Yet while the thistles attract attention for their color, the real stars of the mountain – those that sustain daily life and the economy – are easily overlooked: the sheep. Feeding on the natural food of the mountain slopes, they are covered with a wool rich in minerals and softened by the humidity of the high peaks on which they graze, which makes them a perfect burel. The tightly woven fabric with its water-repellent qualities was originally used to make coats for shepherds, but now, dyed in bright contemporary colors, it is used to make bags and blankets of such fine quality that ‘they are exported all over the world.
It’s easy to find these fine exports by heading to one of the city’s weekly markets that dot the Serra da Estrela mountains. Here you’ll find the eponymous cheese, its round shape wrapped tightly in cloth, as well as delicious homemade pumpkin jams – a favorite in this corner of Portugal. You can also visit the Burel factory in Manteigas to browse its impressive collection.
It is rare to see such a coherent image of a region in the age of globalization. It is however all the charm to walk in these mountains which seem a little lost in time. They not only offer a chance to disconnect from the grid and slow down, but to do so as a spectator, observing a cycle of life as old as the hills themselves.
Where to stay
Casa de Sao Lourenço (casadesaolourenco.pt) offers double rooms from around £180.
How to get there
British Airways (ba.com) flies to Porto from Heathrow. From Porto, the trip to Casa de Sao Lourenço takes two and a half hours.
All travelers aged 12 and over must present proof of full vaccination, or a negative PCR test taken within the last 72 hours, or a negative antigen test taken within the last 48 hours, or proof of recovery.
This article is updated with the latest information.