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Great Things to Do in Portugal for Nature Lovers

For a nation that measures just 35,603 square miles, Portugal offers a spectacular mix of attractions and activities. There’s the dreamy coastline, white-washed rural villages, miles of vineyards, gently rolling hills, and an unmatched, easy-going way of life.

I’ve been lucky enough to discover the country’s beauty in-depth while writing my book,  A Year in Portugal, and the country has surprised me time and time again.

Tick off this list of things to do in newsfor Portugal for nature lovers and you’ll discover some of the country’s best wild spots, from the raging Atlantic to the plains of its quietest provinces.

1. Whale Watching in the Azores

The autonomous region of the Azores is a remote archipelago comprised of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean. It’s located 850 miles west of continental Portugal, 936 miles northwest of Morocco, and 1,196 miles southeast of Newfoundland, Canada.

With Sperm, Pilot, and Beaked whales (to mention a few) in its surrounding waters (plus five different species of Dolphin), the Azores is one of the world’s premier whale-watching destinations.

2. Visit Penada-Gerês National Park

Penada-Gerês is the country’s only national park, and without a doubt one of the most scenic places for hiking in Portugal.

It’s nestled up in the country’s far north, sharing a border with Spain’s Serra do Xurés. But despite its big title, it’s one of the least-visited regions of Portugal, blissfully untouched by the scourge of mass tourism.

You’ll wonder why once you get there and see its stunning natural beauty. Penada-Gerês is made up of four mountain ranges, six glacial valleys, and over 90 villages, covering a space of 80,000 hectares.

3. Birdwatching at Lake Alqueva

Located in the Alentejo region of western Portugal, Lake Alqueva covers 96 square miles. It’s the largest man-made lake in Europe, and has become one of the country’s best birdwatching destinations.

Groups of Cranes and Cormorants can often be found here: The latter have been attracted to Lake Alqueva more and more since the dam was finished back in 2002.

There are also plenty of wading birds– such as Black-winged Stilts and Common or Green Sandpipers– that pick at prey across the shallows on the shores of the lake.

If you take a nature tour around this area, just keep your eyes peeled. You’re bound to see some of our fine-feathered friends!

4. Watch the Endangered Iberian lynx

The Iberian Lynx is one of the most endangered cats on the planet, and the most threatened carnivore in Europe.

Population numbers for this beautiful creature in Portugal declined to almost zero in the 20th century.

It’s only due to captive breeding programs in the Algarve that they are still here today. But there’s still hope: 2016 saw the appearance of the first cub born in the wild of Portugal in 40 years.

Most of the Lynx-spotting tours run in southwest Spain, as this is where most of the remaining animals live. But in Portugal you can see them in captivity at the National Breeding Centre for the Iberian Lynx.

5. Hiking in Madeira

As a volcanic mass cast adrift in the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Africa, Madeira is one of the most scenic places in Portugal.

These islands are usually associated with cruise or package holidays. But that doesn’t mean visiting Madeira isn’t one of the best things to do in Portugal for nature lovers.

The dramatic peaks here offer prime opportunities for an ecotourism adventure that’s far removed from the mass tourism crowd.

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