Arouca Geopark, in Portugal’s Norte region (see: Region Map) was the site of a recent conference on Geotourism in Action.
National Geo’s Jonathan Tourtellot has written a fine primer to the concept of Geotourism after returning from the conference. He describes an interesting nook in northern Portugal:
Arouca Geopark itself is a good example of how this works. Its several “geosites” include a slate quarry rich in fossils of giant trilobites and a curious formation seen nowhere else: “Rocks giving birth to rocks”—granite that releases nodules of biotite as it erodes. According to folklore, local women thought the puck-size nodules promoted fertility.
But Arouca’s other cultural and natural connections are just as interesting: wines dependent on the terroir, flavorful beef from cattle raised in the mountains, lots of scenic hiking trails, a magnificent monastery made from local granite, and striking village roofs of free-form slate. You might not visit Arouca just for trilobites, but you would for the whole experience. ~ UNESCO’s Geoparks “Clarify” Geotourism
The town of Arouca is interesting for tourists not only for its unique geography, but for the Monastery of Arouca, founded in the 10th century and dedicated to Saint Peter. The monastery is considered to be one of the richest Cistercian monasteries in Portugal. It belonged to the Order of Cistercians, and is built from the local granite.
If you’re interested in active vacations in rural areas where learning about the geology and how it’s been used is part of the fun, the the area around Arouca may be just the place. There are many important cities close to Arouca, including Braga, Guimarães, Chaves Porto (and the Douro valley) is only 65 km away.
More on Arouca, Portugal
Arouca Geopark Website (excellent resource in English).
See an interactive panorama of the Arouca countryside and the Frecha da Mizarela waterfall.