OFF-THE-BEATEN TRACK EXCURSION TO THE WONDERFUL SERRA DA ESTRELA
Today we, the Unison Routes team, want to take you on an off-the-beaten-track excursion to the wonderful Serra da Estrela, an authentic gem in rural Portugal.
We love exploring little-visited and underappreciated spots in Portugal and Spain, and then bringing them straight to you with our tours and blog posts.
Just Across the Spanish–Portuguese Border
Right after crossing the Spanish-Portuguese border from Salamanca, we make our way through a quaint rural landscape until we come up against a huge stone wall-like mountain, the Serra da Estrela.
Serra da Estrela, Portugal’s highest mountain range
The Serra da Estrela is Portugal’s highest mountain range, formed from a huge granite ridge and moulded by glaciers during the ice ages of the Quaternary period.
Today, part of the Serra is protected and occupied by the Serra da Estrela Natural Park., the largest natural conservation area in the country, well known for the high biological diversity of the local vegetation.
Touring the ancient town of Guarda
In the foothills of the Serra da Estrela there lies the ancient town of Guarda.
It’s the highest town in Portugal, resting at an altitude of 1.053 m.
The town is crying out to be enjoyed with a walking tour of its medieval old town, which stands out for its magnificent cathedral of Gothic and Manueline style.
It’s fantastic to wander around the alleys of the town center and experience the authentic atmosphere of an inland Portuguese town.
Guarda is also a good place to discover the Serra da Estrela’s well-regarded regional cuisine.
And certainly don’t miss the opportunity to sample the local Queijo da Serra da Estrela cheese!
Belmonte and its Sephardi community
Right after, we leave the Serra da Estrela and head south to Belmonte, a town that oozes history from its pores.
Perched atop the Serra da Esperança, Belmonte is famous among the Jewish population for the small Sephardi community that has survived to the present day, tacitly protected for centuries by the local non-Jewish population.
It’s no coincidence then that the region has emerged as a center for Kosher food, with kosher versions of local olive oil, wine, and cheese.
Before we leave, we don’t want to miss Belmonte Castle and the remarkable 13th-century frescoes of the Santiago church.
Do you fancy an overnight stay in Belmonte?
Do you fancy an overnight stay in Belmonte? Why not lodge at a local inn, converted from a medieval monastery?
You will spend a relaxing night there and have a nice dinner with a contemporary twist, set against the backdrop of staggering views of the Serra da Estrela.
A hilly and well-wooded region
A visit to the area wouldn’t be complete without a drive along the winding roads of Serra da Estrela’s rural heartland.
In the midst of a hilly and well-wooded region, we’ll definitely want to stop at typical mountain villages where we can still see traditional houses built with the fire-red local stone.
Hiking tours from Manteiga
Whenever we feel like enjoying local nature to the fullest, a hiking tour is what we need!
The village of Mateiga is a very good starting point. There are plenty of hiking options, ranging from gentle walks to gruelling hikes in near-complete wilderness, so close and still far away from civilization.
So many beautiful surprises
We love famous Lisbon and coastal Portugal, but want to explore the country’s interior more and more.
So many beautiful surprises await us there!