Ski and landscape
There is always “another reason” to visit this mountain, but snow is its top attraction.
The only place in Portugal where snow is a little more then a quickly fading vestige, Serra da Estrela has our only skiing facilities (and now using also artificial snow).
Even for those that don’t practice those sports, it’s a place frequently visited or to feel the intense cold that we are not used to, or to play in the snow.
Sku is a neologism used to refer sliding in the snow on a plastic bag, and thousands of children (and adults) had days of fun practicing sku
I don’t know where did the name come from, but this place is only a small beautiful waterfall, in a wet and cool place in the mountain, near Manteigas – a break in the snow games, a chance for a picnic, or just a quick look.
However, I believe that only a small percentage of the visitors of the mountain do the detour to this place – the goal is snow, and that is better seen several kilometers higher.
Half way up from Seia you have at your left this artificial lagoon.
It´s a good place for a short break and some shopping in the stalls.
PS – If it happens to you to read the constructor’s name, you may believe that “Sousa Lopes” really means family (one of my grand uncles)
Old woman’s head
Here and there some strange rock formations capture the visitor’s attention, becoming clearly identified attractions.
The old woman’s head is, maybe, the most known of them, a little bit out of the road but easy to see if you follow the signs.
othercontact: GPS: N 40° 23.882 W 007° 41.939
Old man’s head
You have the old lady’s head, couldn’t fail the old man’s one.
The caprices of nature are funny, but the resemblance is real. Those spread rocks are a good pretext to wander around in the mountain, a national natural park.
Easier to see than the old lady, you don’t need to leave the road to do it.
othercontact: GPS: 40°26’22″N 7°35’53″W
Penhas da Saúde
Half way from Covilhã to the top (Torre), Penhas da Saúde is one of the highest lodging points in the mountain – the other is Penhas Douradas.
It has nothing special to see or do, but it is a good place to stay, (almost) in the wild. It’s hard to book in high season without a few months in advance.
The highest point of the mountain reaches 1991 metres. To round it to the 2000 meters, one 9 meters tower was built in the top, becoming the reference to everyone who visits it. That’s also the area where the snow lasts longer. As everybody goes there, and the road has a dead end, in winter holidays it may become too jammed, and without parking.
To prevent that, the many stalls that along the years where installed to sell the local products were forbidden and moved away.
The most beautiful lagoon in the mountain is also the best place for a picnic.
Far from the top, near Sabugueiro (follow the signs), the snow doesn’t last for long but its wild beauty remains.
Zêzere Glacier Valley
This dramatic rocky valley is the most beautiful access to the top of the mountain, but…
My first time climbing it was with a Renault 4 – a weak vehicle, that, as we were going up was loosing power. I was distracted from the landscape and seriously worried about the chance or not being able to reach the summit, when I saw my friend J. Fernando, with a powerful car, stopped and stepping the tires.
The way is steeper than it looks and the rarefied air does the rest – as all the people used to travel in high mountains know well – we didn’t…yet.
The word doesn’t exist, but all Portuguese use it.
In a country where snow is such a rarity that ski is a very restrict sport, what can a common citizen do, in those happy days where snow and sun meet in Estrela?
Sku, of course, and laugh…
Snowfall in Estrela
Snow is not common in Portugal, and even in those places where it uses to fall it is so rare and quick that we don’t prepare our cars for it.
That’s why, travelling to Serra da Estrela, we must be very careful with the weather. We were caught in April by an unexpected snowfall, and getting down was a nightmare, here and there pushing or pulling the cars by hand.
No serious problem, no one was blocked or crashed, but…
This time the mountain was closed due to a recent snowfall, and Lagoa Comprida was the highest point that we could reach.
We used the time browsing the local stall and noticed that, in a tight space, they have everything to make us feel… comfortable, from leather jackets, caps or gloves, to the excellent local cheese or a strong hot drink.
Maybe many crafts are made in China, but this is the appropriate place to make customers appreciate them.
The biggest Portuguese dog is named “Serra da Estrela” a very big and peaceful dog.
It was trained to help the shepherds with the cattle, but its impressive image and good behavior made him a very appreciated guard for farms and villas.
It’s easy to buy a dog, and there are several selling points in the mountain.
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