Peneda-Gerês National Park

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The Peneda-Gerês National Park, also known simply as Gerês, is the only national park in Portugal (although many natural parks, protected landscapes, and reserves exist across the nation). It is located in the Norte region, in the northwest of Portugal, specifically in the districts of Viana do Castelo, Braga, and Vila Real.

The park was created on 8 May 1971 due to its national and international scientific interest, with the aim to protect the soil, water, flora, fauna, and landscape, while preserving its value to the existent human and natural resources. Education and tourism are also goals of the park.

The park tries to simultaneously encourage and control tourism, since the park’s nature would not resist a massive flow of tourists. Accordingly there are six small camping sites and several hikingtrails are marked, making it relatively easy to find many of the most interesting spots, such as the castros at Castro Laboreiro and Calcedónia and the monastery at Pitões das Júnias. The trail at Mézio as a particular concern in describing some of the local features.

Locations near the few major roads are the most visited. Many of them are related to the strong religiousness of the people in northern Portugal namely the shrines at Senhora da Peneda and São Bento da Porta Aberta. Others, such as Soajo and Lindoso, display small, traditional granaries built of granite, the espigueiros (from the Portuguese espiga, meaning spike).

Probably the two most known and visited features are the many waterfalls, mostly the one near the old frontier station at Portela do Homem, and the Vilarinho das Furnas village, whenever the Vilarinho das Furnas Dam is low enough.

Two domestic animals also deserve being noted. The Barrosão ox, once used in agriculture, is nowadays endangered because it is losing its utility; as is also the Castro Laboreiro dog, a hunting dog.

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