Serra da Estrela, a place of rare beauty in Portugal
Serra da Estrela was our next stop on the mountaineering course we were taking and boy we were in for quite the bad weather on our first try. The course ended up being postponed due to very bad weather and wind that made it impossible to talk or work on orientation or guidance.
After some months we were back, this time in January, right before the pandemic hit, for a weekend of guidance and survival in the mountains.
Serra da Estrela is probably the most underrated national park in Portugal
It is! Portugal’s natural parks are plentiful and beautiful, but the most popular are always Douro, Costa Vicentina and Sintra of course. Serra da Estrela is not usually on the radar for most travellers due to its distance from major cities or the beach 🙂 But I’m here to tell you that if you’re a nature and hiking lover this is a top choice and one that is still not overcrowded like many others in Portugal.
This Natural Park is the largest protected area in Portugal, and it’s located in the centre of Portugal. The landscape is marked by rocky outcrops, boulders, around 25 lakes, pasture lands full of sheep and the famous Serra da Estrela dogs. These pastures are responsible for the famous Queijo da Serra a buttery type cheese that is produced on an artisanal basis following ancestral techniques.
Best places for hiking
We love the trails that start in Covão da Ametade. They are all good, no matter which one you go to, and that place is just a dream, check out our video for a better glimpse at it. We have tried other trails like Poço do Inferno or the lakes, but this one is our favourite.
Let us know if you have a different trail you prefer.
Best time to go?
I believe Autumn is probably the best time because you can see the yellow leaves on the valleys and also it’s not super hot when hiking in the open areas. In the course we took we were mostly in wintertime and it was very nice to be able to be nearly alone in the mountain.
Where to eat?
This is probably the easiest recommendation ever, Varandas da Estrela in Penhas da Saúde, not far from the youth hostel. Very good quality and super friendly staff, don’t forget to try a very local dish made from Zimbro a berry that grows in this region.
You can find their Facebook page and number here: https://www.facebook.com/varandadaestrela
Other restaurants we tried were in Covilhã and Loriga but nothing we could name or recommend.
Where to stay?
We have been here hiking about three times recently and we have always stayed in “Pousada da Juventude – Penhas da Saúde” a youth hostel in one of the highest parts of the National Park. They have both private rooms and bunk beds and having stayed in both I have to say that the difference is night and day. The private rooms are well priced, modern and cosy, while the bunk beds on the main building are super cheap but quite old looking and depending on the other guests sharing the room might or might not make for a restful night.