Serra de São Mamede
The Natural Park Serra de São Mamede is a protected nature reserve of some 31000 hectares in the northeastern tip of Alentejo on the border of Portugal and Spain: much overlooked but still so easy to reach from the new Lisbon to Madrid highway.
The 44km long park, created in 1989, with the aim of protecting wildlife and unusual plants and preserving local traditional life.
The park contrasts with the rolling plains of grain and oak that typifies the Alentejo. Within this protected region, the mountain range known as the Serra de São Mamede at 1025 meters overlooks the vast plains of the Alentejo and into Extremadura in Spain.
The convergence of the Mediterranean and Atlantic climates has given rise to a fascinating range of natural vegetation and wild life. Wild flowers are abundant in the spring and early summer. The forest of cork oaks, oaks and olive trees still covers large areas of the Serra. Sweet chestnut trees provide shade and ample nuts for animal life and the chestnuts are used in the traditional recipes of the area.
Wild boar and deer roam the park. Genets, wild cats and even the Iberian lynx still live here although endangered and not often to be seen. Kestrels, Bonellis eagle and Egyptian vultures are a common sight circling high overhead. In fact, the area supports more than half of the species of birds that breed in Portugal. It is also home to the largest European colony of bats.