Torre Mountain is the highest peak on the mainland of Portugal and the second highest peak of the ‘complete’ country. Only Picos Mountain (2351m), which is located on the Azores islands, is higher. With its 1993 meters in altitude, it just fails the 2000 meter barrier (that is considered magical from a Portugese point of view). Dom João VI was therefore unsatisfied with its height, and built a tower here in the early 19th century in order to extend the mountain to a more acceptable 2000m!
Torre literally means Tower and is named after the Dom João Tower on the summit. Views from Torre are quite spectacular. On bright days it is possible to see the Atlantic Ocean, over 100 miles in the distance.
Torre is located in the National Park of Serra da Estrela, and is the highest point of the Serra da Estrela range, which consists of all highest mountains on Portugal’s main land, and is surrounded by some other noticeable mountains like Polos Brancos (1706m), Cantaro Raso and the steep Cantaro Magro (1926m). The summit of Torre is actually more a plateau, with an area of several hectares that form the summit.
Furthermore, there are two sad parts to be noted: First, Torre is home to the countries only skiing lift, which is located on the edge of the mountain. Secondly, a paved road leads up to the summit of Torre, all the way from the village of Manteigas. Therefore, the highest point on the mainland of Portugal , can be reached by car.
Although accessible by car, there are some nice hiking routes up and around the mountain, which makes visiting Torre after all a worthwhile effort.
Getting to the Summit
First of all you have to access one of the main roads towards the summit of Torre. This roads is called the N339 and is accessible from both sides of the Estrela National Park, namely from north (Seia) and south (Manteigas and Covilha). To get to these places go the ‘How to get there’ section.
When you are following this N339 road you will eventually spot the Covão do Meio (point ‘2’ at the Map at right!) Park your car somewhere close to the lake and walk towards it. From here there are two routes up to Torre, as also can be seen on the map below.
The path can be easily followed because ‘stone-men’ (piles of stones) are along the road, marked with red paint. Of course you can choose to take the west route up, and east route down or do it the other way around. Climbing gear is not needed for this trip. It is purely hiking and no steep parts have to be covered as well. It therefore is a destination for everyone. Still, some good mountain shoes are recommended.
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!
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 Polos 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).
Although somewhat further away: Seia and Covilha are also good destinations when planning a trip to Torre.
How to get there
The main access routes by car are: (SEE MAP)
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)
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.