Peneda-Gerês, Portugal's Only National Park, As Seen By National Geographic
Peter Essick/National Geographic
The village of Pitões das Júnias is in Peneda-Gerês, Portugal's first and only national park. At 270 square miles, it's small compared to sprawling parks such as Yellowstone, the world's first national park.
But packed within its borders is a highly concentrated mixture of things wild and domesticated. Forty endangered Iberian wolves share the terrain with some 11,000 people, who live in more than 80 settlements formed long before the park was established in 1971.
In fact, people and wildlife have lived in close proximity here since the Stone Age. Whether they exist today in delicate equilibrium or constant tension depends on whom you ask.
Tucked into a craggy corner of northern Portugal, hard against the Spanish border, Peneda-Gerês is carved by mountain ranges, rivers, canyons, gorges, and streams. Most villages are situated in the lower valleys, where the climate is milder and the terrain more accommodating to people and livestock. The park's wild heart is in the high country, a realm of rugged granite massifs, windswept moors, and bare uplands greened in places by stands of giant holly.
Text courtesy of National Geographic. All photos by Peter Essick for the July issue of National Geographic, on newsstands now.