10 Most Beautiful Natural and National Parks in Portugal

by Manuel Gabriel

Portugal, on the western coast of the Iberian Peninsula, is a popular tourist destination because of its pleasant year-round temperature and plenty of attractions.

Lisbon, Porto, and Sintra are popular destinations, as are the gorgeous beaches that dot the country’s coastline. Due to its diverse settings, Portugal’s countryside is fantastic to visit, as are the lovely islands of Madeira and the Azores.

The country is indeed drenched in natural beauty, and it is ripe with spectacular vistas and sights just begging to be explored. Here are the top 10 national and natural parks in Portugal.

10. Litoral Norte Natural Park

This beautiful park in Portugal’s northwestern corner overlooks the untamed Atlantic. The massive sand dunes that are typical of the region were formed in part by the fierce ocean winds.

The park is a home for many different species of birds that use it as a breeding ground, and the tall grasses sway in the wind as seagulls swoop wildly above. As the barren dunes rise, they provide a windbreak, allowing grasses to flourish behind them.

Untrammeled and unspoiled nature surrounds you in this secluded area, beckoning you to come and explore its hidden treasures.

9. Alvao Natural Park

A stunning view of the Fisgas do Ermelo waterfall in the Alvao Nature Park in Portugal. Image source: Ana Couto/Shutterstock.com

With its sluggish characteristics that gently and tranquilly fall from a height of 1,339 meters at its maximum down to merely 260 meters, Alvao Natural Park encompasses two separate topographies, and as such, the diverse vistas are magnificent to witness.

This park may be small, but its two unique and contrasting ecosystems more than make up for its size. The Upper Zone is a hilly region surrounded by mountains that provides excellent hiking opportunities but is drastically ripped away by sheer cliffs and granite structures to expose the Bazal Zone below. The stunning Fisgal waterfall marks this abrupt break in continuity by plunging to the earth with elegance and spraying its environs with mist.

The park gets its name from the Olo River, whose rocky riverbeds are great for exploring and give way to forested areas on each side. Walking about Alvao is a pleasure because of the park’s beautiful elements, such as the rocks and stones that poke provocatively out of the wild grasses.

8. Douro International Natural Park

The Aldeadavila Dam in the International Douro Natural Park, bordering Spain and Portugal. Image source: Daniel Vine Photography/Shutterstock.com

The Douro International Natural Park is so-called because the river that runs through it serves as a de facto border between Portugal and Spain. The river makes a magnificent gorge in the environment, meandering between the rocks and ravines it carved out over the millennia.

The Douro’s towering stony cliffs provide for a striking contrast to the river’s rushing waters. The river provides vitality to the landscape, and the land on each side is thick with foliage that makes for a beautiful sight.

The Douro is sometimes interrupted by smaller streams and rapids, which contribute to the park’s picturesque atmosphere.

7. Ria Formosa Natural Park

A view of the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa near Faro, Portugal. Image source: Marcin Krzyzak/Shutterstock.com

The breathtaking environment of Ria Formosa Natural Park is a favorite spot for both sunbathers and birdwatchers. Travelers are drawn to the Algarve region of Portugal, which is located in the country’s southernmost region because of its pleasant year-round mild temperature.

Those who find that beach lounging isn’t their thing will find Ria Formosa’s lagoons, wetlands, and seemingly infinite dunes to be a wonderful pleasure. During certain times of year, the skies above the park are filled with flocks of birds flying back and forth as they pass through on their migratory routes. As the flocks play out a symphony above your head, in unison with the sounds of the sea and wind, it’s like seeing an opera unfold before your eyes.

6. Montesinho Natural Park

An aerial view of Portugal’s natural beauty. Image source: Russ Heinl/Shutterstock.com

Montesinho Natural Park is one of the biggest parks in Portugal, and as such, it is a biodiversity hotspot with a stunning landscape to boot. The landscape gradually changes from undulating hills and valleys to streams and ponds to thick, overgrown forests.

The park gets its name from the mountain that can be climbed by a network of trails, and the views from the peak are spectacular. Montesinho is home to a variety of large mammals, including the Iberian wolf, the lynx, and the charming common genet, which can occasionally be seen by tourists. Because of how elusive they are, it is crucial that parks like Montesinho exist to preserve their natural environment.

