The Nature Areas Route
This reserve has existed since 1981, and today also forms part of the Council of Europe Bio-genetic Reserve. The Malcata has been much publicized in the media due to efforts to protect its LYNX population, a feline considered to be in danger of extinction.
The reserve has an area of 163km2 and is located on the border with Spain, near Penamacor. Its altitude varies between 425m and 1,078m, and the climate is transitional between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. This results in vegetation rich in holly oak, strawberry trees and Pyrenean oak. The fauna is equally diverse, with the reserve being home to 218 species of vertebrates, in addition to the Iberian lynx.
The source of the river Côa, one of the major tributaries of the river Douro, is located along the reserve’s northern margins.
This is the largest protected area in Portugal, occupying a total of around 1,000km2. It includes the Serra da Estrela mountain range, which is mainly granitic, but which also has a few shale outcrops.
Some major Portuguese rivers (Mondego, Zêzere, Alva) have their sources within the boundaries of the Nature Park, which also contains vestiges of ancient glaciers (U-shaped valleys, lagoons, erratic granite boulders, hollows). The park is home to the highest point in mainland Portugal, Torre, which reaches a height of almost 2,000m.
The climate is influenced by both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, and the park's central plateau is considered a Bio-genetic Reserve by the Council of Europe.