Serra da Estrela Attractions
A journey through the Serra da Estrela lying to the west of Belmonte is one of the highlights of a tour of Portugal.
The charming little hill town of Belmonte (Altitude: 610m/2,000ft), on a commanding eminence at the foot of the Serra da Estrêla and about halfway between Covilha and Guarda, was the birthplace of the navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral (1467-1520), who discovered Brazil in 1500.TownscapeSkillfully restored mansions grouped around the square in the center of Belmonte bear witness to its past prosperity and status. In the main street stands a monument to the town's great son which was erected in 1963 on the 500th anniversary of Pedro Álvares Cabral's birth.
Above the town are the remains of the massive castle, built at the beginning of the 13th C., in the reign of King Dinis (restored 1940), from where there are extensive views of the Beira hills. The gate still bears the arms of the Cabral family.
Chapel of Santiago
Near the Castelo gate in Belmonte, is the little Romanesque and Gothic chapel of Santiago (restored 1971). The interior of the church is notable for its simplicity. It contains the tomb of Cabral's mother, the remains of old frescos in the choir and the tombs of Fernao and Henrique Francisco Cabral (17th century). It also preserves the Gothic image of Nossa Senhora da Esperança (Our Lady of Hope) which Cabral took with him on his voyage to Brazil and later bequeathed to a Franciscan friary he founded near Belmonte. On the dissolution of the friary the image was transferred to the church of Santiago.
To get to Centum Cellas, a well-preserved Roman tower, follow the main road from Belmonte towards Guarda. About 1.5km/1mi north of the center of Belmonte a signposted road bears off to the right and in about 200m/220yd comes to the remains of the tower which stands in the middle of fields. Centrum Cellas was built square in plan, with two stories and a crenellated roof and may have been just a watch tower, or have served in the A.D. second century as a place of banishment for the Roman Bishop Cornelius.
Sabugal, 30km/19mi northeast of Belmonte, is becoming increasingly dominated by modern buildings. The castle with its five towers dating from the 13th/14th C. is well preserved. The pentagonal Torre de Menagem reaches a height of 28m/92ft.