios

Already in Spain, we find some hot springs. Yes, in Peneda-Gerês National Park (or Xurés) there are hot springs that allow bathing on very cold days. In Caldas de Lobios, the various springs are located next to the Caldo River, allowing the water mirror to have tempered water.   In this area, it is possible to have picnics or enjoy the hotel and its thermal waters.

Caldas de Lobios
Caldas de Lobios
Caldas de Lobios

F – Lindoso

A short distance from Calda de Lobios, again in Portugal, is another place that is worth visiting. In the village of Lindoso, from its castle, more than fifty granaries can be seen, which demonstrate the tradition of these mountain populations.

Lindoso Castle

The granaries are small barns where the farmer keeps the cobs. These could be private or communal and the size of the granary was a reflection of the magnitude of the production that the farmer normally carried out.

Granaries in Lindoso
Granaries in Lindoso

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2º Day

Distance: 43 km (Round Trip)

Route: Very busy route in the summer and always on roads with regular pavement but with many curves. Next to the waterfalls, it is very difficult to park in the summer and the afternoon.

This was the day dedicated to the most famous waterfalls and viewpoints, as well as the busiest and most easily accessible.

B – Fecha de Barjas or Tahiti Waterfall

The waterfall is known as Tahiti Waterfall is located near Ermida Village, next to the road that connects this village to Fafião village, in the heart of Gerês Hills. It is referred to as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Gerês and is very popular.

Next to the road and the bridge, the waterfall already has small natural lakes, where you can go for a small bath, spread along the slope with relatively easy access. Be aware that it´s necessary to pay close attention to the rocks that can be slippery.

Tahiti Waterfall
Tahiti Waterfall

However, there is a steep path with stones that goes down the bank of the Arado River, right next to the bridge over the river, to the bottom of the river, where you can see all the waterfall and the main well of the Tahiti waterfall. Here it is safer to go to baths, however, access is much more complicated.

Tahiti Waterfall

Unfortunately, as we visited the waterfall on a guided tour, we cannot go down to the waterfall base. Stay for another visit.

C – Ermida Village

Small mountain village located close to the most famous waterfalls and viewpoints. Previously it was an isolated village where people lived in a community. With the arrival of tourism and the ageing of its residents, some of the typical houses have already been converted into local accommodation.

Ermida Village

D – Arado Waterfall

Waterfall is located about 2 miles from the village of Ermida, near the Rocas and Pedra Bela viewpoints in the heart of Gerês. It is a waterfall located at about 900m high with some lakes located in the highest part and then others in the lower part. It is magnificent and has a viewpoint in front, where we, unfortunately, stayed, not having had time to enjoy its small lagoons. The water is clear and emerald green, attracting many tourists.

Arado Waterfall

It is certainly a waterfall with some risk, especially in the access to the lakes located at the top.

Access is by road, and the last mile is a dirt track with little space to park. Next to the bridge over the Arado river (the river where the waterfall is located), there is a succession of steps leading to the viewpoint for the waterfall.

Access to the waterfall can be done next to the viewpoint, however, it is very sloping and have many rocks and roots. The easiest access will be what is done from the bridge, covering the entire river.

E – Pedra Bela Viewpoint

The Pedra Bela viewpoint is located at an altitude of 800 meters and is one of the most visited in the area due to the landscape that can be seen. The Viewpoint is located right on top of a rock that juts out over the surrounding vegetation.

Pedra Bela Viewpoint
Pedra Bela Viewpoint

They have the waters of the Caniçada reservoir and all the surrounding nature as a backdrop.
There is also a small picnic area and a small fountain.

F – Swing at São Bento Viewpoint

São Bento de Porta Aberta is located in the middle of a slope and at the bottom of the valley is the Caniçada dam lake. Behind the Hotel São Bento, right at the top, at about 750 meters of altitude, is this new swing in a viewpoint that is still unknown.

