Above: View of Manteigas from Serra da Estrela Natural Park, Portugal

Exploring the Serra da Estrela

Most travelers to Portugal gravitate to its cities and beaches, so the Serra da Estrela, the country’s highest mountain range, comes as a wonderful surprise for those who prefer to explore lesser-known destinations. Sparsely populated and known for its excellent cheeses, wines and woolen goods, the heart of the area is protected by a national park.

Many summer visitors come to hike and mountain bike, since there are miles of well-maintained and clearly signed paths; waterfalls and riverside beaches offer perfect places to cool off on a hot day. During the winter, the Serra da Estrela is the only place in Portugal where it is possible to ski, so the inhabitants of Lisbon and Porto descend upon the area, which becomes a Lusitanian version of Vermont.

Penhas Douradas

Table at Casa das Penhas Douradas - José Vicente

On an expedition for the Lisbon Geographical Society in 1881, Dr. Sousa Martins deemed this mountain resort to be the healthiest place in Portugal, due to the pure mountain air at an elevation of nearly 5,000 feet and the pure water from local springs. But perhaps the impact of the place’s stunning beauty on the mood and morale of visitors should also be taken into account. The landscapes here are dominated by huge blocks of granite and stands of pine trees. And the views over Manteigas and the Zêzere Glacial Valley are truly spectacular. Plan on lunch at the restaurant of the [Casa das Penhas Douradas](http:// casadaspehnasdouradas.pt.), the first hotel renovated by Isabel Costa and her husband, João Tomás, the owners of recommended Casa da São Lourenço in Manteigas.

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Above: View of Manteigas from Serra da Estrela Natural Park, Portugal

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