Since this is a different activity, geotourism in Portugal has increasingly attracted fans, especially those who enjoy spending their holidays and sightseeing in communion with nature.
If you’re visiting the north of the country, be sure to visit the Geopark of Arouca, which, in 2010, was officially recognised and joined the Global network of Geoparks, under the auspices of UNESCO.
Known for its impressive natural, cultural and gastronomic heritage, this protected area is one of the iconic geotourism destinations in the country. This mountainous area, with rivers, natural parks, steep slopes and lush vegetation covers the entire municipality of Arouca. The granite used to build so many religious and historical monuments, Romanesque chapels and Baroque churches in the region came was extracted from its mountains – Freita and Montemuro.
Did you know that there are more than 30 sites of geological and/or mining interest in the Arouca Geopark that have been mapped in the Roadmap on Mines & Places of Geological and Mining Interest of Portugal, a national project aimed at disseminating our mining and geological heritage? Yeah!
You can see the giant trilobites of Canelas – learn more about them at the Geological Interpretation Centre of Canelas – or the “pedras parideiras” (procreating stones) of Castanheira, a unique granitization phenomenon in the country and extremely rare in the world. This is a granite formation with encrusted nodules which, due to erosion, flake off from the main rock.
All in all, in addition to the Mine Roadmap, there are more than 40 sites of geological interest in this region.
Land of history and memories, Arouca offers more than tem walking trails, starting points to discover beautiful landscapes.
Walk the trails on the mountains of Freita and Montemuro. Depending on your stamina, there are plenty of trails to Choose from, but the route "Na Senda do Paivô" (a 9 Km trail) is accessible to all (so is the route "A Aldeia Mágica") and lasts about 3 hours. The slab slopes on this well-defined route are not too steep and they will take you all the way down to Covêlo.
The trails "Vale Urtigosa" (11 Km), "Sol Nascente" (13 Km), "Rota do Ouro Negro" (6 Km), "Rota do Xisto" (16 Km) and "Caminhada Exótica" (9 Km) are of medium to low difficulty. These trails are all in circuit, across rural, traditional and mountain paths.
If you are an experienced hiker, try the “n’O Caminho do Carteiro”, a 14 Km circuit trail that lasts only 4 hours, but its slopes are quite demanding.
The Geopark is an excuse to explore Arouca and the iconic monuments in its historical centre. The Arouca valley houses the Monastery of Santa Maria, the largest granite monument in Portugal. Built in the 10th century, the current building dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Inside, we find a sacred art museum, said to be one of the best in Portugal.
If you’re lucky, you will catch a glimpse of rare species, such as the Iberian wolf, the water lizard and holly.
Hikes are just one of the experiences Arouca has to offer, a place where everything happens.
You can also enjoy mountaineering or take the mountain trails. For the more daring, there are tourism companies that organize radical activities.
Get adventurous and enjoy rafting, canyoning, canoeing or canoe-rafting, a mix of the two. If you prefer solid ground, Arouca offers unique conditions for mountain bikes or off-road tracks, orienteering, rappel or tree-climbing. The Caima is yet another watercourse that crosses the Arouca Geopark territory
Venture into a survival test, dance the Tyrolean dance or enjoy some traditional games.
Companies that organize the activities provide all the equipment and materials you will need and give you a drill on the safety measures, paths and places where you can practice each sport
If you intend staying for more than a day in Arouca, the Geopark has six tour s to offer, with visiting programmes for two (one night) and three days (two nights).
If you want to learn more about this unique landscape and its extremely rich heritage in an organised manner, book one of these tours, designed to detail so you can take back the stories, the challenges in nature, the local customs, the cuisine and the art of hospitality. These are some of the experiences available "Cultural Tour ", "Feel the Nature", "In search of knowledge ", "Adventure in the Geopark ", "Flavours of the Geopark" and "Discovering the Geosites".
Whether you travel alone or with accompany, enjoy the local aromas and flavours. Taste the roasted veal, the Gralheira kid and the Arouca steak, accompanied with potatoes and oven-baked rice, specialties that go well together with the regional Vinho Verde, the convent and regional sweets, such as sweet chestnuts, “barrigas de freira”, sponge cake and “cavacas”.
How to get there
To Porto, there are low cost flights, for example from: London (Stansted and Gatwick), Paris (Beauvais, Orly and Charles de Gaulle Vatry), Marseille, Lille, Tours, St. Etienne, Bologna, Bordeaux, Lyon, Toulouse, Madrid, Barcelona El Prat , Tenerife, Valencia and Palma de Mallorca.
In the summer, they are flying from Liverpool, Las Palmas, Carcassonne, Rodez and Nantes.
With normal rates, there are flight connections from London - Gatwick, Madrid, Barcelona and Paris - Orly.
From the International Airport Francisco Sá Carneiro, the best way to reach the city center of Porto is by metro. The trip takes about 30 minutes.