Serra de Aire e Candeeiros Natural Park
The Serra de Aire e Candeeiros Natural Park was created in 1979, with an area of about 35,000 hectares, situated in an immense chalk area, the most important in the country, with two large mountain ranges (Aires and Candeeiros) and also the São Mamede Plateau.
Chalk is the main element of this region, and throughout the centuries, natural elements sculpted this rocky area, originating more than 1500 caves, grottoes and ravines underneath the surface: an amazing paradise for speleologists, with still plenty to discover. In fact, nowadays many of these areas are prepared to receive visitors such as the caves of Santo António, Moeda, Mira d’Aire and Alvados, that have various support infrastructures.
At the surface, there are neither rivers or streams, but underneath the surface there are several watercourses running through caves and galleries.
The landscape is barren, dotted here and there by boulders, fissures and slopes. Notwithstanding this arid appearance, there is a rich and varied range of animal life, including 18 species of bats (the symbol of the Park) that find ideal shelter in the various grottoes.
The area of the Park has human occupation vestiges since pre-historical times, and there are still plenty of places waiting to be discovered, as well as small traditional villages, as well as big cities with a rich and historical heritage that are worth to be known.
Throughout the Park there are chalk small walls and tiny houses (built all over the centuries in order to shelter the shepherds from the harsh weather conditions) that characterize the landscape and are testimony of the passage of time since pre-historic nomad tribes.
The Park houses more than 600 vegetable species, many of them unique. Olive, Oak and Pine trees are common in the area, as well as orchids, narcissus, rosemary, among many others.
The symbol of the Park is the Bat, that find ideal shelter in the various beautiful grottoes of the region. There are several Bat species in the Park, some of them in danger of extinction. Other animals inhabit in the area, such as the Red-billed Chough, the Eurasian Eagle Owl, and various species of reptiles and amphibians, among many other important animals.
There are about 16 pedestrian walks through the Park with signage and information to a better knowledge of this important natural region. There are also different and varied activities all over the Park, such as donkey rides, bike rides, or speleological activities.