Portugal, Serra Da Estrela and The Paiva Walkway (30 August – 01 September)

After Madrid, we started to drive toward Portugal. Since we did not know exactly how much time we have until our sailboat can pick us up, we did not do any specific planning what we will do in Portugal. We knew we wanted to see the nature and also spend some time by the coast.

 

After googling a little bit, we found some information about National Park Serra Da Estrela, which is the largest mountain range in Portugal. It is a park located in the middle of Portugal and it surrounds the highest peak of Portugal, which is called Torre. We found a nice camping area close to the natural park and we spent the first night there. It was quite a nice place by the river with a wonderful beach. Camping in Portugal is also much cheaper than in Spain, so one night in total costs only 10 euros for us and this included free entrance to the river beach, shower etc.

 

Both of us were still feeling the tiredness in the bones from the recent hike to Coma Pedrosa. So we thought that a road trip to the national park is this time the best option because the top of Serra Da Estrela and Torre is easily accessible by car. We also had read from reviews that the hiking trails are not so well marked in this particular park, so we did not want to risk getting lost. Furthermore, since it is early September, most of the nice rivers and waterfalls are all dried up, so anyways we would not have seen the Poco do Inferno, which is one of the most famous waterfalls in Portugal. For this, we would need to come back in spring.

The best way to drive to Serra Da Estrela is though Manteigas. You can start the drive from the town, which itself is UNESCO world heritage, and follow the canyon valley toward the mountains. The views are incredible and you can see the old shepherd houses, which are so tiny that you can not even believe that people could fit inside.

 

We made a lot of stops on the way top to just enjoy the views – little lakes, authentic rock mountains, and the surrounding flora and fauna. We even saw one guy doing some serious climbing to one of the mountain tops.

When we arrived at the top – it did not look at all like a peak of a mountain. The top of the mountain is flat and there are huge parking spaces and buildings there. These parking spaces probably are meant more for the winter period, because the mountain also serves as a ski resort.

We walked around a little and tried to get some nice pictures of the scenery, but this was also challenging because the weather was not so clear. We had read earlier that there are nice local shepherds selling their products on top of the mountain, so we decided to find something for lunch.

 

Going inside, the smell of cheese just wants to bury you. We were basically right away hijacked by the salesmen. We were the typical tourists falling into the trap of buying from the first seller. Later if we moved on, we saw also many other shops which seemed to have better prices. There was also a great misunderstanding when we wanted to buy some chorizo and we understood that a little piece would cost 6.50. The seller traced us down, later on, to explain that it was actually 65 cents… so we got the chorizo, two different types of cheese and a really tasty bread.

 

The way down was a beautiful as the way up, although it was slightly different. We could see that there had probably recently been a huge forest fire. So the trees in this area just started to grow again little by little. We also met a cow 🙂

 

We managed to find a nice place where to enjoy the lunch (bread, cheese, and chorizo) and we soon were accompanied by a really friendly dog. We gave him some water, bread, and chorizo… in the end, he drank almost the half of our 5-liter water bottle. Since there were other people having a lunch break as well, we thought he was just from a village nearby and probably had found a nice place where people stay and give him some treats. But still, it was almost sad to leave him there…

 

 

The next stop for us was the Paiva Walkways or the Passadicios do Paiva. We learned about this hiking trail from google, it was described to be as one of the nicest hiking trails in Portugal. So again we found a nice camping place near the start of the hiking trail and spent the night there to have an early start for the hike the following day.

The Paiva Walkway starts at the east side of Paiva river. There are different places where you can start the hike, but we did start it from a little village called Espiunca. It is also possible to start the hike from Areinho. Since the most difficult part of the track is near to Areinho, we were quite glad that we desired to do the 8,7 km journey starting from Espiunca, because we wanted to do the journey back and forth. If you are not up to for such a long hike, there are also taxes on both sides of the trail to bring you back to your car. We read that the taxi prices range around 10-15 euros.

The entrance to the trail is 2 euro per person and the trail is almost 90% of the wooden walkway. There are some beaches on the trail where you can have a refreshing swim or just fool around and do Tarzan&Jane jumps into the river. Since we were there at the weekend, there were many families with kids having just a day out in nature. On the road, you can see plenty of beautiful geological and archeological sights, waterfalls, bridges etc. And if you get hungry or thirsty, there are small cafeterias in the start, in the middle and at the end of the route. The route is very well maintained, it has emergency phones along the way and plenty of shaded areas where you can have a rest. We really did enjoy the hammocks at the coffee shop at the end of the trail. We both even had a quick nap there, because it just was so comfy after having climbed the stairs.

 

 

In total, the hike took basically the whole day, 7-8 hours and we would recommend to everyone who is near Porto and wants to have some physical exercise, to take the day and travel to the mountains and enjoy the nature. We learned that during wet seasons it is also possible to raft or kayak on the river, so maybe next time we will try that out.

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