One of the most amazing nature destinations in Europe, the Douro International Natural Park awaits you with monumental gorges, overwhelming viewpoints and amazing natural wonders.
The Douro International Natural Park was created on June 5, 1996, with the aim of protecting and conserving the nature of this area.
It is located in Nordeste Transmontano, where the Douro River serves as the natural border between Portugal and Spain. With an area of 86,500 acre, the Park covers part of the municipalities of Miranda do Douro, Mogadouro, Freixo de Espada à Cinta and Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo.
Its deep and steep valley with 700 to 800 meters of altitude and about 120 km long has earned it the title of European Grand Canyon.
From the fauna of great international importance to the stunning viewpoints and wealth of heritage, the Douro Internacional Natural Park has a lot to offer.
The fauna of the Douro International Natural Park
The international Douro is a fundamental area for the conservation of fauna, namely the group of birds, being one of the most important areas in the national and Iberian context due to the diversity of species, many of them threatened, that have chosen the Park to nest. The most emblematic are the rupicolous birds (which live / nest in rocky areas), such as the black stork, the Egyptian vulture, the golden eagle or the peregrine falcon.
As for the group of mammals, there are around 35 species in the Park, among which are the wolf, the roe deer, the wildcat, the goat rat and the wild boar. In abandoned mines and in the tunnels of the dams there are important colonies of cave bats, many of which are threatened. In rivers, the elusive otter fishes in clear waters.
The Douro river cannon and the legend of Fraga Amarela
With a length of about 130 km, the river canyon of the Douro is a section of the river, close to the border with Spain, where it narrows and sinks, forming vertical cliffs that range from 640 to 150 meters in altitude. This feature earned it the title of Grand Canyon of the Iberian Peninsula and one of the wildest areas in southern Europe. It covers the entire extension of the Mirandês Plateau, with particular emphasis on some areas of Sendim, Picote, Miranda do Douro and S. João das Arribas.
From the Miradouro de Miranda do Douro you can see a magnificent view over the river canyon of the Douro. And, on one of the rocky cliffs that flank the river, on the Spanish side – Fraga Amarela – there is a curiosity that only the most attentive eyes can capture – the number 2 engraved by nature in patches of lichen and moss. Legend has it that whoever manages to see the enigmatic number is guaranteed marriage. Those who cannot see this natural phenomenon (or mere optical illusion) will not be so lucky.
The 5 best viewpoints in the Douro International Natural Park
In the Douro International Natural Park there is no lack of vertiginous viewpoints that allow you to contemplate the river and the stunning surrounding landscape. These are what we consider the most beautiful viewpoints in the Park.
Penedo Durão (Freixo de Espada à Cinta)
The Park’s first viewpoint, for those traveling to Spain, the Penedo Durão Viewpoint is famous for its ease in observing the birdlife in the natural park, namely the Griffon Vulture, the Egyptian Vulture and the Black Stork. Here you will find one of the best visitor support structures in the entire Park, with parking, well-kept platforms and wooden protections; and even shades and picnic tables.
Picões (Penedo da Bemposta)
Charming and isolated, to reach the Picões viewpoint you must cross the cultivated fields of the village of Penedo da Bemposta. The landscape is simply magnificent, with the river making a beautiful curve and the flight of griffins completing the panorama..
Fraga de Puio (Picote)
Recently the target of improvement works, the Fraga do Puio Viewpoint is one of the best places to observe the Douro Internacional river canyon, which in this location makes an extraordinary and pronounced curve. In addition to the wonderful landscape, at the viewpoint there is evidence of human presence that dates back millennia – the archer, a figure carved into the rocks, on the floor of the viewpoint.
Miradouro de São João das Arribas (Miranda do Douro)
Located on the outskirts of Aldeia Nova, the São João das Arribas Viewpoint offers one of the most dramatic views in the entire Park. Here, the river flows nestled between the monumental cliffs, right at the bottom of the valley, and you almost have to lean over the viewpoint to see its course.
Miradouro de Penha das Torres (Miranda do Douro)
Located in the easternmost point of Portugal, here the sun rises earlier. At the Penha das Torres viewpoint, it is possible to observe the exact place where the Douro river enters Portuguese territory and the Spanish dam of Salto de Castro. In addition to the wonderful landscape, there is a high probability of seeing griffins and vultures.