I bet you haven't heard of Fermentelos, a small village of about 3000 inhabitants, located 17 km away from Aveiro, and about 10 km from Agueda. However, if you are coming to central Portugal, you should be aware of it - not because of the village itself, but because of a beautiful lagoon just next to it. Pateira de Fermentelos is the biggest natural lagoon of the Iberian Peninsula, but at the same time, surprisingly, one of the best kept secrets of the region when it comes to tourism, unlike the far more famous Ria de Aveiro. Except for the organised tours bringing occasionally retired Spaniards or locals chilling around on the weekends, there are almost no other visitors. Therefore, if you are looking for a tranquil place off the beaten track, you won't be disappointed.
"Pateira" got its name after its main inhabitants - "patos" (ducks in Portuguese). Besides them, 55 other species of birds can be observed here, including eagles, cranes, spoonbills, among others. The fact that these birds "call" Pateira home resulted in getting a status of the Special Protection Area under the European Union directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds. As you walk deeper inside the forest and you are lucky, your may also see a fox, a rabbit or even a wild boar.
It's difficult to say precisely how big the lagoon itself is because from the wet season (December to April) to the dry season (June to September) its area may change from as much as 9 km2 to 3 km2 only. Obviously, you should be visiting only during the dry season, with no rain and mud around.
While living in Aveiro, I visited Pateira many times and was always amazed by its tranquility. Although hundreds of tourists arrive daily in Aveiro, seems like none of them actually visit this place. As it has a lot of potential, it's actually hard to understand why. It's a perfect spot for meditation, BTT, kayak, hiking, birdwatching or a picnic, shortly, for many things, except, unfortunately, for swimming because it's way too muddy. My personal favourite is SUP (stand up paddle) or just walking around. There is an official walking route that you can follow - "Da Pateira ao Águeda". Its code is AGD PR1 and it takes around four hours to complete it. The route is circular, around 14 km long, but in fact not difficult at all. If you have less time, you can do it partially and still enjoy some unique flora and fauna of the place.
What makes Pateira amazingly beautiful are water-hyacinths all around it. However, due to their invasive nature, the city hall of Agueda actually needs to take care of removing them partially every now and then. Still, many are there, waiting for you to take a perfect picture of the lagoon and its pretty invaders.
Besides visiting Pateira, if you are looking for more stunning nature in the central Portugal, there are other options. Try exploring Passadiços de Aveiro or Buçaco Forest - both perfect for an afternoon excursion.
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