Serra da Estrela: discover Portugal's mountain range and valleys

Serra da Estrela is one of the few places in Portugal with snow during the winter. Image by L.Fonseca under CC-SA2.0

What makes Serra da Estrela unique is its vastness, nature and varying seasons, making it an ideal destination for people wanting to discover another facet of Portugal. Portuguese associate it with skiing, but it has much more to offer. Below are my tips on what you should look for when planning a visit to Serra da Estrela as well as where to stay and eat.

What to see and do in Serra da Estrela?

The "Torre" with its meteorological station and ski lift

Reach the highest point of mainland Portugal: “Torre”

The highest point in Portugal can be found in Serra da Estrela: the point is called “Torre” which means tower. The elevation is 1,993 meters above sea-level and is the place in Portugal with the lowest temperature and most rain.

The view is amazing and there is a store and restaurant: where you can try the famous Serra da Estrela cheese.

Visit Piódão and the Portuguese schist-villages

People have historically used the materials surrounding them to build their homes: the Portuguese in Piódão were no exception. Counted as one of the most famous schist-villages, this community has built its entire villages with schist stone to make the walls and roof tiles and has blue-painted doors.

The quaint village is a great stop if you are travelling from the coast to the Serra Estrela as it is on the way. Take your time to visit it and be kind to its inhabitants, as they probably receive more visitors than they ever asked for!

Piódão is almost exclusively built in black schist stone, with the exception of the church in white. Image by Concierge.2C under CC-SA 3.0
View of Piódão from the hills. The road that leads to it serpentines along the ridges of Serra Estrela. Image by Concierge.2C under CC-SA3.0
The lake of Covão dos Conchos is a great place to hike to while admiring the nature

Hike to Covão dos Conchos

Up in the mountains of Serra da Estrela is a lake that was constructed with a so-called bell-mouth spillway for excess water. This water helps to drive the water dam in Serra da Estrela that powers the homes of many Portuguese. However, the hike to the lake is said to be stunning, as it takes you over hills with breathtaking views. Do plan in advance the hike and check the weather forecast, as it can be a hostile environment if you do in extreme hot or cold days of the year.

Here is a link to a website that suggests trail-itineraries, this one I found can be completed in 2–3 hours: link here

When hiking in Portugal, be mindful that depedning on the time of year, the weather can be very hot or very cold since you are in the mountains. Plan ahead!

Try Portuguese skiing!

France has the Alps, Spain has the Pyrenees and Portugal has Serra da Estrela. Well, while the Alps offer many different ski experiences, in Serra da Estrela there are only a few slopes. 

The resort has, at the time of writing this, 9 slopes summing up to the length of an amazing 6 km! However, it has ski lifts and ski rentals for the ones that want to be able to say “I have skied in Portugal”.

Here you are seeing half of the entire ski resort of Serra da Estrela. While lacking in size it is a place with amazing view and nature still

Where to stay in Serra da Estrela?

Serra da Estrela has many surrounding villages and even a large town. The larger town in the area is Covilhã and has everything you might need from a town, including accommodation ranging from economical to several stars with pool. However, I can suggest a few interesting picks of my own that might suit you.

View over the valley from the Hotel dos Coqueijais
View from one of the chalets if Casa do Loureiro
One of the chalets of Casa do Loureiro

Where to stay?

  • Casa do Loureiro. located near the schist village of Piódão, this chalet can be rented for 100€ a night for 4 people. It is located in a similar village which gives you the real “aldeia” or village experience. Link to here
  • LAM Hotel dos Carqueijais: is a hotel situated close to the Serra da Estrela peak. It has a pool, however, considering the altitude only time it is pool-day would be on a hot summer day, not in spring or autumn. It has 4-star, however I doubt it holds to the standard of 4-stars in other countries. Link on here
  • Hotel Covilhã Dona Maria: a 4-star hotel in the center of Covilhã for the ones who want to treat themselves with some luxury after a long day of visiting and hiking. The hotel has an indoor pool and spa. 115€ for a night for two people. Link for found here
Hotel Dona Maria in Covilhã can be a good treat to yourself after all the hiking and touristing

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