Gerês has various qualities, many of which are only perceptible once you visit it, while other qualities are undoubtedly recognized worldwide. The Peneda-Gerês National Park is one of them. It was the first national park in Portugal and the only one recognized by UNESCO as being part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, with an area that covers a territory of 22 parishes distributed throughout the municipalities of Arcos de Valdevez, Melgaço, Montalegre, Ponte da Barca and Terras do Bouro, the latter being home to Villas do Agrinho. Outlined by the Lima and Cávado Rivers, the park is in the northeastern Minho region and extends as far as the Trás-os-Montes region: from Serra da Peneda (Peneda Mountain) until Serra do Gerês (Gerês Mountain), hence its name. It borders Galicia and covers the districts of Braga, Viana do Castelo and Vila Real, totalling over 70 thousand hectares squared. Peneda-Gerês is also a transition zone between the Mediterranean and Euro-Siberian regions, which gives it exceptional climate and biodiversity.
The fauna and flora in the region helped give it the name of the “green lung” of Portugal, hosting various rare species, inviting all who are passionate about nature to come visit. It was once home to the brown bear and the chevrette, while today it is one of the last refuges of great predators like the wolf and the golden eagle, among many other animals.
From the crystalline waters of its small springs and waterfalls, to the remarkable green of the mountain slopes, the sky is the limit, acting as a backdrop for a landscape that is a myriad of indescribable colours and sensations.
However, it is not only nature that makes the region significant. Man’s ancestors also left behind a precious heritage of megalithic monuments, namely Celts and Romans, who date as far back as 7000 years during the first human occupation, a heritage that peeks the interest of many historians.
The importance of the region is transverse. Even in poetry it is praised. Portuguese author Miguel Torga said:
“There are places in the world like certain human existences: everything combines so that nothing lacks to their greatness and perfection. This Gerês is one of them.”