After recently realizing that I need more nature in my life, we decided to spend some time outside of Lisbon. As a digital nomad, I felt lucky that I could just pick up and go, knowing that I can still get work done along the way.
So we looked at several destination options. But then a friend recommended the area around Serra da Estrela National Park and we immediately loved the idea. I honestly think we put this Portugal road trip together in about 10 minutes. We simply wanted to get out into nature and if a friend said this area was worth visiting, that was good enough. We booked a rental car and a hotel and four days later we were ready.
The trip proved to be PERFECT. And I’m convinced that anyone looking to enjoy some time in the countryside of Portugal visiting small villages, hiking through impressive nature, breathing in the fresh air and eating some really good food, should head to this region as well.
Here’s exactly what we did…
Day 1: Lisbon to Manteigas (the Portugal road trip begins)
We picked up our rental car in the center of Lisbon. I used Sixt car rental, which I’ve used before in Portugal. It’s always been reliable, easy and affordable in my experience. Given that we were headed into the mountains, I went with an SUV so that we’d feel a bit safer. It cost 40€ per day including insurance.
And then, off we went on this Portugal road trip!
- Left Lisbon at 2:00pm and began the drive north.
- Drove via the A1 and A23 highways, had a failed attempt to find a good place for a coffee break in the town of Entroncamento, and then continued.
- At the town of Malpique, we left the highway and took N232, a windy road that went through picturesque villages, with impressive mountain scenery as well.
- 40 minutes later we arrived in the small mountain village of Manteigas.
- Checked in at the Hotel Berne (simple, but great rooms with views out over the town and valley, excellent breakfast and very easy to park here, which is rare in these parts with all the narrow roads).
- Walked into town and ate at Restaurante Paragem Serradalto, one of the few restaurants open. We had some bread, cheese, olives, trout and local wine.
- Then we walked back to the hotel and promptly fell asleep.
Day 2: Manteigas to Serra da Estrela + 2 hikes
After breakfast at the hotel, we started our day out and about at 10:30am…
- Drove along Rua da Lapa, heading south and then on to the very narrow N338 that went along the Zezere River.
- Enjoyed the gorgeous scenery of the Glacial Valley of Zezere next to us.
- Arrived at Covao d’Ametade Park for a quick walk to some of the valley viewing areas.
- Continued driving another 15 minutes to the Serra da Estrela National Park.
- Stopped at the impressive lookouts along the way.
- Did the 1 hour hike down to Covao do Meio (picturesque artificial mountain lake).
- Drove to Torre, the highest mountain peak in the Serra da Estrela mountain peak (and highest point on mainland Portugal).
- Ate fresh sandwiches for lunch while sitting on a rock overlooking the stunning mountain range.
- Drove 20 minutes to Lagoa Comprida (Comprida Lake) which is the start of another great hiking trail.
- 3 hour return hike to Covao dos Conchos (an artificial lake with a bizarre tunnel in the middle – the hike was easy/moderate and passed through some really beautiful landscapes the entire way – highly recommended!).
- Drove back to Manteigas along N339 and N232, two incredible mountain roads that offered constant breathtaking views (including bright green pastures full of huge, scattered boulders).
Day 3: Manteigas to Covilha + forest hike
Looking to head in a different direction, we researched several other nearby towns to visit. In the end, we landed on Covilhas for no real reason other than it looked interesting. And so the Portugal road trip continued, and off we went at 10:30am…
- Drove 45 minutes to Covilha along the N338 and N339 mountain roads.
- Visited the Santa Maria Maior church which is covered in blue and white tiles.
- Walked all over the center of town and found a ton of interesting murals on the sides of buildings (check out the small lanes!).
- Had a coffee at the cafe in the Public Garden of Covilha, overlooking the rest of the town below.
- Lunch at Alkimya (great restaurant with delicious food, a unique atmosphere and an wonderful owner/waiter).
- Drove back towards Manteigas along a different route (N18 to N232) that led us to the very top of the mountains behind Manteigas.
- Using AllTrails app again, we did this 1 hour forest hike (Rotas das Faias) at the top of the mountain (nice scenery through a pine forest).
- Returned to the hotel via crazy windy road that led straight into town.
- Dinner at Hotel Berne.
Day 4: Manteigas to Piodao
With a full day to visit somewhere a little farther away, we decided to do some more hiking. So we looked at the AllTrails app (shows all the walking/hiking trails in an area) and settled on what seemed to be an ideal hike in the Serra do Açor protected region. The main focus of the hike was the halfway point – the tiny mountain village of Piodao.
We left Manteigas at 9:30am and began the day.
- Drove to Serra da Estrela National Park and straight across until we reached the N338, which took us to the town of Vide.
- From Vide, we drove to the village of Foz de Egua on CM1134 (another incredible road scenery-wise, but bumpy and narrow!).
- We parked in the village of Foz de Egua.
- Began our hike to Piodao village following the AllTrails map.
- The hike was easy/moderate and took 1.5 hours (surprise, surprise – the scenery was gorgeous, with lots of cows and sheep, trees, valleys and fresh air – it was one of the best hikes I’ve taken in a long, long time).
- Reached the really quaint village of Piodao and had lunch at the excellent O Solar dos Pachecos.
- Walked all over the village, through all the narrow lanes (really attractive village!).
- Continued our hike along the Eastern trail back to Foz de Egua.
- This part of the hike was easy, mostly downhill and super pleasant (it took about 45 minutes to reach the suspension bridge at the end).
- We climbed up the stairs to the top of Foz de Egua (where our car was parked alongside the road).
- Returned to Manteigas via the craziest route we drove on during this trip (SEE THE MAP BELOW!).
- Be careful with this route as there is a very narrow 3km stretch that is dirt only and brings you right up close to the edge, with a massive drop-off into the valley!
- We stopped for a view and celebrated being alive after the harrowing drive.
- Arrived back in Manteigas at 5:00pm.
- We tried to go to the hot springs at the Termas de Manteigas Hotel but they were fully booked (if you book advance, this would be a great way to finish the day!).
- Dinner back at Hotel Berne.
Day 5: Manteigas to Lisbon (the end of our Portugal road trip)
On this day, we returned to Lisbon. It was an easy day as we left Manteigas at 10:00am and arrived back at the Sixt car rental location in the heart of Lisbon at 1:30pm. As soon as we entered the city though, we instantly wanted to turn around and head back out towards the peaceful, therapeutic countryside. Luckily, in Portugal, such places, and their benefits, are never far away.