Hiking in Mata da Margaraça

A nature reserve of 350 hectares
When we look up the mountain called Serra do Açor, which is 1349 metres high and is situated in Arganil, our eyes are dazzled by the beautiful landscape. The terraces show the know-how and entrepreneurship of the people.The water flows through sluices and when the heat comes, it is shared, still obeying the ancient rules.

Mata da Margaraça is a spectacular forest and one of the most notable deciduous forests in Portugal set in mountainous landscape. It is situated within the protected landscape of the Serra do Açor, Arganil and is classified as a Natural Reserve and Biogenetic Reserve of the Council of Europe. It is managed by ICNF: Instituto da Conservação da Natureza e das Florestas.

A late afternoon trip to Mata da Margaraça – the enchanted forest
It has amazing altitudes and several hectares of forest to explore. There are beautiful oaks, chestnuts, walnut cherry, elm holly, ash and laurels including various rare species. It’s also home to some amazing orchids hiding in the forest. Apparently there are over 70 species of mushroom growing. It is bursting full of nature and there are many species of wildlife to view including the chestnut wasp. If you are lucky you might see an owl, hawk, round-winged eagle, black rook, wood pigeon, woodpeckers, jays, dove or bullfinches. There are also the delights of wild boar, salamanders, frogs and squirrels. If you love plants, birds and reptiles, this is definitely the place for you.

The forest was once one of the most important agricultural areas in the parish of Benfeita, Arganil, where it is still possible to observe a horizontal rotating mill next to the stream, as well as an old dam and a water drain. Mata da Margaraça has been documented since the second half of the century. Wood from the forest was used for the altarpiece of the Igreja da Sé Nova (Coimbra) and for the construction of an old bridge over the Mondego in Coimbra. It also supplied wood for the construction of the Santo António Convent at AX Vila Cova do Alva.

Forest fire
In 2017 it was seriously affected by the forest fires but it is recovered to its former glory. This is fantastic and a living example of the resilience of this native forest/ecosystem. The results of the comparison from surveys carried out before and after the fire, show that the fire had an impact mainly in terms of the abundance of birds, more than in the variety of species present and in the entire structure of the bird community. This is fantastic news.

I really enjoyed exploring the forests woodland and it’s green and fresh flora. We followed the blue trail. From the trail we took we could see the village of Monte Frio nestled in the hilltop. The little stream and waterfall were very pretty and there are a lot of old ruins dotted around which are always nice to view. I managed to see butterflies, woodpeckers, a few bugs and some grapes growing on a vine. The cloud formations against the trees were magnificent. We were the only ones there on foot, and we saw one cyclist but other that we had the forest to ourselves which was a luxury but a bit eery! It was a lovely evening taking in all the sights and breathing in the smells of nature. It’s a hidden gem and perfect for a picnic with a few picnic tables dotted around. We had a great hike in the enchanted forest. There are so many trees for shade so it’s still an enjoyable trip on a hot summer’s day. If you get too hot you can always visit the nearby Fraga da Pena waterfall for a cool dip in the water.

The forrest of Mata da Margaraça can be reached within 10 minutes by car from Quinta da Palmeira – Country House Retreat & Spa.


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