Located in central Portugal, the Serra da Estrela National Park is a hiking enthusiast’s dream. While most come to Portugal to relax along the beautiful coastline or explore the cities, adventurous hikers break away from the tourist crowds and head to the park to walk the remote trails. Roughly translating to ‘Mountains of Stars’, the park doesn’t disappoint with its towering granite peaks (the largest mountain on the mainland can be found here), glacial valleys and deep ravines.
The altitude keeps the park pleasantly cool in the hot Portuguese summers and on a clear day it’s possible to see the coast over a hundred miles away. In the winter, the temperature in the park plunges to minus 20°C bringing snowfall and the opportunity for skiing.
The varied terrain offers trails for both beginners and expert ramblers. The rock faces of the steep Paleozoic peaks create a range of challenging climbs. For those with limited mobility or a short time span, a little paved road winds its way through the park to the highest point on Torre and offers spectacular views.
If possible, leave some time to visit the town of Linhares, a historical village that has managed to retain its charm and traditions. Undoubtedly, the town’s main attraction is the towering 13th century castle in the centre. Another noteworthy stop off is the bread museum in the town of Seia. Here you can learn about the history of the country’s staple food and taste plenty of varieties in the museum’s restaurant. Be sure not to visit on Mondays when the museum is closed.
Though it is possible to hike through the park’s trails by yourself, it’s better to visit with a guide. Without knowing Portuguese, finding out information can be tricky and many of the trail’s markings are unreliable or non-existent. Don’t trust all maps many of which are out-of-date. The best time to visit the park for hiking is between May and October when the days are long and the weather warm and sunny. Day hikes are possible as well as longer overnight routes.
This is the highest point of the park (and the mainland of Portugal) at almost 2,000-metres-high. Spectacular views can be seen from the plateau at the top. If the weather is clear, visitors can see a hundred miles down to the coast. The paved road brings more people to this viewpoint, so don’t expect to be here on your own. It’s a relatively easy hike to reach the top.
Curral da Nave
This 1,457-metre-high peak is an easy day hike, however the routes aren’t very well marked. Ensure that you have a quality topographical map of the mountain range, a pair of solid hiking boots and plenty of water.
One of the higher peaks in the park. From the 1,704-metre-high summit hikers are treated to fantastic views down over the Zezere Valley and across the rest of the park’s mountains. The trail has better markings although it’s not a bad idea to have a map with you. Some climbing is involved to reach the rocky outcrop at the top.
Cantaro Raso and Cantaro Magro
These are two of the highest peaks in the park. Cantaro Raso and Cantaro Raso mountains are for expert climbers only. Before embarking on these climbs, ensure you have the correct equipment and skill level to complete the journey. It’s recommended that climbers have an experienced guide. Both summits are over 1,900-metres-above-sea-level.