São Bento Viewpoint

The fact that it is less known than other viewpoints is certainly not for its beauty and spectacularity. The view over the entire sanctuary, the Cavado River, its bridges and river beaches is incredible. In addition to all this, the silence at this highest point is something unforgettable.

To visit it, you can do it in two ways:

  • By foot from the São Bento hotel following part of the São Bento trail – PR 7 which is signposted;
  • By car, you must follow the road to Alecrimes village and nearby, turn onto a dirt road.

In our case, we visit the swing by foot, taking 1h30 in a round trip. The ascent is relatively difficult as it climbs in relatively few miles 500 meters.

3º Day

Distance: 80 km (Round Trip)

Route: A busy route in summer and always on roads with regular pavement but with many curves.

A day dedicated to visiting the Cela Cavalos Waterfall, taking a small hike to get there. There were other points of interest along the route, but since we took the tour with a child, this selection proved to be ideal.

B – Cela Cavalos Waterfall

The Cascata de Cela Cavalos is far from the nearby villages and it is only possible to reach it by trails. Here you will find beautiful landscapes, fresh air, silence, few people and one of the largest, in terms of width, waterfalls in Gerês.  

Cela Cavalos Waterfall

This waterfall is located in the municipality of Montalegre and is located between the villages of Lapela and Cela along the M308.

Lapela Village Center

Even being one of the biggest waterfalls in Gerês (in terms of width) when visited in midsummer, as we did, it didn’t seem so big. In terms of height and depth, it’s not the greatest either. However, it is very beautiful and was worth all the distance covered.

Cela Cavalos Waterfall

What pleased us most was all the natural surroundings of the waterfall, the pedestrian path we had to take, the visit to the small village of Lapela where we left our car and followed the perfectly marked path.

Views along the pedestrian route to the Cela Cavalos Waterfall

We didn’t go to the top of the waterfall, but according to the comments, it should be worth walking along the small trail on the right side.

C – Fafião Viewpoint

The Viewpoint of Fafião is located in the highest part of the small historic village of Fafião where you can see the valleys and mountains of Gerês.

This viewpoint is a challenge for the less courageous as it is located on top of a gigantic block of granite, connected to another rock by a small iron bridge.

Fafiao ViewPoint

To reach the viewpoint, you can leave your car in the centre of Fafião and walk through the village, towards its highest part. You can, however, drive into the village and follow this small road to the unpaved area. However, if the road is in good condition, you can park right next to the viewpoint.

D – Ribeira do Gerês River Beach

Very close to São Bento da Porta Aberta, on the banks of the lake formed by the Caniçada Dam, we find a small river beach, not very busy, spacious, with great places to have a picnic and escape the heat of the mountains, in midsummer. The best thing about this beach is the small waterfalls and lakes formed by the stream as it reaches the large lake.

Here the water is very fresh and the current, in midsummer, is not very strong and becomes pleasant.

As not all places close to civilization may have only pros, the downside of this area is the fact that a few meters further on there is a sewage pumping station that can leave an unpleasant smell in the area.

However, when I visited the space, in the corner next to the stream, there were no smells and it was the area with waterfalls and small lakes that I enjoyed the most due to its location and little movement.

When is the best time to visit?

Gerês is beautiful all year round and is certainly worth a visit during all its seasons. During the summer you will find less water in its waterfalls but the water and temperature will be more pleasant. Winter tends to be harsh, but visiting Gerês during this season certainly has its charms.

Pesquise atividades no Gerês

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Where to sleep in Geres?

The Peneda Gerês National Park has 70,000 ha, covering the Serra da Peneda, Soajo, Amarela and Gerês, so there are many villages and towns where you can find accommodation. From hotels to local accommodation in small villages inserted in the interior of the mountains, there is a wide variety to choose from. Use the following Booking tool to choose the best accommodation by location.

During our last stay, we stayed at the hotel São Bento de Porta Aberta and we loved it.

Or get inspired by the following most popular accommodation.


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