Outstanding [and wholly] unspoiled walking: lush valleys, glacial cirques, pretty white villages unchanged over the centuries an Masses of flora and fauna: eagles, buzzards, goshawks. see the Bronze Age remains, Roman relics and Moorish settlements.
In the very heart of central Portugal, where few tourists ever visit – there are more friendly shepherds than foreign walkers! – the unspoilt Beira is a region of outstanding natural beauty: magnificent mountains, lush gorges, turquoise lakes and stunning river valleys. The terraced hillsides are carpeted in colourful wild flowers – over 150 species – and there’s a high chance of spotting rare birds of prey circling overhead.
Belmonte is a municipality in Portugal. It has a total area of 118.8 km² and a total population of 7,662 inhabitants. The municipality is composed of five parishes and is located in the district of Castelo Branco
Serra da Estrela is the highest mountain range in Continental Portugal. It is the westernmost constituent range and one of the highest in the Sistema Central.
Today’s circular walk takes us though one of the last refuges of the Iberian Lynx and the only breeding site in Portugal of the Black Vulture. After a gentle climb through open chestnut woodland, we then follow the river Coe (the old border with Spain) and a haven for wildlife – we often see short toed eagles, bee eaters and golden orioles. Gorgeous picnic spots and good river swimming at the end of the walk.
Our path follows the line of traditional tiny farming communities strung out along the magnificent glacial valley, in the shadow of Portugal’s highest mountain, the Torre (1993m). En route are typical stone cortes (tiny farmhouses with thick granite walls and thatched rye roofs) and all around are dizzily steep, terraced hillsides and meadows carpeted in bright mountain flowers. Down to the picturesque white village of Manteigas where there has been a settlement since Moorish times – lovely views down to the River Zezere – then lunch is at Jose’s bar (all local produce: sheep’s cheeses, black pudding, mountain wines).
The early part of today’s walk follows a pretty gurgling stream through a hidden valley and out past meadows carpeted with colourful wild flowers. We stop off at the tiny village of Monteiro where old ladies, dressed in black, sit on doorsteps crocheting, and farmers with donkeys continue to plough the land by hand. An old drovers route takes us along the ridge – fantastic views out over the Serra da Estrela
It’s just a 30 minute stroll into Belmonte so we’ve left today free for you to explore it’s castle, Jewish Quarter (you’ll find the only synagogue in Portugal outside of Lisbon here), museums, Romanesque- Gothic church of Santiago.
First the former major Roman city of Idanha-a-Velha, with its wonderful collections of columns, statues and tombs. Then onto the stunning Mediaeval fortress of Monsanto where life continues as it has for centuries – superb 360o views from the castle, ruined Renaissance church and bell tower. We have lunch in the pousada here, sampling produce from their own vegetable garden, before a final stop in the lovely folkloric village of Penha Garcia.
The highest walking in Portugal: sparkling clear blue mountain lakes (perfect paddling!), rugged peaks and surprisingly easy walking. Beautiful alpine flowers are carpeted across vast areas and striking granite rock formations rise eerily from the lakes. Dunnocks, Dartford warblers and eagle owls inhabit the forests, and kestrels and goshawks circle and soar above the highest peaks. Peace reigns and there is not a soul in sight.
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