The Top 10 Things to See and Do in Serra da Estrela, Portugal
Serra da Estrela's Covão dos Conchos | © larahcv / Pixabay
The Serra da Estrela is the highest mountain range in mainland Portugal and an excellent destination for anyone interested in exploring Portuguese nature and the countryside. Reaching over 1,990 meters (6,529) high, most people get to the top via car, but many like to trek parts of the mountain on foot. Dotted with charming villages and covered in breathtaking natural landscapes, this part of Portugal is full of unique culture and unparalleled sights. Here are Culture Trip’s top ideas for things to see and do in the Serra da Estrela.
One of the most amazing sights in the Serra da Estrela is without a doubt a waterfall-like hole in the middle of a lake. Although it looks like a mysterious natural phenomenon, this hole was created in the 1950s to direct water from the Ribeira das Naves to Lagoa Comprida. While it is possible to visit this spot on foot, the hike isn’t for beginners and becomes more difficult during the winter months, so visitors are cautioned to do their research first and be careful.
Spend a day or weekend hiking
There are no shortages of routes in and around the Serra da Estrela for every level of hiking, and the best times to visit are late spring and all summer long. Most people prefer spending their days walking along the trails and retreating at night to a local hotel (which are usually budget-friendly), but camping is also possible at the local Natural Park. Exploring by foot is no doubt one of the best ways to appreciate the rocky terrain and meadows, but sleeping outside may not be for the faint-hearted. While traversing on foot, be sure to snap a few photos from the Poço do Inferno, a beautiful waterfall against a dramatic backdrop.
Natural Park, Seia-Covilha, Seia, Centro, Portugal, +351 238 310 230
Poço do Inferno, Rua 1º de Maio 6260-101, Portugal
Portugal may be known for its surfing, but it is possible to go skiing too. The Serra da Estrela is one of the only places that receives snow, which is why it has created a ski resort. The Estância de Ski is open every day from November to April and offers tracks for all experience levels, from easy to difficult.
This region is one of the best in Portugal to buy local cheese and honey, which will make great gifts and souvenirs. Keep in mind that the creamy sheep cheese from the Serra (Queijo de Ovelha) is strong and may not be the best choice for people who prefer milder flavors, but it is certainly a local favorite.
The land heavily influences the local cuisine in the Serra da Estrela, and it’s more than worth trying (the best restaurants tend to be the small family-run spots). Pork-based charcuterie, goat, lamb, rice dishes, and beans are common, as is the use of local herbs in flavoring. Food from this region is hearty and satisfying and certainly one of the best places in Portugal for meat lovers.
Find more landmarks by car
Driving through the Serra is the easiest and fastest way to explore more landmarks in a shorter time, so hop in your car (or rent one from a nearby town) and hit the windy road. Again, the best time to do this is late spring, summer, and early fall when the weather is most likely to cooperate. A few landmarks to add to your itinerary are the highest spot in the range called the Tower; the seven-meter-high (23 feet) Senhora da Boa Estrela (a carving into the rock of the local Saint of Shepherds); and the exquisite Santa Maria Church (Igreja de Santa Maria) in the town of Covilhã.
Senhora da Boa Estrela, Unhais da Serra, Portugal
Who doesn’t love bread and cheese? These two staples are iconic to the region, and visitors can learn about their productions at the local museums.
Did you know that this region is home to one of the oldest and most beautiful dog breeds in the Iberian Peninsula? The Cão da Serra da Estrela is a mountain dog traditionally used to help guard the sheep and other livestock, in addition to the farms and homes. Smart and loyal, they are very much loved and undeniably regal in appearance.
In 2017, Portugal voted on the village version of the Seven Wonders of Portugal, and one of the winners, Piódão, lies on the edge of the Serra da Estrela. This charming place and other beautiful and historic villages pop out of the mountainsides all along the region, covered in stone homes and ancient roads. There is also Guarda, located on the northeastern side of the range, which once helped protect the country from Spanish and other European invasions. Not only will driving through these towns offer yet another beautiful insight to the countryside, but they are also peaceful spots for rest and relaxation.