Serra da Estrela Attractions
Famous for its scenery as the "star mountains", the Serra da Estrela is a mighty granite ridge which extends for some 100km/60mi, with a breadth of 30km/20mi, from Guarda to south of Coimbra.
It is Portugal's main watershed range, formerly the southern frontier of the country and historically the dividing line between its north and south.TopographyWith its bizarrely shaped crags and gorges, mountain streams and lakes, beautiful forests and magnificent views, the Serra da Estrela ranks among Portugal's outstanding scenic attractions. The range contains the country's highest peak, the Torre or Malhao da Estrela (1,991m/6,532ft). The bare hills provide grazing for sheep and goats, and the valleys have a centuries old woolen industry.WalksWalking is the only way to obtain a true impression of the raw beauty of this mountain ridge. In recent years the administrators of this nature park have laid out a comprehensive network of paths. Details about these can be obtained from the information centers in Covilha, Manteigas or Gouveia. Between November and April walkers must expect snowstorms and mists, and it is advisable not to undertake long treks during this period. The Pousada de Sao Lourenço (14km/8.75mi northwest of Manteigas) is a good base for treks in the mountains.
Penhas da Saude, Portugal
Leave Covilha on the N 339 going northwest the road, which is not well signposted, goes uphill to the right out of the center of Covilha by the town hall. Passing through dense woods it gradually climbs up to the mountain and winter sports resort of Penhas da Saúde (10km/6mi; 1,453m/4,767ft). With February temperatures of as low as -10°C/14°F the conditions here are very good for winter sports.
Past a reservoir, 10km/6mi beyond Penhas da Saúde, is the Torre or Malhao da Estrela (1,991m/6,532ft), Portugal's highest peak, topped by a granite monument.
Seia (532m/1,745ft) farther northwest of Penhas da Saúde, and a total of 52km/32mi from Covilha, has a parish church on a hill with a view, overlooking the township.
Serra da Estrela, Gouveia, Portugal
13km/8mi after Seia, turn right off the main road on the N 232 for 5km/3mi to Gouveia (alt. 650m/2,135ft), a little town on the Rio Mondego and a popular base for exploring the Serra da Estrela. The facade of the parish church is covered in blue and white azulejos, as is the Misericórdia church, which is part of what was an 18th C. Jesuit abbey.
Penhas Douradas - Serra da Estrela
Beyond Gouveia the road winds its way up the rocky hillside, with ever more extensive views of the beautiful mountain scenery. After about 20km/12mi there is a sign to Penhas Douradas (formerly Poio Negro, 1,496m/4,908ft), a group of houses and holiday villas, a good walking and climbing base for the mighty rock faces, such as the "golden rocks" from which the place takes its name.
Serra da Estrela, Manteigas, Portugal
Beyond Penhas Douradas the road descends through the forest to the Pousada de Sao Lourenço (1,450m/4,755ft), with a superb view of Manteigas and the Zêzere valley, which the road eventually reaches via many a hairpin bend. Since earnings from textiles have dwindled to next to nothing Manteigas (720m/2,360ft, pop. 4,000) has fallen back increasingly on tourism.From Manteigas the route descends the Zêzere valley, past wooded slopes and cultivated fields and gardens, crossing the river on a narrow bridge just beyond Valhelhas. 23km/114mi from Manteigas it joins the N 18 from Covilha, turning left for 3km/2mi before the appearance of the houses of Belmonte.
Caldas de Manteigas
The spa of Caldas de Manteigas, with hot carbonic acid and sulfur springs (43°C/109°F), is in the upper Zêzere valley about 2km/1.25mi south.
Manteigas - Poço do Inferno
The Poço do Inferno, the springs of Hell, where a waterfall hurtles down into a cavern, lies 3km/2mi farther up the valley from Manteigas.
Serra da Estrela Pictures View All