Poios Brancos is one of the major outlook peaks of the Serra da Estrela , the biggest National Park in Portugal and also home to the highest mountains on the mainland of Portugal. With it's 1706 meters in elevation, the views from the summit of this mountain are truly amazing. On a clear day you are able too see large parts of the Portugese, Green lowlands surrounding the Estrela mountains. You truly feel like you are on the 'top of Portugal'. Furthermore, this peak offers some impressive views towards the other main Estrela mountains: The sharp peak of Cantaro Magro (1926m) is a great sight, as well as it's slightly smaller brother Cantaro Raso (1917m). Behind it the summit of Torre (1997m) ,the highest point on the mainland of Portugal is visible as well. Last but not least, the view over the Zezere valley is majestic. This valley, carved out by glaciers millions of years ago, is perfectly straight, like a higher force had a hand in creating this wonder.
Polos Brancos can be described as a large hill, with a large Granite outcrop forming the summit block. Climbing this mountain therefore, is quite straightforward. Hiking skills are enough to reach the edge of the summit block. For the final part to the actual summit some scrambling up the Granite summit block is needed, but no serious climbing skills are required here as well. The ease of the climb makes it a great hikers destination, but the great summit views makes it a fulfilling climb for almost everyone.
Another advantage is the quietness; the Estrela National Park is well known in Portugal, but not in the outside world. Hiking in the region is accompanied by silence. The chance of coming across any other people during an ascent on Polos Brancos is very small, which in my opinion, is a great plus.
Getting to the Summit
The starting point for the climb of Poios Brancos lies on the main road that crosses the Estrela National Park. This road starts at the village of Manteigas and finds it's way trough the Zezere valley, where it finally starts a climb up to Torre (1997m). When you follow this road (by car is easiest, but it can also be done by bike or even on foot), at the end of the Zezere valley (west side) the road makes a sharp corner to the right (the first corner when the road is gaining elevation), this is the point you should start. The description sounds a little vague, but since there are no other sharp corners before it, it simply cannot be missed. Another easy pinpoint is that in this corner a side road starts (to the south-east) To be certain you are at the right spot you look at point '1' on the map below (and follow description)
When you are at the location the route begins. You start by following the road that starts in the corner of the main road. At your right hand you are able to see the summit of Polos Brancos at all time. It is as easy as heading towards it. There is no main route leading towards the summit, since the ascent is not very steep you can find your own way up. Getting up the hill part requires about one or two hours. From here it is impossible to miss the granite outcrop that froms the summit block of Poios Brancos. On top is a white tower-like structure of about 2 meters high that marks the actual summit. Scramble your way up the granite summit block (many routes possible), this will take about 10 minutes..it is an elevation gain of only 20-30 verical meters. Now you have reached the summit: Enjoy the great views!
The descent is the same way as you ascended. Since there is no marked route you can find your own route down and make it, if preferable, slightly different than the route you ascended. The main road you started from is visible at all time. So no difficulties descending Poios Brancos.
Maps and Practical Information
When you head out in Serra da Estrela it is very recommended that you are in the posession of a good topographical map of the area. The tourist information centres offer a
-->1:50.000 Carta Turistica Sreea da Estrela map. This is a reasonable detailed map.
If you want more detail you should go for one of the following maps:
-->1:50,000 Gouveia 17D,
-->Guarda 18C and/or Covilha 20C maps,
-->1:10,000 Viseu Fl17, Guarda Fl18, Covilha fl20,
-->1:200,000 Beiras Fl14 maps.
These are available from the Instituto Geografico e Cadastral in Lisbon or regional offices in Porto, Castelo Branco and Coimbra. It is useful to have such a map because Portugese people do not walk in the Estrela mountains often. For some (for me completely unclear!) they do not like hiking and climbing mountains. As a result, when tou head out into the Estrela mountains, there is a great change that you will not encounter any people. Furthermore, the weather in Estrela can change very rapidly from cloudless skies to severe storms. So for these reasons:
Buy yourself a map before you head out!
Manteigas: Starting Point
It is therefore the best destination when planning a trip to Poios Brancos.
Some info on Manteigas:
It is located inside the Estrela Park and therefore closer to the mountains. It is located at an altitude of 700 meters at the end of the famous Zezere valley, which is an ancient, extremely straight, glacial valley. From this mountain town you have great views over the Estrela mountains. Especially the view towards Poios Brancos and the mighty Cantaro Magro are beautiful.
The history of Manteigas dates from the pre-Christian era, but its first charter was granted in 1188 by King Sancho I. Obvious Typical shepherds jackets, wood carvings, tin work, sheep-skin items and granite carving are also among handicrafts that are a reflection of the past. Other flavours from the past and the mountains can be savoured in the roast kid, mountain style stew, bean stew trout, smoked sausages, whey cheese, Serra cheese, milk cakes and Crista cakes, "cavacas" (a kind of hard, sweet cake or biscuit) and "queijadas" (type of cheese-cake).
How to get there
The A25 highway when you are coming from Porto
THe A1 and IC 16 when you are coming from Lisbon
The A2 and A23 when you are coming from Faro
The A23 when you are coming from Spain
Lisboa – Manteigas: 315 km (3h45)
Porto – Manteigas: 200 km (2h50)
Coimbra - Manteigas: 131 Km (2h10)
Faro – Manteigas: 548 km (5h45)
Vilar Formoso - Manteigas: 105 Km (1h30)
Visitors Centers/ Information
1)Rua 1º de Maio, 2
Tel.: (351) 275 980060/1
Fax: (351) 275 980069
2)Pr. da República, 28
Tel.: (351) 238 310 440
Fax. (351) 238 310 441
3)Casa da Torre, Av. Bombeiros Voluntários, 8
Tel.: (351) 238 492 411
Fax. (351) 238 494 183
4)R. D. Sancho I, 3
Tel.: (351) 271 225 454
Camping/HotelsThe following links are of two nearby campgrounds:
There are many,many hotels in the area, especially in Covilha, so if you are looking for a hotel, just google 'hotels Estrela' and you will get sufficient results.