Portugal

Greater Côa Valley

Experience serra, cliffs and montado landscapes

Located between the Douro River to the north and the Serra da Malcata in the south, Portugal’s Côa Valley is a spectacular mix of riverine gorges, oak forests, rocky heathlands and former cropland returning to nature. New sustainable travel here combines the finest natural and cultural experiences in the area, supporting local people and new independent nature reserves.

See our trips

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Greater Côa Valley

The Greater Côa Valley, a beautiful yet relatively unknown place in northern Portugal, is located close to the Spanish border between the Douro River and Malcata mountain ranges.

Characterised by its river gorges, oak forests, rocky heathlands and scattered fields, it is home to a growing population of wild herbivores such as wild boar, roe deer, and red deer, while river gorges are popular with cliff-loving animals such as vultures and eagles. On the poorer soils above granite bedrock, the landscape is dominated by very small landholdings that have been cultivated for centuries – these are now also increasingly being abandoned. The top predators here are the Iberian wolf, which is present in the form of a small pack, and the Iberian lynx (which should naturally be present, but remains absent for the time being).

Rewilding vision

For each rewilding landscape Rewilding Europe has developed an inspiring vision that shows their ambition for the next ten years. Together with their local partners they work to make this vision a reality.

Rewilding Efforts

As a result of rural depopulation and associated land abandonment across much of the Mediterranean, grazing livestock numbers have plummeted, leading to a very significant increase of landscapes without any form of grazing. As a result, many landscapes are now covered by young, often monotonous forest or dense scrub.

By bringing back grazing – this time not with livestock but with (semi-) wild herbivores such as wild horses and Tauros – Rewilding Europe and its local partners can significantly reduce the risk of fire in the Coa Valley rewilding area. Reintroducing such herbivores will also improve conditions for populations of roe deer and Iberian ibex. Natural grazing by these species leads to the creation of more diverse mosaic landscapes, with open spaces that act as effective firebreaks.

The Greater Côa Valley’s rich and varied montado landscapes, crossed by deep river valleys that straddle the border between Portugal and Spain, has become one of the most exciting wild areas of the Iberian Peninsula. Wildlife comeback has seen Iberian wolf, Iberian ibex, red deer and roe deer, all thriving in natural densities. In combination with some of the old local traditions, ways and products, this new wild dimension has created new sources of income and pride for the region’s inhabitants.
Greater Côa Valley frog
Greater Côa Valley frog

TRIPS TO THE GREATER CôA VALLEY

Greater Côa Valley
Signature Journey
Greater Côa Valley, Upper Douro Valley & Serra da Estrela
Greater Côa Valley flowers
Signature Walk
Walking the Côa and Upper Douro Valleys
Greater Côa Valley
Make it Private
The Greater Côa Valley with Fernando Romão

“Top predators return to the Greater Côa Valley”

Pedro Prata
Team leader of Greater Coâ Valley

How would you characterise your rewilding area?
The Greater Côa Valley is a biodiversity hotspot where rewilding can really take shape. It is a large arid open forest landscape, with steep valleys and inaccessible areas, where wildlife has been able to survive. This compact area boasts a multitude of habitats and species, as well as signs of human activity and wildlife that go back nearly 30 000 years.

What have the major achievements been in your rewilding area to date?
One of the main achievements has been persuading people that wildlife comeback and land abandonment represent an opportunity, rather than a problem. It has been fantastic to see top predators like the wolf return, more and more vultures nesting, and the Iberian lynx and imperial eagle starting to reappear. We have also built a cluster of nature-based businesses that are now going from strength to strength.

What would you like to see achieved in your rewilding area in the next five years?
I’d love to see 100 000 hectares of real rewilding area stretching along the Spanish border. That would connect two mountain ranges and two main canyons, strengthening the wildlife connection between northern and southern Iberia. And it would obviously be great to see species such as ibex and lynx return.

Our highlighted trips

Greater Côa Valley
Signature Journey - Portugal
CÔA VALLEY, UPPER DOURO VALLEY & SERRA DA ESTRELA
7 nights for £2695
Greater Côa Valley flowers
Signature Walk - Portugal
Walking the Côa and Upper Douro Valleys
6 nights for £1795
Greater Côa Valley
Signature winter adventure - sweden
AURORA BOREALIS, SÁMI CULTURE AND WILDLIFE OF SWEDISH LAPLAND
7 nights for £2695 
Greater Côa Valley flowers
Signature Journey - Scotland
AFFRIC HIGHLANDS & THE WILD WEST COAST
7 nights for £2695 

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