This was the result of the moving of continents towards each other, resulting in the origin of one huge super continent: the Pangaea.
Various wrinkles appeared in the earth’s crust due to the immense pressure, including those of the São Mamede. The core of the mountain range in this Portuguese natural park consists mainly of schist and greywacke (a type of sandstone), bordered on the north and west side by more recent formations of granite. The latter also causes to some extent the abundant presence of saibro, a granitic light-colored type of sand.
Especially the north side of the park, the environment of our campsite Beirã-Marvão Alentejo is, according to a lot of publications, very interesting for hikers. Here, deciduous forests are regularly alternated by cultivated land.
Further south, for as far as several major fires (about 6 to 7 years ago) haven’t destroyed them, the hillsides have been planted with beautiful and also somewhat rough pine forests. Even more south, the mountain range shades off into the Alentejan plains with its montados, a more park-like landscape with scattered corks and stone oaks.
From the mountain tops in the park, of which the Pico São Mamede – with its 1025 m the highest mountain south of the Tagus river– and from the unique fortress of Marvão, the region of our Campsite Beirã-Marvão Alentejo, you have a magnificent view on the area and you can also see the foothills of the equally well-known Serra de Estrela.
The park in the east of Portugal, unique due to its environmental beauty, is situated in the transition region between the Atlantic and Mediterranean climate. Therefore the northern part is just a little more cool and wet than the south.
The Atlantic influence in the northern part of the park shows clearly through its vegetation. Here we find mostly Pyrenean Oaks (Quercus pyrenaica), sweet chestnut trees and the present cork oaks.
In the south, the vegetation of the park clearly has a Mediterranean character: real cork oak forests and montados of holm-oaks. On higher grounds are the heath lands, where different types of rock roses can be found, Halimium umbellatum and Halimium allyssoides.
In several places, especially in the central part of the park, the last one hundred years the hills were planted with maritime pines and eucalyptus trees.
The park is especially interesting for bird lovers. The real bird watcher will, just like that, suddenly see a Bonelli’s eagle, an eagle owl or a short-toed eagle hunting a Lactase’s viper. This natural park is also the hunting area of the black-winged kite, and there are also no less than 3 types of rare vultures: black vulture, Egyptian vulture and griffon vulture.
Where the ground somewhat flattens, we see other birds of prey, such as the Montagu’s harrier, but also great and little bustards, thick-knees and Calandra Larks. In lairs at the banks of brooks and creeks bee-eaters are breeding.
There are also storks, every year do settle here for the season. Not only the common, but also the much rarer black stork is frequently spotted. It’s true however, we believe we were able to contribute something to the extended stay of the storks in our area.
The wildlife of this protected park knows also a number of large mammals, like the returned Red Deer, wild boar, foxes, otters and the European genet. Hidden in the forests or in dense bushes are also mongooses, the Herpestes Ichneumon. These predators, with their sometimes almost one meter long tail, exist in Europe only at the Iberian Peninsula.
Serra de São Mamede Natural Park is also one of the few places in Portugal where the Iberian lynx, the Lynx Pardinus still exists. At the initiative of the municipality near the campground Castelo de Vide has started in 2017 a multiannual plan for creating a good habitat for the structured return of the so-called wild cat, Lynx.
Within the original borders of the protected park used to live just a little over 8000 people, because of the recent modifications of the borders of the park, this number has slightly grown. Here the inhabitants mainly live of agriculture, chestnut cultivation, trout fishing and for an increasingly important part, also of tourism, both directly- and indirectly.
The Portuguese population is most charming towards the foreign tourist, but this area is also defined by a more open kind of hospitality, when you ask a Portuguese something, he will try his best to inform you well.
This region of the North Alentejo used to belong to the most poor areas of Portugal. Back then, smuggling with Spain was a very important source of income, to the last, plenty of smuggling with cigarettes and coffee was going on. One of the smuggle routes was passing from the Portuguese to the Spanish side nearby Galegos.
Until today, some of the most used smuggle routes are maintained and once a year there is a special guided hiking tour, following the most important smuggle route from back then. During this walk you will of course get to hear the original super stories of the smugglers.
Naturally, we have the route available for you, a small detail: in the border village Galegos itself, you will also find a few nice souvenir shops.