Known for its snow-covered slopes and the Tower that shows the highest point in mainland Portugal, the Serra da Estrela is one of the national ex-libris. Along the Natural Park, there are countless places of unforgettable beauty to discover in all seasons.
The first impact of Serra da Estrela is immensity. With close to 90 thousand hectares of territory classified as a Natural Park, the mountain hides secrets from the glacial era, lagoons and a varied mosaic of landscape and biodiversity.
Given its altitude – 1993 meters above sea level – Serra da Estrela concentrates mountain species that are unique in mainland Portugal. The wealth of fauna and flora in the region earned it, in addition to its classification as a Natural Park, recognition by the Council of Europe as a Biogenetic Reserve.
In winter, the geological edges of the mountain range soften in layers of snow. In spring, nature calls for a more varied range of coulors and mountain vegetation is at its peak. In summer, the numerous lagoons and dams invite you to take a dip. And in the fall, the golden and browns give this mountain another beauty. Mountain charms are available all year round and there is something different to enjoy every season.
South of the mountain, Covilhã is one of the most important entrances in Estrela. Further north, you can start the tour through Guarda or Celorico da Beira. To the west, the main options are Oliveira do Hospital, Gouveia or Seia. The latter offers you a sample of local hospitality and a visit to CISE – Serra da Estrela Interpretation Center, to learn more about the environmental heritage of the Natural Park.
Among the places you can visit in the Serra:
– Nossa Senhora do Desterro. On the two banks of the river Alva, a group of 10 small chapels (17th to 19th centuries) make up the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora do Desterro. The calm waters of the river are protected by the treetops and give rise to one of the most sought-after river beaches in the region, the “Dr. Pedro”. Nearby you can also visit the Senhora do Desterro Power Station (one of the first hydroelectric power place in Portugal, which today houses the Natural Electricity Museum) and the “Cabeça da Velha”, a stone with a curious human physiognomy.
– Vale do Rossim: It was one of the finalists of the seven national wonders with regard to lagoon and reservoir beaches. It is about 1300 meters high, being considered the highest beach in Portugal. Every summer, the inhabitants of the municipalities that come together here (Gouveia, Seia and Manteigas) head to the Rossim Valley reservoir to extend the beach towel and go to baths: clear waters as far as the eye can see, framed by granite blocks and vegetation around.
– Manteigas: In the middle of the glacial valley of the Zêzere, this picturesque village is gracefully embedded in the slopes of the region. Small in size, but with a long history linked to the textile tradition (which is now reborn with the revival of burel, a 100% wool fabric, typical of the region), it is worth visiting the old manor in the center of the village (Casa das Obras ), the small chapels that mark the built landscape and the spa with waters reaching 42.8ºC. In the sky, it is common to see birds of prey.
– Poço do Inferno: It is one of the most visited spots in Serra da Estrela. A 10 meter waterfall, with good access (but hidden enough to be also a reserved, peaceful and romantic place) and surrounded by areas of dense forest, which invite you to visit.
– Covão d’Ametade: It seems out of a cinematic scenario and the truth is that, on top of the bridge that rises over the Zêzere river, even in the middle of the trees that flank the watercourse, it is difficult not to feel the protagonist of any romantic movie. Due to its beauty, it is an essential point of many routes through the mountains, such as this route from the Schist Villages.
-Salgadeiras: Lagoa das Salgadeiras, which, in fact, is a sequence of several small lagoons.
-Torre Lagoas Route: the route through the six lagoons is of low difficulty, although extensive.
-Loriga: Along the road that gives you access, the view of this small mountain village surrounded by mountains appears to us in all its splendor. Loriga is often called “Portuguese Switzerland” for its geographical location and the landscape that surrounds it. Its antiquity is legendary, with the Roman bridge and road still visible.
-Cabeça: the village of Cabeça is also embedded in a valley of rugged slopes. Its particularity is the schist stone houses and slate roof, in what was once a typical feature of the region. During the Christmas season, when the mountains fill with snow, the village stands out for the originality of its decorations. The street decorations are created from natural materials collected in the surrounding territory, such as broom, pine cones or vines. The initiative is called “Cabeça – Christmas Village ”and it is proud to be a 100% sustainable event.