Read on to hear about some enchanting forests for you to discover by foot and let The Portugal News know if you have been to any of these places!
If the colder weather doesn’t bother you too much perhaps a forest getaway would be the perfect option to enjoy all that beautiful Portuguese mother nature has to offer you.
Forest of Margaraça
‘Mata da Margaraça’ is classified as a Nature Reserve and Biogenetic Reserve by the Council of Europe and is located in the municipality of Arganil in the district of Coimbra. It is one of the most unique forests in Portugal and definitely worth your while to visit as it is one of the best-preserved sites of a primitive forest in Portugal, having “records with references to the forest since the second half of the 19th century.” Florestas.pt cites that the ancient landscape is a rare testimony of spontaneous vegetation, covering a grand total of 68 hectares of magnificent biodiversity, making it the perfect place for a scenic hike. In which the site also shared that “It is there that is the largest forest of azereiros (Prunus lusitanica subsp. lusitanica) of the country as well as other species such as chestnut and oak as well as rare species considered as relics of the Laurissilva forest in the continental territory.”
Peneda Gerês National Park
The Peneda-Gerês National Park has wonderful options for hiking trails and even is a great place for canoeing. The region’s landscape is breath-taking and lies between Alto Minho and Trás-os-Montes, and is the only national park in Portugal, which comes as no surprise that it is also extremely rich in historical and cultural heritage, where visitors can even discover traces of romanisation.
What is particularly notable about this national park is its diversity when it comes to animal species. It is home to deer (the symbol of the park) and the Iberian wolf as well as wild horses and cattle. The park also boasts incredible botanical diversity, from oak forests to wet meadows. Natural.pt cites that “Peneda-Gerês National Park occupies an area of 69,594.48 ha and extends from Mourela to Castro Laboreiro plateaus. This area also includes the mountains of Peneda, Soajo, Amarela, and Gerês. This is a mountainous region, composed mainly of granite, with points of high altitude where the effects of the latest glaciation can be seen.”
Faia Brava Reserve
The Faia Brava Reserve is located in the Parque de Côa, along the border of the district of Guarda. The reserve covers about 1000 hectares and you will find an incredible terrain that is home to cliff-breeding birds, which I am sure will delight avid birdwatchers. The reserve is also part of the Special Protection Area and the Archaeological Park of the Côa Valley which is classified by UNESCO. Wildlife Portugal states that “It is a Birdlife International Important Bird Area and has been part of the national network of protected areas since 2010, at which point it became known as the Private Protected Area of Faia Brava. It is also a pilot area of the European project Rewilding Europe – which promotes the management of abandoned areas, in order to convert them into natural spaces, and the development of nature tourism.”
The Laurissilva da Madeira Forest
Another wonderful forest is in the Madeira Archipelago called the Laurissilva Forest, which covers 15,000 hectares, which is remarkable when you think it covers 20% of the island's territory. The forest is described by the IFCN as being a subtropical rainforest mainly consisting of “evergreen trees and shrubs, with flat, dark green leaves.” The forest is said to have “already existed when the Portuguese navigators arrived and are considered a Tertiary relic. It occupies an area of around 15,000 hectares, which is equivalent to 20% of the island’s territory, and is located, essentially, on the North coast it is the largest and best-preserved spot which was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999.”
Sintra-Cascais Natural Park (A Floresta Relíquia, Parques de Sintra)
I couldn’t miss a chance to talk about Sintra, with its natural park definitely being something to shout about. Sintra is absolutely enchanting and has a fantastic offer of various hiking trails, with good walking shoes a must. Sintra brings together forest, beach, and history so there is something for everyone so plenty of places to catch your breathe. The natural park is about 14, 450 hectares and has received the title of UNESCO World Heritage in the category of cultural landscape and is one of the 13 Natural Parks of Portugal.
The ICNF states that “The Natural Park of Sintra-Cascais extends from the northern boundary of the municipality of Sintra, near the mouth of the Falcão River, to the south to the Citadel of Cascais. “While only established in 1994 as a Natural Park by the Portuguese Government, it has been protected since 1981.”
The Natural Park also has a great diversity of habitats, including ones in danger and most interestingly, “of the birds 67 are nesting and 23 have threat status in Portugal. The territory of the Natural Park has an emphasis on the conservation of 9 of these species.”
For more information, please visit http://www2.icnf.pt/.
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