The Peneda-Gerês National Park or simply Gerês, is located in the far northeast of Minho, extending to Trás-os-Montes, from Serra da Peneda lands until the Serra do Gerês, being cut by two major rivers, the river Lima and Cávado. Bordering Galicia, comprising the districts of Viana do Castelo, Braga and Vila Real, in a total area of 702.90 km2. The Peneda-Gerês National Park covers territory of 22 parishes distributed by the municipalities of Melgaço, Arcos de Valdevez, Ponte da Barca, Montalegre and Terras de Bouro. This protected area forms a conjunction with the Spanish nature park of Baixa Limia-serra do Xurés Nature Reserve, and since 1997, the Cross-Border Nature Reserve Park Gerês-Xurés and the Biosphere Reserve with the same name.
The Peneda-Gerês National Park was the first protected area created in Portugal, being the only with the status of National Park, recognized internationally with identical rating, since its establishment, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), due to the richness of its natural and cultural heritage, being one of the last strongholds of the country where ecosystems in their natural state with reduced or no human influence still exists. In 1997, Peneda-Gerês was included in the Natura 2000 Network and in 1999, was designated as a Special Protection Area for Wild Birds. In 2007, was accepted at PAN Parks Network that certifies the quality protected areas according to strict criteria of nature conservation, cultural and sustainability services. The Peneda-Gerês National Park is considered by UNESCO as a World Biosphere Reserve.
It’s one of the greatest natural attractions of Portugal, for the rare and stunning scenic beauty and ecological and ethnographic value and variety of fauna and flora with about 240 of vertebrate fauna species identified in the territory and 1100 of flora, in addition to 500 sites of historical and archaeological interest. It stretches from the serra do Gerês, South, passing through the serra da Peneda to the Spanish border. In the Park are two important centres of pilgrimage, the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Peneda, replica of the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Braga, and São Bento da Porta Aberta, place of great popular devotion.
The past insinuates itself into our days through the Castro Laboreiro and Lindoso castles, megalithic monuments and testimonies of the Roman occupation. The Geira (or Via Nova), the old path leading the legionaries of Bracara Augusta to Astorga, survives in a stretch of old pavement and in the curious milestones. There is also the Ponte da Mizarela, ancient Roman bridge, which according to legend was built by the devil. This bridge was fought an important battle against the French during the invasions, in which the natives were victorious, defeating the French army.