We started our tour of Portugal in the north with an intention to gradually move south. The Peneda-Geres National Park is in the north-western corner of Portugal and offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor pursuits. We based ourselves in two places in the national park; firstly in Entre Ambos-os-Rios at Lima Escape, a shaded informal campsite by the river that was €13 a night and later in Parque Cerdeira in Campo de Geres, which at €23 a night was a tad expensive for us and much more regimented. Both had good walks from the campsite and we also did some uphill cycling from Entre Ambos-os-Rios. Lima Escape had good information about walking at reception.
On our walks we visited the granite villages of Sobredo, Germil and Ermida and we also travelled up to the picturesque hillside village of Sistelo. In all of these villages the streets are narrow winding paved lanes and the old grey granite houses have small windows and often have steps up to the first floor with the newer houses built around the edges of the village hub. These are agricultural villages and grapes and corn are the main crops grown on terraces lined with stone walls, the grapes often grown along pergolas over the road or around the field edges. The corn cobs are dried in espigueiros, sheds sitting on stone legs to keep animals away, and the corn stalks are dried in stacks for animal feed. The local horned caramel-coloured cows wander the lanes along with dogs and cats and small flocks of sheep. We cycled to Ermida, only 8 kms along the road but the ride involves over 400 metres of ascent and some of this over 10%. Weary and thirsty we searched out the village cafe finding it only because we noticed a couple of men chatting outside an open door. There was no cafe name or sign, no tables with umbrellas, nothing to give it away as a cafe until we got inside and spotted the crates of beer and coffee machine.
From Campo de Geres we used a leaflet bought from the information centre for 10 cents and followed a 9 kms way-marked trail through the mountains and down to the reservoir where we had spectacular views and the route followed a Roman road that was busy with butterflies. The information centre at Campo de Geres is well worth a visit as it has a number of self-guided walking leaflets available.
Away from the national park we stayed in the small town of Arco de Baulhe. The campsite overlooks the river and terraces of vines and the work-a-day Portuguese town [that is no less pleasant for that] is just five minutes walk away. For cyclists Arco de Baulhe is at the end of 40 kms long cycle route along an old railway line which provides excellent and scenic cycling along the river Tamega. The tile below is one that decorates the public toilets next to the old railway station. All of the old railway stations along the route have beautiful tiling and I had to stop and admire every one.