Portugal is the perfect destination for those who like to holiday surrounded by nature, since it has many natural parks characterised by their unparalleled beauty.
If you would like to visit one and still don’t know which one to choose, in this article you will find a list that will help you decide.
Arrábida Natural Park:
The Arrábida Natural Park is located less than 30 minutes from Lisbon by car. It occupies 110 square kilometres from the east of Setúbal to the west of Cape Espichel.
Founded as a result of the need to preserve the flora of the region it covers, this park has more than 1,450 plant species, including one of the rarest types of Mediterranean maquis. For this reason, in order to duly protect these delicate species of outstanding scientific value, in some areas of the park it is compulsory to be accompanied by an authorised guide.
As well as having a rich variety of plants, this park is also home to a wide diversity of animals that can be observed during the organised tours through the park, including owls, eagles, badgers, butterflies, bats and mountain cats.
Another characteristic that makes this park stand out is that, not only does it include the mountain ranges of São Luís, Gaiteiros, São Francisco, Louro and Arrábida, it is also the location of what are considered to be the best beaches in Portugal: Figueirinha, Galápos and Portinho da Arrábida.
The relationship between the almost wild nature of its mountains and the impressive beauty resulting from the contrast between its beaches and cliffs, make this natural park one of the most beautiful in Portugal.
Sintra-Cascais Natural Park:
Thanks to its unique beauty and heritage value, the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park is a Unesco Cultural Landscape World Heritage Site.
It covers the area from Sintra to the beaches of Guincho and Cabo da Roca, 40 minutes from Lisbon by car.
This park offers an impressive natural environment encompassing high mountains covered with dense forests and beautiful beaches surrounded by high cliffs, with Sierra de Sintra as its focal point. Among the many routes that you can take to hike in the mountains, you will have the chance to visit the Capuchos Convent, dating back to the 16th century or the Peninha Hermitage with its spectacular views.
Another reason that this park is so popular is that it is home to numerous castles owned by the Portuguese nobility who chose the area to spend their leisure time. One of the most noteworthy castles is the Palacio da Pena. Built under the mandate of Prince Fernando II of Portugal in 1836, this castle stands out as one of the best examples of the romantic style of the 19th century in Portugal.
Douro International Natural Park:
Considered a protected area by the Portuguese government since 1998, this park is one of the country’s marvels of nature. Located on the shores of the River Douro (the river that marks the border between Portugal and Spain), it covers an area of more than 120 square kilometres.
Its wide area is populated by dense forests including species such as oaks, junipers, helm oaks and cork oaks that are the habitat of many species of animals among which there is a great diversity of mammals and reptiles. Moreover, it should be noted that it has been turned into a place of refuge for various species of birds that are currently endangered, such as the Egyptian Vulture.
The park organises various activities for those who enjoy being in direct contact with nature. The most popular activities among tourists include bird spotting, mainly in the months of February and March, and the visit to various viewing points in the park that offer magnificent panoramic views.
Serra da Estrela Natural Park:
This marvellous scenery spreads over the districts of Guarda and Castelo Blanco, in the middle of Portugal. Its 101,000 hectares are considered to be Portugal’s largest protected area.
It is home to the Sierra da Estrela that gives its name to the park and is distinctive since it is the highest mountain in mainland Portugal. Sierra da Estrela is a leading tourist attraction since the country’s only ski resort is located there, making it the perfect place to enjoy winter sports.
Visitors can surround themselves in a stunning natural environment, among the park’s valuable plant species, some of which are unique in the world, including the juniper tree, heather, black oak and gorse. Among its rich fauna, Sierra da Estrela is the habitat of animals such as Iberian wolves, otters, foxes, boars and musk cats.
Hiking, riding bicycles through the mountains and mountain climbing are popular activities among the tourists who visit the park. The park management also organise educational workshops where they explain, among other things, how to make the best of our visit, always emphasising the importance of caring and preserving the area.
Serra de São Mamede Natural Park:
The Sierra de São Mamede Natural Park is located in the district of Portalegre in the region of Alentejo. Thanks to its natural wealth, this park is considered to be one of the country’s most beautiful protected areas.
The park consists of 55,524 hectares of great ecological diversity. If you go for a walk around its paths, you will discover lush vegetation that serves as the habitat for many animal species, especially birds that that choose the park as part of their migratory route between Europe and Africa.
As well as walking in the park, the area is also prepared for cycling and, in Penhas de Portalegre you can find the only walls, within the protected area, where climbing is permitted.
If you want to be in direct contact with nature, enjoy the peace it transmits and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, any of these parks is the perfect choice for you.