Portugals Nature Parks
The protected areas of Portugal include one national park, 13 natural parks, nine natural reserves, seven protected landscapes, five natural monuments, seven classified places and two specially designated areas.
Portugal's nature parks are a home to many different plants and animals, some of which are endemic or endangered. You can spot the adorable water dog or the rare Mediterranean chameleon in the Park Natural da Ria Formosa. The water dog used to be indispensable to fishermen but it has got to the verge of extinction after the significant advances of technology. Purple gallinule nests in this beautiful nature park as well. It is a funny looking bird with purple feathers and red beak and legs.Some of the most endangered animals are the Iberian lynx and Iberian wolf. These beautiful representatives of the cat and dog family, respectively, need all the help they can get in order to survive.
Wine has been produced by traditional landholders in the Alto Douro region for some 2,000 years. Since the 18th century, its main product, port wine, has been world famous for its quality. This long tradition of viticulture has produced a cultural landscape of outstanding beauty that reflects its technological, social and economic evolution. The result of this human activity has modified the landscape by incorporating terraces, quintas (wine producing farm complexes), villages, chapels, and roads and railways. The cultural landscape of the Alto Douro is an outstanding example of a traditional European wine producing region and for this it has been granted World Heritage Site Status.
Montesinho Natural Park
Situated in Tras-os-Montes, in the region of Montanhas to the north east of Portugal and with the Spanish mountains as neighbours, Montesinho is a fantastic mixture of natural resources and very old, cultural heritages.
The mountains carry on as far as the eye can see, into Spain. Unexpectedly, there are coloured birds and melodious bird songs that it is almost impossible to hear in less hidden places. At a distance, against the blue of the sky, you can follow the sinuous flight of a royal eagle.
Alvao Natural Park
In Alvao, among the spectacular geological formations and the harmony of the natural eco-systerns, daily routines lose much of their significance and the return to Nature takes on a spontaneous appeal. In this natural park, which essentially occupies the western slope of the Alvao Mountain, the geology is the major conditioning factor in the natural land-scape.
In all the upper zone, which includes Lamas de Olo and Arnal, the profusion of large granite blocks makes the landscape harsh and angular. The Basal Zone, with its narrow enclosed valleys (Varzigueto, Fervenca and Ermelo) is characterised by schists and by the presence of an abrupt change of altitude, which gives rise to the spectacu-lar Fisgas waterfalls.
North Coast Natural Park
The Natural Park of the Northern coastline stretches from the mouth of the river Neiva to the fishing village of Apulia. Located between the rivers and the sea, the North Coast Natural Park stretches for nearly 18 kilometres between the Cavado River estuary and the village of Apulia in a line of white sand dunes. Dotted with low vegetation that helps to anchor the sand, these dunes act as a natural barrier against the sea winds that give them their shape and prevent the ocean from encroaching upon the nearby farmland.
Serra da Estrela Natural Park
Situated in the largest mountain range in the country, the Serra da Estrela Natural Park is the source of the rivers Mondego, Zezere and Alva. More than half of its area is located above an altitude of 700m and it is here, at 1993m, that you will find the highest peak in continental Portugal.
During the Quaternary period, all the region was subjected to the action of ice and once this disappeared visible marks were left on the landscape. Valleys in the shape of horseshoes, ravines, polished rocks and lakes of glacial origin are just some of the formations that demonstrate the importance of the ice and snow in modelling the mountains.
Serra de Sao Mamede Natural Park
The mountain range known as the Serra de S. Mamede is made up of four peaks: Fria, Marvao, Castelo de Vide and Sao Mamede (the highest 1025 metres). In addition to several examples of traditional architecture that can be found in the walled town of Marvao and in Castelo de Vide (where the largest Jewish community in Portugal lived), there are many other points of interest: the villages of Esperanca and Alegrete or the remains of the town of Amaia.
In the arid plains of Alentejo, the massive Sao Mamede Serra, approximately 40 km long, fulfils an important function of microclimate, providing the region with levels of rainfall and humidity that contrast with the surrounding territory. This diversity of climate and the morphology of the soil give rise, in this small area, to a combination of Atlantic forest with Mediterranean bush, thus forming a rich 'vegetation laboratory'.
