This tranquil haven is in our newly renovated granite house on the edge of a warm and welcoming village. It is a place to unwind. Access is excellent on paved roads right up to the house. Your apartment has a fully equipped kitchen, a bathroom with a shower, and a bedroom with a view of the mountains, as well as a communal living room and courtyard. The apartment has two private entrances.
The house sits on the edge of a warm and welcoming village, Fiais da Beira, in the heart of Portugal, the Beiras. In the village, there are two historic sites: a dolmen, or prehistoric burial site, and the Palheiras, or dozens of stone shelters on a granite mastiff, which some say is the old village and others the granary.
The apartment is an excellent base for exploring central Portugal for which a car is essential. It is 1 hour from Torre, the highest point on mainland Portugal on the Serra da Estrelas; 1 hour from Viseu, and 1.5 hours from Coimbra.
Portugal is personal. Forget the guidebooks. Get tips from the people living here:
Suggested 2-DAY and 4-DAY ITINERARY
(1-to-2 hour drive to the top of the Serra da Estrela Mountains)
Day 1: The drive to the highest point in mainland Portugal (1,993 meters) is a must-do when touring this area. It is unforgettable!
Turn left out of the village to Ervedal da Beira. At the gas station roundabout, take the first exit toward Oliveira do Hospital. After crossing the one-lane bridge, take the next left toward Travaninha and then a sudden right toward it. Simply follow this road for a pretty drive until you come to a T-junction where you turn left toward Seia. At the second roundabout, make a right. In Seia, follow the signs to Torre, which is your destination.
Sculptural granite outcrops, an impressive dam and an imposing sculpture of Mary, Nossa Senhora da Estrela, chiseled out of the rock itself will amaze you.
At Torre, there is a balloon-like weather station, a small museum which is open rarely, and two buildings in which vendors give tastes of the local wares. In the building nearer the weather station, walk downstairs. Directly in front of you, Nuno and his wife and family have their stall. Nuno is a good man who will treat you to cheeses, presunto, choriços, and porco preto (black pig) as well as wine and liquers. Chestnut, blackberry, and medrinho are just some of the liquors of the area. Meats and cheese can be vacuum packed for you.
Wool blankets and sweaters, leather gloves and jackets, and cork purses and wallets are good value for money.
Whatever you do, you must taste the eat-with-spoon Serra da Estrela cheese! It is a handmade sheep cheese that is delectable!
When you leave Torre, you make a left. At the first roundabout, make a right toward Mantiegas. Drive 5 minutes. On the left side of the road, you will see the chiselled sculpture of Nossa Senhora da Estrela will dwarf you. Pull in there. You can walk up to the sculpture if you wish.
When you leave Nossa Senhora da Estrela, make a right and backtrack down the mountain. Stop at the village of Sabugueiros. The Serra da Estrela dog is bred here. A few of the shops have cages of puppies out front. Have a coffee, a meio latte (coffee with milk), a gallao (latte), a cha verde (green tea) or a bica (espresso). There are also plenty of restaurants here.
Continue down the mountain. Stop at the dam. You can pull in past it and park near a cafe. When you climb the steps to the top, you will look down into Lagoa Comprida (Long Lake). The lake was made and is part of the hydroelectric system. It is beautiful!
Head back home to Fiais da Beira.
For dinner, go to Casa de Grelhados in Vila Franca da Beira, a 10-minute drive away. It’s a typical Portuguese restaurant with bright lights, the television on, and delicious food for a low price.
Day 2: Return to Seia as though you’re driving to Torre, but only drive right to Seia. You will come to a bend in the road and lots of tourist shops on the right with a big parking area. On the left side is a sign to the Museu do Pao, or Museum of Bread. It is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10h to 18h, and admission is €5 for adults. I am told that the restaurant is very good. The museum takes you on the journey of the making of bread, from growing the wheat to its sale. The shop there has a wide range of breads and abobora, or squash, jam which you can eat with your cheese.
When leaving here, take a left and continue driving up the mountain a few minutes. On your right, you will see a sign toward the Museu Natural da Electricidade. It is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10h to 16h (autumn and winter) and until 18h in spring and summer. Admission is €3 for adults. I found fascinating a film of mules and people carrying poles up the mountains to install the first electricity.
Back in Fiais da Beira, walk 10 minutes to the Palheiras. Dozens of granite shelters on a huge granite rock make it unique in Portugal. People drive from all over looking for it and, I’m certain, that many give up before finding it. You won’t have this problem.
Walk toward the village and make the second left. Go to the end of the road in the village and turn right. You will find yourself walking on a huge rock surrounded by shelters. Some say this is the old village and others say that this was the granary.
