Serra da Estrela: Places to visit in Portugal — or How to Make Your Wine Lover Husband Happy
Celebrating our 6 months of marriage (yes, yes, only 6 months and we are very proud of it), I made my husband a unique present. Off I was then to buy tickets for a trip to Serra da Estrela; a small paradise in the middle of continental Portugal.
This was our personal choice because we didn’t have a car at that point. But of course, by your own car, you can get pretty quickly.
- Two tiny cities: São Simão of Serra da Estrela (only 12 houses) and Belmonte
- Local Brewery: Cabralina (Belmonte)
- Olive Oil Factory & Museum: The Museum of Olive Oil (Belmonte)
- Winery and Wine Tasting: Quinta dos Termos
- Accommodation: Pousada da Juventude Serra da Estrela (hostel)
- Transportation: Trip bus
São Simão of Serra da Estrela
The beautiful village of São Simão (found on Google Maps as “Casal de São Simão”) is a very tiny one. It has only 12 houses (out of which 3 are hotels) and a restaurant, all placed on one single straight road.
When there, you transpose yourself in a forever peaceful state of mind, away from all your worries and problems. I found it the perfect spot for a remote weekend, far from the hustle and bustle of the city life, charging your batteries for a new week, and making peace with what it is yet to come.
After walking through the village, we took a forest road, down to a flowing river. We were told that in summer, the locals are “closing” a part of the flowing river, creating a natural pool. Just as a small lagoon in the middle of the forest, where both adults and children can safely swim.
The surroundings were nevertheless delightful: nature, pure silence, the scent of humid moss, picturesque trees, the smell of rain and wet ground filling our mind with serenity. Looking back at the pictures of that day and the same tranquillity floods my veins.
Belmonte of Serra da Estrela is another small Portuguese city with an authentic touch, away from the turmoil of city life. It is also known as the place of birth of Pedro Álvares Cabral, the Portuguese explorer that officially discovered Brazil.
We visited The Museum of Olive Oil, where we were shown the exciting process of olive oil making. Of course, we couldn’t miss the opportunity of buying some good olive oil. Because, yes, I discovered that the olive oil could be delicious, having a proper taste of olives!
Other top sightseeings in Belmonte worth visiting:
1. The Castle of Belmonte
2. The Museum of Discoveries — if you want to know more about Pedro Álvares Cabral, this is the place
3. The Jewish Museum
4. Ecomuseum de Zezere
The city also has a Jewish synagogue and a Christian church.
What we chose to do instead, however, was to walk until the Castle and after to have a quick stop at Cabralina. A tiny, cozy place with welcoming hosts, an artisanal beer with honey and other products from the region (food, clothes, soaps, olive oil, and much more). What could we wish more? We drank our beer, had a plate of cheese, a fried sausage, and concluded that we had the best Portuguese mountain “lunch” ever. Maybe one of the best from Serra da Estrela? Very possible!
Even if this winery was one of the biggest in Portugal (actually it still is!), the people working there proved to be authentic, kind and extremely hospitable.
They invited us to visit their cellar while telling us the story of the winemaking. In the end, we couldn’t miss tasting some of the wines.
The tasting included 6 types of wine, and everything was accompanied by cheese and different kinds of ham and sausages. We left from there with 3 wines — one of my favorite, one of my husband’s, and one sparkling red wine, to have it for Christmas.
We spent our night close to the top of the mountain, in Penhas da Saúde, Covilhã. The hostel was called Pousada da Juventude Serra da Estrela. Even if it wasn’t a 4* place, it was warm and welcoming, served good dinner, and had a cozy fireplace in the middle.
For the ones thinking that in Serra da Estrela one can find only trees and flowers, do not despair. For party lovers, there was a dancing place near the hostel, called Tore Alta Club Bar Discoteca. We also paid it a short visit until we returned to our room and fall deeply into our sleep.
- Local products: Centro Comercial de Torre
- Top of the mountain of Serra da Estrela: 1993m (2000 with the tower)
- 3h30' back to Lisbon
Centro Comercial de Torre
However, on our way back to Lisbon, to make the most of our experience, we stopped at a shopping mall on the top of Serra da Estrela. It had a wide variety of local products: different cheese (we found here the best goat cheese ever), ham, sausages, warm clothes, drinks, sweets, and many others. For some healthy and delicious food, this place was a must!
Fun fact: A tower is built on the top of the mountain, near the commercial center, for the simple reason for the mountain to “reach” 2000 m (naturally it has 1993 m).
Even if we arrived in Lisbon a bit tired and soaked from the rain and wind, it was an incredible trip! It had everything! Amazing landscapes, delicious food, people to remember and unforgettable memories — the perfect ingredients for all travels!
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Following my ikigai
(The story was fully published on my blog http://anabriard.com/ )