Serra da Estrela Natural Park is an exceptional place. It expands over 101 thousand hectares distributed across six municipalities and it was the first natural park to be created in Portugal, also holding the record for the largest protected area in the country.Here, you will find the highest spot in continental Portugal, the only ski course in the country, the spring of two important rivers and an unexpected “alpine type” landscape abounding in glaciation traces.
But the greatness of Serra da Estrela Natural Park is not only measured in hectares. It is a true dynamic centre which also includes local heritage conservation and the revitalization of its land and people. It constantly cooperates with local authorities and official bodies in order to restart typical local activities, promote grazing and handmade cheese manufacture or by supporting apiarists or protecting the Serra da Estrela dog.
This is, without a doubt, the brightest star among the Portuguese mountains.
Fauna and Flora at Serra da Estrela Natural Park
The unique character of Serra da Estrela’s Upper Plateau, its geographic isolation and its resulting diversity in fauna and flora species have earned the title of Biogenetic Reservation to Serra da Estrela.
The magnificent landscape of the mountain is the natural habitat of mammals like wolves, boars, otters, foxes, genets and wild European rabbits. They are overflown by birds such as golden eagles and common buzzards, peregrine falcons, Eurasian eagle-owls and black kites.
Among the green landscape and the rocks, you will find plants such as bellflowers, a true symbol of Serra da Estrela, sage-leaved rock roses, saxifraga spathularis and junipers. At the same time, you will also be able to enjoy shady trees such as sweet chestnuts, pedunculate oaks, Pyrenean oaks, maritime pines and holm oaks. In plateaus and valleys in the interior of the mountain, among pastures, you will see heather, rosemary and brooms peeping out.
Tourism at Serra da Estrela Natural Park
Fauna and flora at Serra da Estrela are diverse, but there’s a lot more to be said of its landscape! Green meadows, rock tops touching the sky, lagoons mirroring the vastness of the mountains, glacial valleys and blankets of white snow during cooler seasons. It all invites you to take a long walk into the silent and magnificent mountains. If the temperature allows you, venture into one of the marked walking routes.
If you want to try something a bit more extreme, you can choose off-road BTT routes which leave Covilhã and Fundão or you can venture into climbing the ghost wall of the Zêzere glacial valley or Covão da Ametade.
Serra da Estrela Interpretation Centre
Created by the Seia municipality, Serra da Estrela Interpretation Centre (CISE) is a structure with many ideal spaces and equipment to carry out educational and environment promotion activities as well as promoting tourism and research. Its goal is to help visitors taking the most out of Serra da Estrela and it offers endless opportunities to get better acquainted with this region.
Start with a virtual expedition at CISE where, on a map indicating every key-point, you will be able to learn about the main fauna and flora species, discover everything about dams and lagoons or take a look back at the History of this region. Then, you can create your own route, get your backpack and leave on a discovery trip. If you prefer, you can also take part on one of the pedestrian walks organized by the Interpretation Centre.
Apart from general public activities, Serra da Estrela Interpretation Centre has a strong educational side and it supports research in the Serra da Estrela Natural Park area by providing resources, work rooms and equipment. CISE’s contribution is priceless and has led to the promotion and exposure of environmental information while developing and following school projects, creating pedagogical materials to protect and value environmental resources, promoting training and awareness sessions, organizing workshops and thematic visits.
This is, without a doubt, a great place to start discovering the environmental heritage of Serra da Estrela.