A visit at sunset will give you fantastic photographs of the village and chapel spire from up high.
Cross the road in Fiais da Beira and take a 30-minute walk to the village’s dolmen (see directions above), a prehistoric burial place of granite stones for someone of high social standing. Dolmens, or antas as they called in Portuguese, are plentiful in this area. At this one in Fiais da Beira, there is even an information board.
Walk to the main road and cross it to the bus shelter. You will come to two picnic tables where you turn left. Go uphill to a sign on the right and turn right. Before the road climbs up, turn right. You will pass a sheep pen on the right. Take the next left. In a few minutes, you may see the dolmen on your left. Take the second left to it. The dolmen, which is composed of several rocks, is about 8 feet tall.
For dinner, try Cristina, which is 10 minutes away on the main road toward Vila Franca da Beira. Instead of making a left turn to go to Casa de Grelhados, stay on that road. In a few minutes, you will see a large parking lot on the left. This is Cristina, which is pricier than Casa de Grelhados with food just as good.
Day 3: Ponte de Romana, or the Roman Bridge (10-minute drive and a 20-minute walk)
The Roman Bridge is a gem. It is a tranquil place, and you are almost guaranteed to have it to yourself. Drive to the main road leading outside of the village. Turn right. In a short distance, you make the first left. Drive over a small bridge and a turning on the left toward Andorinha. Soon, you will see a sign on the right “Ponte Romana,” which has been knocked down. Pull in off the road and park here.
Follow the sign down. Go straight pass a turning on the right. Walk uphill and take the next right before the road continues to climb steeply. Follow this road. You will hear the water. Turn right onto the bridge. The best views of it are to the left on the rocks.
Bobadela (20 minute-drive from the Roman bridge) is a village with remains of a Roman forum and an amphitheatre, which you are free to explore. To get there, follow the directions above until after you cross over the bridge. Then, you should take the next left. Stay on this road until you come to the roundabout with large sculptural figures of women. Make a right here and follow the road until you see tall columns on the right. Park around here. The columns are in the Forum. The amphitheatre is on the road to the right of them. Walk to the end, and it is there.
You would have walked past a free museum of past life and art, which is open some days. Worth a look.
Piodao (1 hour from Bobadela; 1 hour, 15 minutes from Fiais da Beira)
Piadao is one of the villages whose houses are made out of schist, or Aldeias do Xisto. Here you can find a restaurant or café for your lunch.
Spend the afternoon exploring this area by car or by foot.
Day 4 – Viseu (1-hour from Fiais da Beira)
Museu do Quartzo -
The setting is in a former quarry. So, the building itself is part of the history of quartz in the area. There also is a splendid display of quartz from around the world. The docents here, as they are in other local museums, go out of their way to engage visitors in the subject matter.
It is scheduled to open Tuesday through Sunday, 10h-12h, 14h-17h. It is located right outside Viseu in Nova de Campo.
Se, or Cathedral of Viseu (15-minute drive from the Quartz Museum)
Casa da Ribeira, Avenida Emidio Navarro 177, Viseu (6-minute walk from the cathedral)
This is a changing showcase of local artisan work, which may include the black pottery of Tondela, needlework and sculpture. Some pieces are for sale at good prices.
I hope that the suggested itineraries are of some help as you plan your vacation. Thank you!
There are no buses or trains stopping in Fiais da Beira. However, I can pick you up at the train station in Nelas.
You have a private, contained apartment with access to the communal living room, where there is a television and an extensive collection of DVDs. Directly outside through glass doors is the courtyard, which you are welcome to enjoy.
Umgänge med gäster
Please feel free to ask me for information or help before and during your stay!
Annat att notera
There are 1.6 hectares, or 4 acres, of terraced land to walk in, birdwatch and picnic. The Mondego River, where you can swim and fish, is a few kilometers below us. A drive away, there are established river beaches. And a 1-hour trip to the Torre, or top, of the Estrelas never disappoints!
Smoking is not allowed inside, but there is plenty of space outside.
I am a born traveler.
I was born and raised in New York, where my parents emigrated from Belize, Central America. As a journalist, I worked at newspapers in the East, West and South of the country. Twenty-two years ago, I left San Francisco for Sicily and have been living in Europe since then.
My son and I left a sedentary life in Cornwall, England, for a farming one in central Portugal, where we have 4 acres of terraced land with olive trees, grapevines and fruit trees.
I am an easy-going, flexible person who likes variety in food, people, travel destinations, music, books, everything. I try to make the most of each day.