Between Sabugal and Penamacor, and reaching east from two local reservoirs to the Spanish border, spreads the Reserva Natural da Serra da Malcata (wicnf.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 very lucky, you might get a glimpse of a wild boar among the trees, or catch sight 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 many years – fewer than 200 are believed to exist in the wild, all now in Spain.
The reserve covers 16,000 hectares of heather-clad hills and oak woodland, with the reserve headquarters 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.