Sintra-Cascais Natural Park
From escarpments to baroque Palaces, between imposing crags and luxurious greenery, Sintra-Cascais, on the Costa de Lisboa, concentrates and symbolizes the enchantment of a heritage that must be preserved. Situated close to the capital, the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park houses the tourist centres of Cascais and Sintra, the town of Colares, the Raso and Roca Capes, the 'Mouth of Hell' and the Sintra Mountain. As well as a string of holiday beaches from Foz do Falcao to Forte da Cidadela. From the northern edge of the Park to the Roca Cape there are beaches below the cliffs, such as the Praia das Macas or Azenhas do Mar.
At the most westerly point of the continent of Europe, ‘where the land ends and the sea begins’ the granite prow of the Roca Cape rises. To the south, around the Guia Lighthouse and the Mouth of Hell, is an expanse of sands and dunes, such as the Consolidated Dune of Crismina in Oitavos, considered to be the largest in Europe.
Serra d'Aire and Candeeiros Natural Park
Typical Mediterranean landscape, the Estremenho Limestone Chain, between the regions of the Costa de Prata, Montanhas and Planicies, is the home of the Natural Park of Serras d’Aire and Candeeiros, one of the most important nesting places of the red billed jackdaw.
The Natural Park of Serras d’Aire and Candeeiros occupies about two thirds of the Estremenho Limestone Chain, forming a sea of carbonated hills, characterized by a typically Mediterranean landscape. It is extraordinarily dry and rocky and constitutes the most extensive and diversified limestone peak in Portugal.
Ria Formosa Natural Park
The dunes, the sand banks, the canals and the marshes run along the undefined line of the horizon, guaranteeing the Formosa Estuary in the Algarve its role as one of the most important points in the network of wetlands that links Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. The Estuary has an enormous variety of natural habitats and biotopes that provide refuge, feeding or breeding areas for an infinite number of live organisms, from zooplankton to fish, crustaceans, amphibians, reptiles and eventually mammals, such as the otter, all depending on the preservation of the Estuary for their survival.
The beaches of the isles of Faro, Barreta, Culatra, Armona and Tavira form a natural barrier to the Ocean. Behind are the vast expanses of dunes and after those a labyrinth of lagoons and small sand isles, mud flats and canals. At low tide other salty habitats are uncovered, because the sea penetrates right up to land, forming marches and salt marshes. With such physical diversity, it is not surprising that the Formosa Estuary attracts such a variety of life forms, that were able to adapt their needs to the food resources available and to the various degrees of salinity.
Arrabida Natural Park
Between the fishing town of Sesimbra and the city of Setubal, on the Costa de Lisboa, the wild beauty of the woods and thickets of the Arrabida Mountain contrast strongly with the intense blue of the sea. Enclosing the coastal mountains of Risco, S. Luis, Gaiteiros and Louro, this protected area constitutes a paradise not only for lovers of Nature, but also as an inexhaustible source of joy for geologists and biologists, thanks essentially to the various types of limestone and sand.
The profusion of seaweed, with more than seventy identified species, and the abundance and diversity of sea animals, easily justify the special attention given to this environment. An example of this is the recognition given to Pedra da Anixa awarding it nature reserve status.
Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park
Alentejo and Vicentine natural park has spectacular views over the seashore with cliffs hiding wonderful sandy beaches and estuaries. The Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park covers the coastline in the municipalities of Sines, Odemira, Aljezur and Vila do Bispo. This is an area of outstanding natural beauty, important for its landscape, geology, flora and fauna, architecture, history, traditional and archaeological heritage. Some of its most impressive features are the reefs and small islands such as Pessegueiro and Carrapateira together with the Mira estuary, Cape Sardao and the Sagres promontory. The rocks of Arrifana and Odeceixe and the soil area at Sagres contrast with the sand dunes in Vila Nova de Milfontes and Sardao.
/ Text provided by the Portuguese Tourist Office
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