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Snow in Portugal Serra da Estrela

Snow in Portugal; Visit Serra da Estrela for skiing and tasty cheese

Does it snow in Portugal? Oh yes, it does! But only in the highest mountains! Serra da Estrela is THE place to go to spot some snow.

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Learn more about Serra da Estrela

A quick overview

What to see? Snow, mountains, quaint villages, waterfalls, lakes, and castles.

Costs? Most things are free. 

Where? Northern Portugal (300 km from Lisbon, 200 km from Porto.

Worth it? If you like nature, then YES!

Snow in Portugal?

Does it snow in Portugal? Oh yes, it does! But only in the highest mountains! Serra da Estrela is THE place to go to spot some snow. And to discover the tastiest cheese! In the winter, you can expect snow up in the mountains, whereas in summer Serra da Estrela is a paradise for hikers and mountain bikers! Let’s see what there is to see and do and where to go to enjoy some Portuguese snow!

What is Serra da Estrela?

Serra da Estrela is the most extensive mountain range on mainland Portugal, and with 1,993 meters ((6,539 feet), Torre is the highest mountain on the mainland. The highest peak in Portugal is the 2,351 meter (7,713 feet) high Ponta do Pico, on the island of Pico, Azores. Serra da Estrela is also a natural park that offers sportive activities all year round.

Serra da Estrela

The mountain range is a whopping 100 kilometres long and 30 kilometres wide. A granite ridge forms it and is nestled between the municipalities of Seia, Manteigas, Guarda, Gouveia, and Covilhã. Serra da Estrela Natural Park is also the home of three important rivers; the Mondego, the Alva, and the Zêzere. This last river ultimately flows into the well-known Tagus.

How to get to Serra da Estrela from Lisbon or Porto?

Serra da Estrela is located in northern Portugal, but it’s easy to get there. From Lisbon, follow the A1 northbound and the A23 towards Castelo Branco. The drive to Serra da Estrela from Lisbon will take around 3,5 hours.

From Porto, you can reach Serra da Estrela within 3 hours. Follow the A1 southbound and take the A25 towards Viseu. Driving to Serra da Estrela is by far the easiest, although some trains ride to nearby towns. Tip: during the weekend, the roads are busy, and there might be traffic jams in the mountains! Visiting Serra da Estrela during the week will be a great option to avoid crowds.

To discover the mountain range, it’s easiest to have a car. Toll roads are on the way to Serra da Estrela, but you can rent a toll tracker during your car rental. Check the car rental prices below for your visit to Serra da Estrela:

Serra da Estrela in winter

Forget about the sun in the Algarve! Let’s discover some snow in Portugal instead! This might not be your first thought when you think about the country. You expect sunny days, golden beaches and palm trees. But think again, as Serra da Estrela is gorgeous all year round! Serra da Estrela turns into a little winter wonderland during the winter months! You can expect the first snowflakes in December, but January, February, and March are known to be the best months to spot snow in Portugal.

The average snowfall at the beginning of March is around 14 centimetres. This much snow may not sound too impressive if you’re from a cold country. But for Portugal, snow is pretty rare and remarkable. You’ll be surprised how many people who have never seen snow travel to the Portuguese mountains! The snow, unfortunately, doesn’t often stick, and due to global warming, there is less snow every year.

The roads are looked after, but be mindful of fresh snow and slippery roads! The mountain roads have many bends, and you should take care whilst driving! Also, note some roads will close during heavy snowfall. That said, let’s discover some activities in the snow in Portugal!

Serra da Estrela weather

The coldest months in Serra da Estrela are December through April. The average temperature is between 12°C (53°F), but it gets as low as freezing. Add a little wind, and a winter jacket, gloves and a hat are certainly needed! Also, many houses don’t have central heating but have a fireplace instead. In hotels, you’ll often use an electrical heater. Warm clothes in winter are a must!

In summer, however, it can get hot! In August, temperatures around 32°C (90°F) are typical. During the 2022 summer, temperatures were well over 40°C (104°F). This and the extreme drought caused many forest fires in the region. For the current weather conditions, it’s wise to check the webcam.

Snow in Portugal? Let’s visit Serra da Estrela ski!

Ok, so it might not be like a ski resort in the Alps, but Serra da Estrela has its own ski resort! Estância de Esqui da Serra da Estrela is perfect for beginners and kids! But there are some pistes for experienced skiers also. The Serra da Estrela ski resort is the only one in Portugal! January, February and March are the best time for skiing in Portugal. And if there isn’t enough snow, artificial snow and snow canons will keep the pistes covered in a blanket of snow.

