Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peneda: what to see, do, and hotels

Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Peneda.
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2024-05-28

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peneda (Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Peneda) is located in the municipality of Arcos de Valdevez, in Northern Portugal.

This Marian sanctuary is nestled in the heart of the Peneda-Gerês National Park, making the visit even more special.

We traveled to Gavieira and continued until we found the impressive stairway. This stairway is similar to that of the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga and that of Our Lady of Remedies in Lamego. Its grandeur leaves anyone in awe.

In this article, we share all the details of our family adventure.

Additionally, for those who are unfamiliar, I will tell you the legend of Our Lady of the Snows and Our Lady of Peneda. These stories are part of the cultural heritage of the region and enrich the experience of those who visit the sanctuary.

Prepare yourself for a trip that combines history, culture, and nature. Visit the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peneda and discover one of the most remarkable jewels of Arcos de Valdevez. Be sure to take notes of all the details and tips for your visit.

So, are you ready to discover this corner of Portugal, as well as the legend of Our Lady of the Snows and Our Lady of Peneda? Let’s go!

What to do during the visit to Our Lady of Peneda?

Visit the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peneda

Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Peneda.
Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peneda (Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Peneda).
Pórtico, na entrada para o Santuário da Senhora da Peneda.
Portal, at the entrance to the sanctuary.
Esculturas no Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Peneda.
Sculptures at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peneda.
Loja no recinto do santuário. Comprar artesanato e loiças de barro.
Shop at the sanctuary premises. Buy handicrafts and pottery.

The best way to visit the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peneda is undoubtedly to start by climbing the Stairway of Virtues.

This stairway was built in 1854 by master Francisco Luís Barreiros. It features four statues representing Faith, Hope, Charity, and Glory.

Following the stairway, there are twenty chapels illustrating scenes from the life of Christ. These chapels are arranged along an avenue before reaching the circular plaza that leads to the church.

Finally, next to the sanctuary, you will find the Peneda Hotel and some souvenir shops.

Discover the Peneda Waterfall

Cascata da Peneda no verão.
Peneda waterfall in the summer.

The Peneda Waterfall is 30 meters high, but it dries up in the summer due to low water levels.

Therefore, the best time to visit the waterfall and the sanctuary is during the rainy season. If your goal is to see the Peneda Waterfall, this is the only time you can witness it in its full glory, with water cascading vigorously.

Did you know that near the waterfall is the Lagoa da Senhora da Peneda? We’ve never visited it, but GPS confirms its existence. It seems to be an interesting spot to explore.

In fact, the area around the Peneda Waterfall is a natural treasure worth discovering. Even if the water isn’t flowing, it’s still worth a visit.

Enjoying a family picnic

Lenda da Senhora da Peneda.
Exploring Our Lady of Peneda with family.
Turismo de natureza. Trilho de Castro Laboreiro. Just Natur.
Nature tourism. Castro Laboreiro Trail. Just Natur.

Along the way to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peneda, you will find several spots perfect for a peaceful picnic.

These areas usually have safe parking spaces and tables for your meal.

Alternatively, you can find a quiet spot, lay a blanket on the ground, and enjoy the benefits of fresh air and nature.

It’s very important to leave these places as you found them. Do not litter or engage in behavior that disrespects the environment.

Discovering the Garranos (wild horses)

Ver garranos, ou cavalos selvagens, no Gerês.
Seeing Garranos, or wild horses, in Gerês.
Garranos (cavalos selvagens), no Gerês.
Garranos (wild horses) in Gerês.

Although it’s a matter of luck, it’s quite common to see Garranos wandering through the Serra da Peneda.

So, when you visit Our Lady of Peneda, keep an eye out for these animals.

Occasionally, you might also encounter other animals, such as cows, but seeing the Garranos up close is particularly rewarding.

Once again, do not disturb them and let them be.

Accommodation near the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peneda

Ribeira Collection
Ribeira Collection Hotel by Piamonte Hotels, in Arcos de Valdevez.
Quarto do Ribeira Collection Hotel by Piamonte Hotels, em Arcos de Valdevez.
Room at Ribeira Collection Hotel by Piamonte Hotels, in Arcos de Valdevez.
Luna Arcos Hotel Nature & Wellness, em Arcos de Valdevez.
Luna Arcos Hotel Nature & Wellness, in Arcos de Valdevez.
Quarto do Luna Arcos Hotel Nature & Wellness.
Room at Luna Arcos Hotel Nature & Wellness.

