Parque Natural do Alvão

I’m really enjoying getting out on my bikes and experiencing the beauty of Portugal. Gorgeous scenery seems to be around every turn and I particularly enjoy getting out into the countryside to experience different views. For today’s ride, I decided to visit one of the protected nature parks

The Parque Natural do Alvão (Alvão Natural Park) is a small protected area (72 sq km), located due east from Porto, between Mondim de Basto and Vila Real. The altitude in the park reaches 1339 metres, providing some marvellous panoramic views of the surrounding area. The park contains a few small villages with traditional cottages that are worth a visit. One of the main features of the park is a waterfall (Fisgas of Ermelo), but I didn’t see it on this visit.


The park can be reached from Porto in an hour or so, via the motorways, but I opted to avoid the motorways on the way there, taking roughly twice as long. My route primarily followed the N15 towards Vila Real, but I found that much of the route ran through towns, without any decent scenery. As a result, it is hard to justify the additional hour of travel time via the N-roads. But once I reached the park, the views were splendid.


As I reached the turn-off for the village of Ermelo, I saw a big sign pointing to ‘Ponte Medieval’ (Medieval Bridge). It wasn’t on my route, but it was an opportunity not to be missed, so I made a slight detour and rode down a narrow lane where I found the bridge. It was built in the Late Middle Ages, across the Olo River, which can get rather ‘impetuous’ during the winter. It connects the municipality of Ermelo to Terras de Basto and Minho Province. The little hump-back bridge has a single arch and is wide enough for a small car to drive over. It was renovated in 2005.


After my impromtu visit to the bridge, I headed back towards the village of Ermelo. A sign at the junction depicted a cycling category 2 route that climbs from 370 meters altitude, through Ermelo and Barreiro and ending at an altitude of 995 metres. I followed that 9.6km route and took a few photos of Ermelo, Ferenca and Barreiro along the way.


I re-traced my route back through Barreiro and headed towards the village of Lamas de Olo, but it was already past my lunch-time. So I found a small lay-by along the way and pulled over for a picnic with lovely scenic views.


After my picnic lunch, I visited the small village of Lamas de Olo. Like Ermelo and Barreiro, the village still has some traditional schist and granite houses. However, some of the houses in Lamas de Olo also feature traditional thatched roofs, which I didn’t see in the other villages. At the time of my visit, workers were in the process of removing an old thatched roof from one of the houses. And another house had a collapsed thatched roof. Interestingly, a mountain stream runs through the village – and even down the centre of one of the lanes.


A short distance from Lamas is a reservoir, which provided a final photo opportunity before I left the park.

Rather than ride back via the N-roads, I decided to use the motorways and was able to get home to Porto in only one hour. The total distance for the day’s ride was 161 miles (259km) and the whole trip lasted a little more than six hours. Had I used the motorway to get to the park, I would have saved an hour of travel time. The following screenshot gives a view of my route in and around the park.


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