Is this New Zealand, where the Hobbits live? Nope, it’s Castro Laboreiro in Peneda-Gerês National Park, Portugal! Discover a place where fantasy settings hit reality.
- 1. About Peneda-Gerês and Castro Laboreiro
- 2. Ponte Romana de Dorna – The romantic bridge
- 3. Serra do Laboreiro – Mountainous landscape
- 4. Ponte da Assureira – The enchanted bridge from a fairy tale
- 5. Ponte Velha de Castro Laboreiro – The bridge crossing a multifaced river
- 6. How to reach Castro Laboreiro
- 7. When to go
- 8. Conclusion
1. About Peneda-Gerês and Castro Laboreiro
Peneda-Gerês (normally just called Gerês) is Portugal’s only National Park. It was founded in 1971 to protect the wide variation in fauna and landscapes. Since 2009 it also got the title of a nature reserve by UNESCO. The area is located in Portugal’s North adjacent to the Spanish border along Galicia. No wonder why many Galician visit Gerês.
While the National Park isn’t that huge on the map, it feels so once you’re inside. Especially in Castro Laboreiro, which is located in the Peneda area, the mountainous landscape makes you feel small. The Portuguese village is small by the number of inhabitants but rich in attractions – especially ancient ones.
As the Romans lived in Castro Laboreiro, they left some beautiful remnants. Bem-vindo (welcome) to the place of romantic and mystic bridges in Peneda-Gerês National Park, Portugal.
2. Ponte Romana de Dorna – The romantic bridge
Is this the land where Leprechauns and Hobbits cross bridges to have parties or hide their pots of gold? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Still, someone can fantasies about that, right?
As mentioned before, this gorgeous place is neither from New Zealand nor from Ireland. Somehow it is exciting to also find these kinds of natural and fairy tale places in Portugal.
This bridge, Ponte Romana de Dorna, is pure romance. So, is it just a coincidence that Romans built this bridge of romance? Well, it’s up to you to decide. Whatever.
Imagine having a date while sitting on it and looking on the ground through the clear and innocent water. Every now and then you can also spot small fishes swimming inside the creek.
In case you want to change the scenario, just turn around and you can stare on the little waterfalls of Ribeiro de Dorna (Dorna Creek). I can guarantee to you, this place is as peaceful as it can get.
If you haven’t anyone to date (bummer), then why don’t have a picnic at the creeks bank? My cousins and I did exactly that and it was pure relaxation. Having lunch in nature and peace is simply next level.
3. Serra do Laboreiro – Mountainous landscape
While Ponte Romana de Dorna seems like a peaceful green oasis, its surroundings are quite the opposite. When you walk a bit along the street M1160 towards north, you get a tremendous panorama of Serra do Laboreiro.
The massive mountainous landscape offers some interesting stone formations. Furthermore, some of these mountains are covered by vegetation and others aren’t. Moreover, you find small residential areas at the bottom of the valley. It’s funny seeing these small stone houses in comparison to the massive mountain range in the background.
You can also follow the course of the Dorna Creek and hit a swamp-like area. While the ground is super weak, it’s very interesting seeing that abandoned place with its pond offering nice reflections.
Are you ready to see the next bridge?
4. Ponte da Assureira – The enchanted bridge from a fairy tale
A two minute drive away from Dorna lies the next bridge ahead. This time the mood changes from romantic to mystic. This place is much more covered by trees. Thus, the resulting shadows create a sort of different dimension than previously.
Ponte da Assureira is enchanted by its surrounding. Plants and weeds grow between its stones, which makes it look abandoned compared to the first bridge. Well, in fact they are both abandoned. Still, this abandoned setting has a positive effect.
When you stand on the new operating bridge and look on the Assureira one, go down to the creek behind the old bridge. Now, enjoy the fairy tale vibes. Listen to the sound of the creek passing by.
Observe dragonflies flying over the creek’s surface and try to spot some small fishes inside the water. This is pure relaxation with nature.
Before heading towards Castro Laboreiro village, there is another bridge, which I didn’t know when I was there. Although I can’t provide my experiences or pictures from that place, I can’t keep it back from you.
Ponte da Cava da Velha is only a two-minute walk away from the Assureira bridge. Be prepared for another dimension. This time, it’s rockier, wilder and bigger. You can check pictures from there, here.
Now, it’s time for jumping to Castro Laboreiro village.
5. Ponte Velha de Castro Laboreiro – The bridge crossing a multifaced river
So, am I going to show you Castro Laboreiro’s inhabited area now? Not quite to be honest. Something else is stealing the show.
There is another Roman bridge in the village – Ponte Velha de Castro Laboreiro. This bridge crosses the river which is the village’s eponym. Trust me, this river has a lot to offer.
While the previous creeks were chilled, Castro Laboreiro River escalates quickly. Why is that, you might ask? Because the river goes downhill below the bridge.
There are three waterfall phases: Phase one is a wild example of the chilled waterfall from Dorna, which passes by a lot of green. However, phase two resembles a waterjet coming out from a dam.
Then there is a short break. Steplike, four lagoons collect the water for a short term of time, until it really escalates. From then on, it’s cascade time.
Cascata do Laboreiro seems to be a popular spot for extreme aqua sports, like extreme kayaking. While I can’t provide proper pictures of the wild cascade, you can check some here.
But is that all? As I spoiled in the header, this place is multifaced. It’s a place of hecticness and tranquillity at the same time. But there is more to it.
Between the hectic waterfall’s phase one and two, the tranquillity in between offers a colourful spectacle. The riverbed shines in yellow and red! As I’m not a chemistry guy, I can’t tell you what exactly is happening there. Maybe it has to do with the ground and rocks which in combo with the water and exposure to light create these spectacular colours. One thing is sure, nature can be astonishing.
Overall the surrounding is majestic here. It enables gorgeous views and photo motifs, especially when you stand on the new operating bridge and look towards the old one. There is so much going on that Ponte Velha de Castro Laboreiro can be called the culmination of all presented bridges.
6. How to reach Castro Laboreiro
There aren’t many choices to reach Castro Laboreiro and its remote located bridges besides going by car or a similar vehicle.
7. When to go
Visit Castro Laboreiro from May until Indian Summer (End of October). I went at the end of June and don’t regret experiencing all these treasures with prospered vegetation.
As there are also watering holes along the rivers to take a bath, the period between June and September might be best for you.
All in all, Castro Laboreiro is a great and diversified place for natural landscapes, ancient structures as well as romantic and mystic spots. Every presented bridge and surrounding has its own charm and magic. Moreover, its eponym seems to be a popular for extreme aqua sports fans.
As there are many more attractions like the remnants of Castle of Castro Laboreiro, which enables great panoramic views, you could even stay days there.
I personally fell in love with Castro Laboreiro and can’t wait to return to experience all the other treasures I missed.