THREE DAYS IN THE INTERIOR OF PORTUGAL: SERRA DA ESTRELA AND MONSANTO

With the travel limitations of Covid-19, the general trend has been to look for “proximity” destinations. The interior of Portugal offers many areas of interest. Thus, one of them was the subject of our short trip in August.

Day 0

The Serra da Estrela is the western end of the Central System, a mountainous massif that runs through the Iberian Peninsula from East to West. On the Portuguese side, it is part of the Serra da Estrela Natural Park, whose highest height is the Torre peak, at 1993 meters. This mountain is the highest in continental Portugal and location of its only ski resort.

As our centre of operations to visit the Serra da Estrela we chose the village of Manteigas, located in the very heart of the Natural Park. This village is located at 300 kilometres from Lisbon and about 200 from Porto.

Before arriving in Manteigas to spend the night, we stop in the city of Covilhã, one of the entry points to the protected area of the Natural Park. An old point of communication between Spain and Portugal, its abandoned bus station, as well as some textile factories in similar condition, show that some past times were better. However, it still offers some places of interest strolling through its streets.

We arrive at Manteigas in time for dinner and a night walk through its urban centre and river walk side area.

Day 1

With good weather forecast, today we will make a circular tour by car to visit some of the most interesting points of the Natural Park.

Leaving Manteigas, the first place we visit is the Museum of Bread (Museu do Pão) de Seia. It is a visit to learn about the manufacture and different types of bread. It also offers a café with beautiful views and a shop.

From there we go to the fluvial beach of Loriga, which was highlighted in some guides. It is very small, but with many facilities. We make a brief stop for lunch.

Next, we head to the starting point of our hiking trail. For this, we leave the car in the parking lot at Lagoa Comprida, where the Marques da Silva dam is located. From that point, which has a shop and café, depart different routes. We opt for one of the most popular, leading to the Covão dos Conchos. It is a kind of vertical tunnel that drains the contents of a lagoon into a hydroelectric plant.

From the side of Lagoa Comprida is a walk of 5 kilometers one way (and another 5 back), easy to follow. Sometimes over uneven terrain due to loose stones. We come across few people, and usually on their way back. When arriving at the final lagoon, you must search for the Covão. Being August, we were a bit disappointed because the water level was insufficient for the water to fall through the hole. However, the scenery and views make up for the effort of the route.

Once back at the parking lot we still do another little route. Going down the road, and on the right-hand side, there is a path that leads to another small lagoon, which offers spectacular views from the top.

From Lagoa Comprida it is only a few ilometres to reach Torre, at an altitude of 1993 meters. At the end of the afternoon the temperature is low and is very windy. Don´t forget to bring a jacket. There is a supermarket although the old aerial observation towers of the army stand out above all. A pity that everything is in that state of abandonment. Investigating a little more there are interesting stories about the military settlement there, that could be isolated for weeks by snow during the winter months. Now there is not much trace of it, although the views in all directions are spectacular. A perfect spot for dinner while watching a spectacular twilight that ends our day before returning to Manteigas.

Day 2

During the morning we will hike the Wild Boar Route, or Rota do Javali in Portuguese. With departure and arrival in Manteigas, it is not necessary to take the car.

Being the PR2 trail, it is perfectly signposted for most of the route, about 14 kilometres in its entirety. Around the middle of the route, in its hardest section, you reach the waterfall known as the Well of Hell (Poço do Inferno). There starts the circular route PR1, that could be combined with the PR2.

However, we decide to continue the PR2, although confused with the signs we end up doing a few extra kilometres before realizing our mistake and getting back to Poço do Inferno. From there a section of steep ascent continue the Rota do Javali that takes us back to Manteigas.

Tired but relaxed after a nature bath, we take a short break before heading to Folgosinho, a small village where the popular restaurant “O Albertino” is housed. The village has a castle with spectacular views, and the restaurant certainly lives up to expectations. An unavoidable appointment for any visit to the Serra da Estrela.

 

Tired but relaxed after a nature bath, we take a short break before heading to Folgosinho, a small village where the popular restaurant “O Albertino” is housed. The village has a castle with spectacular views, and the restaurant certainly lives up to expectations. An unavoidable appointment for any visit to the Serra da Estrela.

Day 3

The last day we wake up in Manteigas but leave the surroundings of the Serra da Estrela Natural Park to head towards Monsanto, about 90 kilometres away.

Previously we stop in Belmonte, a town with ancient Jewish roots and a very interesting history. In times it housed a large Sephardic Jewish community after its expulsion from Spain by the Catholic Monarchs. In Portugal they converted to Christianity, although secretly continued with their faith and traditions.

Already in Monsanto it is worth getting lost in its streets. It is famous for its location, which offers beautiful views in all directions and its typical houses built on top of the rocks. There is also a large castle, which is reached after crossing the remains of ancient medieval villages.

An impressive place to put a climax to this short trip in central Portugal.

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