5. Serra da Estrela Natural Park

A breathtaking view from the top of Serra da Estrela Natural Park in Portugal. Image source: PriscilaLouro27/Shutterstock.com

That’s not to downplay the many merits of this spectacular natural park. The highest point in Portugal, Torre, which stands at a little under 2000 meters, can be found in the Serra da Estrela, the highest mountain range in the country.

Lovely valleys and ravines cut the landscape, and the park’s diverse terrain allows for the growth of a rich diversity of plants and wildlife at varying elevations. A visit to this natural area is like stumbling upon a fairytale, what with the lakes and forests dotted amid the mountains and the possibility of discovering pristine bodies of water and quiet, hidden routes through the forests.

4. Southwest Alentejo and Vicenti Coast

Dramatic and colorful cliffs at Cape St. Vincent, Alentejo, Algarve, Portugal. Image source: TravelNerd/Shutterstock.com

In Portugal’s southwestern region, you’ll discover a stunning natural park together with the sea, sun, and sand for which the country is famous. Beautifully framed by the cliffs above, the Algarve’s seemingly endless beaches will have you reluctant to leave.

The sun-drenched sands, which sometimes give way to more rocky beaches, provide for pleasant strolls as the water sparkles in the background. A trip to this beautiful natural park is sure to leave you feeling refreshed and revitalized.

3. Arrabida Natural Park

Summer sea coastal landscape of Nature Park Arrabida in Setubal, Portugal. Image source: Yuriy Brykaylo/Shutterstock.com

Beautiful sandy beaches, stunning rocky cliffs, and low mountains covered in lush vegetation extend inland from the coast to create Arrabida Natural Park, a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.

The warm Mediterranean environment has resulted in a rich variety of wildlife and plants, which in turn have colored the landscape in a rainbow of colors. The yellow plains give way inward to green forests that cover the sloping hills that meet the white shoreline. Figueirinha and Galapinhos are two of Lisbon’s most popular beaches, and with good reason.

A quiet stroll along the seaside walkways here will calm your mind and body as you take in the breathtaking scenery and feel the ocean breeze. Taking a boat ride offshore will give you a chance to take in the coast’s splendor from afar, and once you’re out on the coast, you’ll be treated to a breathtaking view that stretches on forever under the sun.

2. Peneda-Geres National Park

Misarela bridge in Peneda-Geres National Park, Portugal. Image source: J. Waleson Photo/Shutterstock.com

Peneda-Geres, Portugal’s only national park, is located in the country’s extreme north. The uninhabitable and wild Geres Mountains are intriguing to visit, and a park was established to safeguard and preserve this diverse variety of landscapes.

While the park is home to a number of mountain summits, the best vantage points can be found atop the two tallest mountains, Mount Geres and Altar Doe Cabroes. The park’s pure environment is crisscrossed by trails and walkways, and it’s home to a wide variety of points of interest, from fascinating rock formations to unusual antique granaries constructed by the area’s pioneers.

Beautiful waterfalls and the historic ruins of Vilarinho das Furnas are only two of the highlights of a trip to Peneda-Geres. When the nearby reservoir is empty, you can see the remnants of an ancient settlement that was drowned on purpose. The ruins, which are both haunting and surreal in their beauty, are an essential part of what makes this park in Portugal so unique.

1. Sintra-Cascais Natural Park

The beautiful Sintra-Cascais Natural Park on the Portuguese Riviera. Image source: alexzzamm/Shutterstock.com

Sintra-Cascais Natural Park is one of the most visited places in Portugal, and for good reason. It is home to several breathtaking sights that are sure to amaze and enchant any fortunate tourist. While the Serra de Sintra Mountain Range as a whole is breathtaking, the park’s outstanding historical treasures are what really draw visitors.

Not to be missed are the fairytale-like Pena Palace, situated high atop a hill, and the spectacular Castle of the Moors, which dates back to the 8th century. Several magnificent palaces, such as the Queluz Palace, Sintra Palace, Seteais Palace, and the unique and elegant Monserrate Palace, are dispersed over its land.

The spectacular park is a delight for everybody who appreciates beautiful scenery. Visit Cabo da Roca, which is perched high above the Atlantic, to take in the breathtaking scenery.

Azenhas do Mar is a small town on the coast with breathtaking vistas thanks to its location high above the water. Sintra-Cascais Natural Park is an absolute must-see and offers more than enough wonderful attractions to explore for a whole lifetime.

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