There are many activities and interests to discover in Serra da Estrela. Here are a few suggestions with links to further reading.
Walking and Hiking
Serra da Estrela offers a wide range of routes to suit every level of hiking. The best time to enjoy the area’s trails is from late spring to summer when the rocky terrain, meadows and rich landscape can be truly appreciated. The “Discovering the region of the Serra da Estrela” is the most comprehensive guide to the hiking trails that have been created within the entire Natural Park. The guide can be found at the local tourist office’s in Serra da Estrela.
There are three main routes in the area – T1, T2 and T3 and then six additional routes that split off from the three main ones -T11, T12, T13, T14, T31 and T32. In total this is a 357 kilometre network of trails. GR 22 is the main regional trail map which includes the Natural Park within its boundaries.
River beaches offer a tranquil haven to enjoy a spot of sunbathing and a dip in the fresh water’s of Serra da Estrela. A complete contrast to the busier coastal beaches of Portugal, visitors can enjoy quiet natural places often with picnic area’s, gardens and café’s. The nearest river beaches to Rainbow Lodge is the RibaMondego which is 15 minutes drive away. Also worth a visit is Ponte de Juncais (Near the village of Fornos de Algodres) and Vale do Rossim (situated in the Rossim Valley in the heart of Serra da Estrela mountains). List of river beaches can be found here: http://www.praiafluvial.pt/
Serra da Estrela flying area is a popular spot for paraglider’s due to the area enjoying a wide range of high plateaus and vast open valleys. The cross-country flying season starts as early as February and lasts until as late as November. Linhares da Beira is one of the main flight centre’s in the area due to it’s excellent flight conditions and has also hosted several international events over the year’s. For further information, go to: http://clubevertical.org/index.php/en/
Mountain Biking and Dirt Biking
The Serra da Estrela is an excellent location for adrenaline seekers with a vast landscape of hilly, country roads and dirt tracks weaving through the area’s historical villages and stunning scenery. The Grande Rota das Aldeias (The Grand Route of Historical Villages) is popular with biking enthusiasts with a 535 km route which encompasses the Serra da Estrela Natural Park. The route offers the hardy mountain biker a challenge with it’s roughly cut dirt tracks and thrill seeking descents. There are also plenty of opportunities to enjoy a pit stop at the area’s many river beaches and village cafe’s. For more info or to download map, see here: http://www.aldeiashistoricasdeportugal.com/en/routes/grande-rota/
Serra da Estrela is also included in the TET Trans Euro Trail, Europe’s leading Dirt Road biking routes. ‘Trans Euro Trail is an epic journey through some of Europe’s most remote, diverse and inspirational landscapes’ (Trans Euro Trail website). Light weight motor cycling offers a fantastic way to see the area and become immersed in the land and it’s culture. More info here: https://www.transeurotrail.org/portugal/
Skiing in Serra da Estrela
The Vodafone ski resort is a small ski resort in the municipality of Seia with 4 ski lifts and 9 pistes (Total 7.7km). The resort is situated between the elevations of 1,851 and 1,968 m. Skiing is best suited to beginners and snowboarders with limited terrain for expert and intermediates. The is one terrain park. Visitors can also enjoy dog sledding, snow mobile rides, snowshoeing and hang-gliding. The ski resort operates from December to April with the best skiing found in February. Full ski resort info available here: http://www.skiserradaestrela.com/
Visit the Glacier Valley’s
The Glacial Valleys of Serra da Estrela offer outstanding beauty and tranquil landscapes, many with trails to experience the captivating landscape and track the formations that have remained untouched for thousands of year’s. There are several glacier valleys, each with their own unique beauty and points of interest; Zêzere, Alforda, Loriga, Covão Grande and Covão do Urso. For more information, see: http://www.centerofportugal.com/glacial-valleys-route/
Poço do Inferno
Poço do Inferno (meaning Hell’s Well in Portugeuse), is a 10 metre high waterfall near Manteigas. Situated on the Leandres stream at around 1100 meters altitude is a wonderful place to visit in the summer due to the forests biodiversity and shade during the hotter months. During the winter, the waterfall freezes presenting unique photographic moments.
To reach the waterfall drive approximately 4km afrom Manteigas along the signposted main road towards Torre. Just beyond Caldas de Manteigas, turn left for Poço do Inferno (Hell’s Well) and climb a further 6km to the falls. For more info: http://museuvirtual.activa-manteigas.com/index.php/places/geologia-2/poco-do-inferno/
Covão dos Conchos
Covão dos Conchos is situated in the Serra da Estrela and is a man made waterfall-like hole in the middle of a lake in central Serra da Estrela. Although it looks like a mysterious natural phenomenon, the hole was created in the 1950’s to direct water from the Ribeira das Naves to Lagoa Comprida. It takes around 2 hours to hike up to Covão of the Conchos (a 6 mile hike). This is not advised for beginners with the hike becoming more difficult during the winter months.