There is a place where you can rent skis, snowboards and gear. And if you’ve never skied before, you can also take classes. There are nine slopes in total, with a total length of 6.1 kilometres. The ski resort is open from November to April. For more information about times, prices and maps, click here.

Snow in Portugal
Serra da Estrela ski contains 9 ski slopes

Torre Serra da Estrela

Next to the ski resort, you’ll spot an iconic place. Torre is the highest mountain, and two towers can be seen here. During the Cold War, they were used by NATO as a radar station (If you’ve been to Berlin, they might remind you of the towers at Teufelsberg). These 1970s towers are historical monuments from that time but are no longer in use and are abandoned. There are also some shops where you can buy local products such as ham and cheese. You can also use the toilets and grab a bite to eat in the restaurant.

There is a small roundabout close to the car park, and you’ll find a statue in the middle. The large cross is 7 meters high, making this point precise 2,000 meters high. This spot marks the highest place on mainland Portugal! Go for a short hike in the area and enjoy the magical views over Serra da Estrela! You can even see as far as the Atlantic Ocean with clear skies!

Teleférico da Serra da Estrela

Next to the towers, you’ll also see the Teleférico da Serra da Estrela. Take a ride on the cable car and enjoy the most magnificent views! Each gondola has space for four people. Tickets are € 7,50 for adults, and children under six can travel for free.

Our Lady of the Good Star

Before you reach the top of the mountain, you might spot a carved-out sanctuary. Nossa Senhora da Boa Estrela (Our Lady of the Good Star) can be seen from the road, and it’s a small sanctuary carved into the mountainside. Before you reach Torre de Estrela, it’s worth stopping here for a short walk.

The statue was made by António Duarte and was placed here in 1946. The figure is to honour the local shepherds that have a hard job keeping the flocks safe in these weather conditions. The statue is 7 meters tall (23 feet), and on the second Sunday in August, many people come here for a mass. There is a small car park here so you can visit the sanctuary easily.

Serra da Estrela in summer

Not only is Serra da Estrela an excellent place to visit in winter, but it’s also an activity paradise in summer! There are more than 300 kilometres of trails in the Serra da Estrela Natural Park! It’s the perfect place to discover glacial valleys, sources of the largest Portuguese rivers, waterfalls, and forests. There are suitable hikes for beginners to advanced, and you can find some beautiful trails here.

Some favourite hikes are:

✓ PR1 MTG Rota do Poço do Inferno

✓ PR2 MTG Boar Manteigas

✓ PR6 MTG Glacial Valley of Zêzere

✓ PR7 MTG Rota dos Poios Brancos

✓ PR11 MTG Sun

✓ Covão dos Conchos

Besides hiking, there are many other activities on offer. For example, there are 43 mountain biking trails in Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela! Discover the MTB routes, and rent a bike in the nearby towns. In need of more adrenaline? Then canyoning is for you! Other outdoor activities include horse riding, fishing, rock climbing, and rafting. Do you prefer some chill time in the sun by the water? Then you can visit some of the many waterfalls and lakes. Examples are Poço do Funil, Calhão Mogueiro, and Covão dos Conchos. Praia Fluvial de Loriga even has a beach! There are a total of 25 lakes to discover!

Thermal spas

After all that hiking, skiing, and cycling, it’s time to relax! Thankfully, Serra da Estrela boast several spas in the area! Check out the Aquadome in Termas de Unhais da Serra, one of the biggest in Europe. Or visit Termas Caldas de Manteigas, where you’ll enjoy relaxing treatments. Termas de Almeida – Fonte Santa is another recommendation.

Queijo Serra da Estrela DOP

When you visit Serra da Estrela, you might notice fields full of sheep and goats. You might even hit a traffic jam with farm animals! The milk is used to make one of Portugal’s most famous cheeses. Queijo Serra da Estrela DOP is a tasty soft cheese from this mountain region, and the recipe goes back 2000 years! Ancient techniques are still used to make this rich and memorable cheese.

The Serra da Estrela cheese is made from raw Bordaleira sheep’s milk and salt and is used in many local dishes. Want to learn more about Serra da Estrela cheese? Visit the Farmer and Cheese Museum in Celorico da Beira! Also, check out the annual Serra da Estrela Cheese Festival in Oliveira do Hospital! You can try the Juniper beef stew in local restaurants, smoked meat and sausages (enchidos and alheira de urtiga), or biscoito com Queijo Serra da Estrela and jam. Bom appetite!

Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau

If you can’t make it to Serra da Estrela during your trip to Portugal, visit Casa do Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau, with many city shops. The first shop opened in 2015 on Rua Augusta in Lisbon, but many shops are around now. The codfish cakes have the Serra da Estrela Cheese DOP hidden inside! Perfect with a glass of Port Wine! Stores can be found in Lisbon, Porto, Vila Nova de Gaia, Aveiro, Cascais, and Óbidos.

Wool in Serra da Estrela

The wool produced by goats and sheep is also used. The town of Covilhã is known for its woolwork and woollen fabrics. If you’re into knitting and wool, check out Woolfest! In Manteigas, you can take a look at the Burel Factory. Many beautiful garments, blankets and other wool products are made here. 

Villages and towns in Serra da Estrela

Apart from nature, Serra da Estrela has many towns to visit. Guarda, for example, is a city at the highest altitude (1,056 meters – 3,465 feet) in Portugal. Making it also one of the coldest! The city is known for the five F’s; Farta (abundant), Forte (strong), Fria (cold), Fiel (loyal), and Formosa (beautiful). Highlights are the cathedral, the historic centre, and Torre de Menagem.

Manteigas is centrally located and a great spot to start exploring Serra da Estrela. It’s close to Poço do Inferno waterfall, and the PR2 is a fun hiking route through the village. Check GreenTracks for all local hikes.

The city of Covilhã is the closest one to Torre de Serra da Estrela. It’s known as the town of wool and snow with a beautiful historic centre. Belmonte lies on the other side of the valley. Visiting the castle on top of the hill is worth a stop. Another quaint town is Linhares da Beira, with the Castelo de Linhares da Beira as its highlight. Piódão is located just outside Serra da Estrela, but a great place to visit! Discover the charming houses or visit Praia Fluvial de Piódão on a hot day.

Serra da Estrela map with highlights

Hotels in Serra da Estrela

There are many places to stay in Serra da Estrela. Covilhã is perfect if you like a bigger town and stay close to Torre. If you enjoy hiking and being surrounded by nature, Manteigas is perfect! Check the hotels below to find your dream accommodation in Serra da Estrela. Depending on your plans, you’ll need a minimum of 1 to 2 nights to visit most sights. If you come here to enjoy the snow in Portugal and go skiing (or hiking in summer), you’ll need more time to enjoy this beautiful part of Portugal. Zoom out to see all hotels in Serra da Estrela!

Booking.com

Conclusion

Does it snow in Portugal? Absolutely! But only in the Serra da Estrela region. So if you happen to be in Portugal in winter, it’s worth spending some time skiing and building snowmen. Are you in Portugal at any other time of the year? Then Serra da Estrela is a paradise for nature lovers. Hiking, mountain biking, and climbing are some of the best activities in the Portuguese mountains. Have fun!

Written by Marga

Written by Marga

Content creator, travel writer and photographer

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I’m Marga, the blogger and photographer behind this site! I live in Lisbon, and I’m a cat-mum to 13-year-old Savage. I love coffee, cheese, a good book and exploring this beautiful country. I write about Lisbon and the rest of Portugal, and I hope this website will help as an inspiration for your holiday.

9 Responses

  1. Wow there are so many things to see and do here! Before reading this I didn’t know much about places to go in Portugal outside of Lisbon. Thanks for the info.

  2. You’re right, when I think of Portugal, I definitely didn’t think of snow! I will now though. I love the history you’ve included here, too.

  3. I figured there were areas on Portugal to find snow in winter. So I am glad I know where to go for some winter fun. I love the idea of visiting the Serra da Estrela mountain range. A great outing from Porto or maybe even a longer stay. As Canadians, the snow does not scare us!

  4. Wait a minute! I had no idea it snowed in Portugal!
    This shows how little I know about the world!
    Would love to visit some day, so have pinned your pinterest pins to refer back to.

  5. I had no idea it snowed in Portugal! I feel so silly know. Great post thank you – Portugal is number one on my Europe list

  6. I wouldn’t have imagined Portugal as a winter destination – especially without snow, but you’ve definitely persuaded me! I love traveling in winter as it’s less crowded (and I don’t mind the cold) your pictures are beautiful!

  7. Portugal and snow are two words I never imagined together. This post has opened my eyes to the unknown. Serra de Estrela looks like a wonderful place to visit, especially during winter after a good snowfall. The cheese certainly makes the trip sound even better.

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