Although there are few hotels near Our Lady of Peneda, you can choose to stay in rural accommodations that allow you to explore the sanctuary on foot.

If this sounds like a good plan, I suggest checking out Penedino Mountain Cottage, Casa do Quinteiro, or Casa Ti’ Beites, no Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Peneda.

I usually stay in the center of Arcos de Valdevez, alternating between the Ribeira Collection Hotel by Piamonte Hotels (4 stars) and the Luna Arcos Hotel Nature & Wellness (4 stars). Both hotels are comfortable, and the breakfasts are wonderful!

When is the Pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peneda?

Subir as escadas da Senhora da Peneda.
Climbing the stairs of Our Lady of Peneda.

The pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peneda takes place every year at the end of summer, specifically in the first week of September.

However, this pilgrimage, which attracts visitors to the municipality of Arcos de Valdevez from all over the country, including from neighboring Galicia, has previously taken place in August. Therefore, it is a good idea to confirm the dates.

The dates for the 2024 pilgrimage are not yet known. For your reference, last year’s festivities took place from August 31 to September 8.

What to visit near the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peneda?

Turismo de natureza. Trilho de Castro Laboreiro.
Nature tourism. Castro Laboreiro Trail.
Canyoning Montes de Laboreiro
Canyoning in Montes de Laboreiro.
Ver os espigueiros de Soajo.
Seeing the granaries of Soajo.
Soajo: Poço Negro (lagoa).
Soajo: Poço Negro (lagoon).
Padaria do Soajo.
Soajo Bakery.
Vacas na Serra do Soajo.
Cows in the Soajo Mountains.
Serra do Soajo, andar a cavalo ao por-do sol.
Soajo Mountains: Horseback riding at sunset.
Aldeia de Lindoso
Lindoso Village, with its 52 granaries.
O maior baloiço de Portugal
Mezio Swing, in Cabana Maior (Arcos de Valdevez).

Since this sanctuary is located in the Peneda-Gerês National Park, I recommend taking the opportunity to explore the rest of the natural park, as well as the small villages.

Here are the places I suggest you include in your itinerary for Our Lady of Peneda, along with their distances from the sanctuary:

  • Visiting Castro Laboreiro, with its castle (17 km);
  • The centuries-old granaries and lagoons of Soajo (20 km);
  • The castle and the 52 granaries of Lindoso (23 km);
  • Mezio Swing (Baloiço do Mezio) (27 km);

The legend of Our Lady of the Snows and Our Lady of Peneda

Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Peneda.
Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peneda (Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Peneda).

It may seem hard to believe, but the legend of Our Lady of Peneda dates back to the year 716 or 717.

It goes something like this: a group of Christians fleeing from the enemy hid an image of the Virgin Mary in the cliffs of the Peneda Mountains, thus giving rise to the legend of Our Lady of Peneda.

In another version, on August 5, 1220, the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to a shepherdess, who named her Our Lady of the Snows, thus giving rise to the legend of Our Lady of the Snows.

As I mentioned, the festival in honor of Our Lady of Peneda takes place every year in the first week of September. However, the sanctuary can be visited at any time.

Map and how to get to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peneda

Gavieira, Arcos de Valdevez.
Gavieira, Arcos de Valdevez.

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peneda is located 39 km from Arcos de Valdevez, 140 km from Porto, and 450 km from Lisbon.

If you’re coming from Arcos de Valdevez, the journey is quick and easy. It takes about 45 minutes by car. Follow the N202-2 and then the M530 to Gavieira, where the sanctuary is located.

If you’re coming from Porto, the journey is longer but equally beautiful. It takes about 2 hours. Take the A3 towards Braga, then the A27 towards Viana do Castelo, and then the N202-2 to Arcos de Valdevez. From there, follow the same directions to Gavieira.

From Lisbon, the journey is a true adventure. It takes about 5 hours by car. Take the A1 towards Porto, then the A3 towards Braga, and continue on the A27 towards Viana do Castelo. In Arcos de Valdevez, take the N202-2 and continue to Gavieira.

To make your trip easier, use the map below with all the detailed directions. This guide helps you find the fastest and most efficient way to get to the sanctuary.

Don’t forget to check the road conditions and weather before you leave. Plan your trip in advance to ensure a smooth and hassle-free experience.

Visit the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peneda and enjoy the journey through the beautiful north of Portugal. This sanctuary is a must-visit destination for those who appreciate the combination of spirituality and nature.

Get ready for an unforgettable visit. Are you ready to discover this wonderful place? Have a great trip!

From Porto

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