We left Fatima after one night and headed up the IP2/A23 motorway towards the Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela – home to Portugal’s highest mountain. As lovers of mountain scenery, we had high hopes for this part of the trip.
We weren’t disappointed. These are proper mountains – granted not on the scale of the Alps or Pyrenees, but proper mountains all the same. As we headed into the park, it became instantly apparent we were entering a mountainous area. The roads started to show the wear and tear that can only be caused by regular snowfall and ice and there were several sets of roadworks taking advantage of the late spring weather to work their way upwards. The people started dressing as if the weather might turn bad at any point. The communities became smaller, more insular and less bothered about outward appearances. A new breed of tourist shop also emerged – selling hams, cheeses, fleecy products like slippers and traditionally-made woollen garments.
Our route took us along the N339 up to the Torre – at 1,993m, the highest point in Portugal. Along the way, the views got steadily better and despite the relatively modest altitudes, there was snow, rocky peaks, alpine meadows and stunning, deep blue lakes and reservoirs. Here are a few pictures:
Overnight stops and camping are often prohibited within Portugal’s natural parks and so it was here – at least above 1,200m. In any event, it looked like it might get quite cold at night so we descended until we had left the park and got closer to sea level before we found a quiet lay-by to park in for the night.
Anyone seeking to do some walking in the park will find a wide range of choice – from short loops to serious hiking. The largest town in the park and the best place to start walking from is Manteigas – the main park office is here and there are several campsites and hotels in the area.
Distance driven: 145 miles