The Mata Nacional do Bussaco is a realm of biodiversity consisting of four landscape units (Arboretum, Gardens and Vale dos Fetos, Floresta Relíquia and Pinhal do Marquês), but also a rich range of historical and cultural heritage classified as a National Monument.
At a low altitude (549 metres), the geographical location of this territorial unit, which occupies 105 hectares, gives rise to a microclimate of mild temperatures, high precipitation and morning fog, where the southern slopes have more Mediterranean vegetation and the northern slopes, vegetation characteristic of temperate climates.
The Discalced Carmelites, who occupied this territory, marked it both culturally and in terms of its landscape. The Arboretum, a result of reforestation carried out by the monks, occupies about 80% of the space. Of the original species, some oaks (Quercus spp.), Portugal laurels (Prunus lusitanica) and bay laurels (Laurus nobilis) remain, along with the Portuguese cypress (Cupressus lusitanica), the centrepiece of the forest. From the nineteenth century, other exotic species were introduced and the “Jardim Novo” and the “Vale dos Fetos” street arrangements were built. Although on a smaller scale, in the Floresta Relíquia a set of native plants retains the characteristics of a primitive forest prior to human occupation. Here, there are three distinct habitats: the oak-hormbeam forest, the laurel grove and theheberdenia excelsa grove - the latter stretching from Cruz Alta to Passo de Caifás, with areas of dense forest of a beauty that fascinates. For the moment, the Pine Forest, which covers an area of 15 hectares, is undergoing renovation.
In Bussaco there are about 250 species of trees and shrubs, making it one of the best dendrological collections in Europe, with notable examples. This diversity allows the forest to be a refuge for various species of fauna, which find shelter and food there. From fish to amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals and invertebrates, it is possible to identify specimens endemic to the Iberian Peninsula, such as the golden-striped salamander (Chioglossa lusitânica) and the Bosca’s newt (Triturus boscai), as well as endangered species, such as the booted eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus) and the northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis).
In the midst of all this diversity stands the Palace Hotel do Bussaco and the Santa Cruz Convent, the only Sacred Road on the scale of Jerusalem, hermitages and chapels, the Cerca, crosses, fountains and viewpoints, comprising a magical setting. The National Forest of Bussaco is currently applying for classification as UNESCO World Heritage.