Photograph by Oleg Boldyrev, Alamy
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Peneda Geres National Park in northern Portugal has a long history of human habitation.

Photograph by Oleg Boldyrev, Alamy

Peneda Geres National Park, Portugal

Name: Peneda Geres National Park
Location: Portugal
Date Established: 1971
Size: 269 square miles (697 square kilometers)

Did You Know?

• Border Park In northern Portugal along the Spanish border, Peneda Geres is a lovely jumble of regenerating oak forests, plateau peat bogs, green valleys, and 300-million-year-old granite heights.

Species Haven Some of Europe’s very few wolves prowl the park, as do foxes, wild boars, ibex, and deer. Peneda Geres is also home to otters, fish, frogs, salamanders, 147 different bird species (many migratory) and 15 bat species—10 of which are endangered.

• Wild Ponies Garrano ponies are among the park’s most famous inhabitants. These wild animals have been native to the region since the Celtic era during the first millennium B.C.—but extensive domestication nearly wiped them out in the mid-20th century. The Portuguese government began to rebuild the herds in the 1940s in the area of what is now the national park.

• Ruins and Relics This part of the Iberian Peninsula has an ancient history of human habitation, as evidenced by megalithic stone tombs dating to the third century, Celtic fortifications dotting the hilltops, and a well-preserved first-century Roman road that crosses the park and remains popular with cyclists. Castles like Castro Laboreiro (tenth century) and Castelo do Lindoso (12th century), and monasteries like Santa Maria dos Pitões (ninth century) are enduring relics of medieval times.

For Walkers Dozens of old shepherd trails provide hiking access to the park and can be linked to make multiday treks. April and May are especially good times to explore on foot because the park flowers are in full bloom at this time. The Homem River Valley offers a notable ramble through rare remnants of ancient native forest.

How to Get There

The closest international airport, at Oporto, is about a two-hour drive from the park. Lisbon is some 230 miles (370 kilometers) distant. Buses service Braga as do trains—the railway station is only 0.3 miles (500 meters) from the headquarters of the national park.

When to Visit

In winter the highland temperatures average about 39ºF (4ºC) and snow is common; river valleys average perhaps 46ºF (8ºC). In summer the highlands average 57ºF (14ºC) and the river valleys 68ºF (20ºC). Rain is a strong possibility, especially in the highlands, where it rains 130 days a year.

How to Visit

Take to the park’s countryside in traditional style on the back of a Garrano pony. Domesticated Garranos are available for hired rides across the open Sierra landscape.