-Serra da Estrela Natural Park
The Natural Park of Serra da Estrela is the largest in Portugal and also features the highest mountain peaks in mainland Portugal. Both the Rio Mondego and the Rio Zêzere start here and cut through the Natural Park. These are the biggest two rivers that start and end in Portuguese territory. The Park began in 1976 to protect the rural character of the granite villages and its landscape. It lies to the east of the Central region of Portugal and stretches 55 kilometers from Celorico de Beira in the north, down to Vide in the south west, covering 1,000 square kilometers. It has some of the most stunning mountain scenery in Portugal and even has a small skiing resort.
-Serra da Malcata Nature Reserve
Serra da Malcata is a Nature Reserve on the Spanish border on the extreme east of the central Portugal region. It is most famous for being one of the last places on the Iberian Peninsula where the native Iberian lynx still survives - just about. There are only a few animals left and a reintroduction program will be necessary to conserve the Iberian lynx in the future. The Malcata Nature Reserve is a rolling expanse of heather clad hills with a network of hiking trails throughout. You're unlikely to catch a glimpse of the lynx but there is a wealth of other wildlife in the reserve.
-Tejo Internacional Natural Park
Along the Spanish border to the south of Castelo Branco is the Parque Natural do Tejo Internacional. This is a beautiful area noted for its bird watching along the rivers of the region. Steep sided valleys provide a spectacular natural setting next to the River Tejo and its tributaries (Ponsul, Erges and Aravil), where around 154 bird species breed. This is an excellent area for bird watching. You can see colonies of black storks, eagles and eagle owls
-National Forest of Buçaco
Mata Nacional do Buçaco UNESCO World Heritage is northeast of Coimbra and its forest covers 105 metric acres on the slopes of the Serra do Buçaco. It was a Carmelite monastery from the 16th century hidden by its three-mile long wall. In the early 20th century, Portugal's last kings built a hunting lodge, which today is a hotel. Today its Eden-like pathways offer more than 700 species of plants, more than half of which are native species. The forest has a series of trails running through it interspersed with chapels, ponds and fountains. Popular trails include the beautiful Vale dos Fetos, the Valley of Ferns and the Via Sacra path that takes you up to the Cruz Alta viewpoint at 545 meters.
-São Jacinto Nature Reserve
Stretching north of Aveiro from São Jacinto to Ovar is the 6.7 square kilometer wooded nature reserve, Reserva Natural São Jacinto where there are trails and bird hides. Visits are restricted to a maximum two and a half hour visit with entry times into the reserve between 9:00-9:30 am or between 1:30-2:00 pm. A guide is often available for a free tour or interpretive materials will help you get the most out of your visit. It is best to book ahead. Email: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>