Geres is a cosy little village that has grown due its thermal water properties; the correct name of the village is Caldas do Gerês, but it is usually referred to as Gerês. The village is situated on a valley and while walking past main street you will see green slopes around you. The village itself doesn't have monuments or places that are worth mentioning, except for the thermal properties of its waters and treatments, but Caldas do Gerês is one of the gateways to the beautiful Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês (Peneda-Gerês), a National Park that was classified in 1971 and it was Portugal's first National Park. Actually, it is the only Portuguese National Park.
The Park protected area spreads across 72.000h and is situated on the Northeastern border of the Minho region. Altogether, there are 114 small villages inside the Park, which represent about 10.000 inhabitants in this peaceful and mountainous green area. The inhabitants' major economical activities are agriculture and livestock.
The Park is a delimited area in terms of map, but actually there is no entrance to it. While visiting the park, by car or trekking, you will come across beautiful green landscapes, lovely small villages and churches, enchanted water falls, water streams and dams.
For further information see my Geres page.
Geres is situated about 60 km from Guimarães; although it may not be considered "near", the National Park will surely compensate the trip.
Citânia de Briteiros is an archaeological site situated about 15km outside Guimarães. This site consists of ruins of a Celtic settlement. The settlement was walled, with walls about 5m high and 2m thick. It is said that on the 1st century it was the political capital of the Callaeci Bracari (pre-roman people with Celtic origins that inhabited the North of Portugal), but by the 3rd century it was abandoned. The ruins show signs of roman influence (1st century BC), such as Latin inscriptions, coins, glass and terracotta pieces.
One of the interesting buildings of this settlement is a public bathroom, with 2 rooms: one for a steam bath and another for cold water bath.
These ruins were discovered in 1875 by an archaeologist, being that they are classified as National Monument since 1910. The entrance fee (August 2011) is 4 Euro per person. Ruins close about 6pm, but their visit lasts at least 45m, so plan your visit with time. Bring comfortable walking shoes as the path is unpaved and uneven.
For a virtual tour of the ruins, visit their website: http://citania.csarmento.uminho.pt/default.asp?language=1
Braga is the capital city of this district where Guimarães is situated. It is a pleasant city to visit, both the centre where you may follow the “Baroque Route” or the “Roman Route” to discover magnificent churches, palaces and houses of Baroque architecture or Roman ruins, according to the route you decide to follow.
Also, a bit off the city centre (about 6km) there are important main sees: the Bom Jesus sanctuary (Baroque masterpiece, one of my favourite in Portugal for this kind of place) and Sameiro, the second pilmigrage sanctuary in Portugal after Fátima. If visiting these sanctuaries I would advise to avoid weekends or holidays as it is somewhat crowded.
Braga is situated about 22 km from Guimarães.
For further information about Braga, visit my page.
If you stay a few days in Guimaraes, then a trip to Porto is highly recommended. We actually stayed 4 days in Porto and liked the city a lot. Porto is located only 75 minutes by train south of Guimaraes. Please check my transportation tips for more details.
Porto is Portugal's second largest city and it is divided by the river Douro.
The touristy centre is the Ribeira, a historic district on the right bank of the river.
Among the main sights are the bridge Ponte Luis I, the Cathedral Se, the Clerigos Church, the Santo Ildefonso Church and the S Lourenco Church.
The Penha mountain is situated southeast of Guimaraes. It can be reached by cable car from just outside Guimaraes city centre. Please read my transportation tip for more details.
From the top of the mountain at 617 m you can enjoy panoramic views of Guimaraes and the surrounding region.
Several sights can be found here as well. The Penha Sanctuary which was built in the early 1930's dominates the area. Nowadays it is a popular pilgrimage site.
Another religious building is the Chapel of Saint Christopher whose construction dates back to 1880.
Numerous grottos are located all around the mountain. One of the nicest is the Grotto of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel which can be found in a rock formation just underneath the Chapel of Saint Christopher.
Near the entrance to the Grotto of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel the small Grotto of St. Elias the patron saint of sleep can be seen.
Other interesting sights include the Pope Pius IX Statue and the Grotto of Our Lady Lourdes.
Terras de Basto (Basto's Lands) are located between montains and forests (east of Guimarães). In that area we may find statues knowned as "bastos", which are representative of Celt warriors and were used to mark territories.
At Cabeceiras de Basto is located the Refojos Monastery, baroque style.