Serra da Estrela is the highest mountains range on the Portuguese mainland, it´s name literally translated means, the mountain of the star and it´s highest peak is 1993m.
The mountain range is situated between the municipalities of Seia, Manteigas, Gouveia, Guarda and Covilhã to the Central east of Portugal.
During the winter months it is generally covered in snow and it is the only place in Portugal where snow falls enough to have a real ski piste and ski resort.
Many, mostly Portuguese travel to the area in winter to stay in one of the hotels or chalets and experience skiing, snow boarding and other snow activities.
As it is a small resort it´s mostly suited to families and beginning skiers, yet there are some pistes avalable for the more experienced. There are many lovely hotels, guesthouses and chalets to stay but large nature reserves and typical ancient villages rule this area,
Other than skiing and the popular snow tourism it attracts during the winter, the Serra da Estrela makes a paradise for hikers, horse riders and more adventurous sports in the seasons with less or no snow. The lenght of the mountain range is roughly 100km and it´s landscape is full of lakes, streams and forests that make it one of the most scenic areas in Portugal.
Three major Portuguese rivers have their source in the Serra da Estrela, The river Mondego that flows through Coimbra, the river Zezere that joins the Tagus in the lovely historical town of town of Constancia and the Alva which is a smaller river that joins the Mondego.
The serra da Estrela has a temperate climate with a meditarenean subclimate due to it´s height and influences from the Atalantic ocean and to the back continental Spain. It has many types of vegetation and on the lower areas forests. Some of the common plants are Ilex, Laurus, Olea, Osyris, Phillyrea, and Quercus. These are mostly found in the mountains and northern parts of the Iberian Peninsula, including genera mostly representing scrub species like Cistus, Cytisus, Erica, Genista, Halimium, Helianthemum, Lavandula, and Ulex.
The Serra da Estrela is specked with beautiful old rural villages and small towns, a lot of which have been restored and are well worth a visit. 2 of our favorites are Aldeia de Piodão, a village completely built in schist stone and Linhares
Serra da Estrela has a lot of regional food and dishes that find no equal anywhere in Portugal. One of it´s most famous foods are the Serra da Estrela cheeses, which you can buy al over Portugal and in some places abroad.
A lot of dishes are concentrated around goat meat, sheep and beaf but also many use local river dishes using trout and savel. Vegetarians will find many magustos and migas dishes available.
Some of the dishes are prepared using the local honey olive oil.
The one that got my interest doesn´t use any of the above, it was Couve do lagar / Christmas bacalhau on how to prepare bacalhau before cooking, dont remove the fish from the bone in this case either);
– 2 pieces of bacalhau
– 2 cabbages (Portuguese in the region, but choose a local one thats not to strong in taste);
– 600 g potatoes;
– 1 clove of garlic;
– 3 dl of olive oil;
– 1 bay leaf;
– 1 chilli pepper nice and hot;
Boil cabbage, potatoes and cod in the same container. Then put in alternate layers in a pot the potatoe, cabbage and cod, where each layer is seperated with a little olive oil
The remaining oil is used to fry softly the garlic, bay leaf and pepper. Allow the garlic to go slighlty brown, the resulting spices are used with the salt and spread on thecod, potatoes and cabbage. put all in a pan or oven dish and allow to simmer.
This recipe was taken from Gastronomy of Serra da Estrela!
Serra da Estrela ranks top with the other few places in the world that have air and water with a 0% polution level.
Among it´s amazing landscape, brilliant and really breathtaking views, lovely mountainny food and nature, we love the freshness during the summer months and it´s ability to combine a winter holiday with a summer experience at only 100km distance!
The Serra da Estrela is roughly 150km from Porto Airport, roads to the main destinations are good. The main cities are Guarda, Covilha and Gouveia.
with many thanks to hotel Serra da Estrela for providing the photo´s used in this article