Between Sabugal and Penamacor, and reaching east from two local reservoirs to the Spanish border, spreads the Reserva Natural da Serra da Malcata (wwww.icnb.pt). It’s one of the least-visited Portuguese nature reserves – access isn’t easy, and you really need to bike or hike to get much out of it – but it rewards the effort. If you’re fortunate, you might just see a wild boar disappearing into the forests of black oak, or catch a glimpse of the magnificent golden eagle or black vulture. What you won’t see – despite the emblem on all the promotional material – is the Iberian lynx, which is under serious threat of extinction. The last lynx was caught in the park in 1992, and there’s been no sign of one now for over a decade – though they are still present on the Spanish side of the border.
The reserve covers 16,000 hectares of heather-clad hills and oak woodland, with the reserve headquarters found in Penamacor. They can usually rustle up an English-speaking member of staff, and the office also sells a map and separate walking booklet in English. Note that not all the hiking trails are currently signposted, as neglect, forest fires and vandalism have taken their toll – but you can always follow our directions instead.