On our fourth day of our Hiking to Portuguese Historic Villages Tour with Mountain Travel Sobek, we spent the morning in Serra de Estrela Nature Park. Via the Volta das Penhas Douradas Trail, we hiked a 5.1 mile loop to the lake of Vale do Rossime, rather than to a village.
This was a very enjoyable hike which began from the Casa das Penhas Douradas, a 17-room mountain resort perched at 4,921 feet (1,500 meters). Interestingly, the modern hotel, decorated in natural, local resources, was once a sanatorium.
The sanatorium was constructed after expedition leader and scientist Dr. Sousa Martins determined that Serra de Estrela, with its high altitude and clean air, would be a good place to treat tuberculosis in the late 1800’s.
While visitors no longer travel to the Penhas Douradas (golden cliffs) for tuberculosis treatment, they do come to hotel and region for outdoor recreation and spa treatments.
Hiking Volta das Penhas Douradas Trail
As I mentioned, the trail begins at Casa das Penhas Douradas and descends a road passed an old building, a chapel, and a tuberculosis house built into the boulders.
Then it ascends a wide track through a pinon forest and opens into a single track trail which provides magnificent views of the surrounding mountains and the Town of Manteigas in the below valley.
The path continues through intermittent forest, past a moss covered fountain, and weaves through undulating terrain dotted with huge boulders and abandoned homes until it reaches an old forest service building. The covered patio with a few chairs offers a nice place for a rest while taking in the views.
The Volta das Penhas Douradas Trail changes between dirt road and single track as it passes through low scrub and flowering bushes. There are a few turns that are easy to miss, so it is best to have AllTrails handy.
Lake of Vale do Rossime
After passing through the waist high bushes, some changing colors with the fall temperatures, we eventually reached the lake of Vale do Rossime. The long shore offers a lovely place for a picnic. At its northern end is a campground and dam. The lake, used for hydroelectric power, is also an inviting place for kayaking.
The return back follows a moderately steep grade for roughly half a mile to its highest point at 5.076 feet. Thereafter, the path gently descends to the hotel. The overall hike is relatively easy with only 820 feet of elevation gain, though AllTrails ranks it as moderate.
At a leisurly pace we finished the Volta das Penhas Douradas Trail in a few hours. With extra time in the afternoon, we drove into the Town of Manteigas to see the Burel Factory. The family who restored and remodeled the Casa das Penhas Douradas, also purchased the Burel Factory and saved it from imminent bankruptcy.
The factory previously produced drab, wool clothing for the local shepherds. Now, the durable wool includes bright colors and all sorts of fashion. Products range from clothing, pillows, wall hangings, furniture, blankets and more. The varying patterns are spectacular.
Touring the factory is a must. Restored, ancient machinery combs, spins, winds and weaves the wool, while local artisans hand sew all sorts of spectacular merchandise. The walls feature some fun tapestries and fashion magazine articles displaying creations by famous designers. Saving the Burel Factory improved the local economy and brought life back to the town. I loved visiting the factory and seeing a dying industry get another chance.
Overall, we enjoyed a great day hiking in the Penhas Douradas of the Serra de Estrela Nature Park and visiting the nearby Burel Factory. These are just few fun things to do Manteigas. So far, Central Portugal has treated us to wonderful nature, history and culture during our hiking tour to historic villages. ETB