Man and dog on a snow hike, Serra da Estrela, Portugal

Snow Hiking in the Serra da Estrela Mountains: An Unexpected Treat

Portugal is more famous for sunshine than for snow, which is why yesterday’s walk in the Serra da Estrela mountains was such a novelty. I’d arranged to join a group of people on a hike around Lagoa Comprida which is at an altitude of 1580 metres. The weather forecast promised a clear sunny day and I was looking forward to a pleasant walk in the countryside.

I hadn’t even contemplated the possibility of doing it in the snow.

Snow, high up in the Serra da Estrela mountains, central Portugal
Clear skies and sunshine lower down but snow and dense cloud high up in the Serra da Estrela

Perhaps that was naive of me. After all, I know that the Serra da Estrela gets enough snow each year to merit a ski resort but even on the way there, the peaks didn’t look particularly white. It was only after we passed Sabugueiro, the highest village in Portugal, that the misshapen remains of snowmen could be seen lurking at the side of the road. There had clearly been a lot of snow in recent days but much of it had already melted, leaving odd clumps of white here and there.

Then we turned the corner into the car park at Lagoa Comprida, or should I say Narnia or beyond the Wall in Game of Thrones?

It really was like driving into another world.

Thick white snow covered the ground and the tarmac was covered in so much compacted snow that we had to get out of the car and push.

Once we were all wrapped up warm, our group set off towards the lake. This took us past a cage where a tiny mewling creature had been put out on display in the biting cold. Sadly, selling Serra da Estrela puppies from roadside cages is common practice and one I detest, even more so in weather conditions like this.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m ashamed to admit that concerns about the puppy’s welfare were soon overtaken by my fear of slipping on the icy track. Thankfully, there were only a few really slippery sections and with the help of Leen and our fellow walkers, we negotiated them without serious mishaps.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Pretty soon, we were sinking into thick snow with every step, occasionally up to our knees. One good thing about falling over in the snow is the soft landing; it’s much kinder than the icy patches. I can vouch for that, having landed on my bum more than once during the afternoon’s walk!

I hadn’t been out in the snow for fun for many years so this was a real treat. “Walking in a winter wonderland” was on loop in my head as we crunched past snow laden fir trees and frozen lakes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The promised sunshine never really did break through the thick dark layer of cloud that hung ominously above us throughout the walk. While we were moving, I didn’t really feel the cold. It was only when we stopped by a frozen lake for our picnic lunch that it began to seep into my bones. By then, the overhanging clouds were getting darker and lower, making the trek back to the car rather gloomy and misty, not to mention exhausting.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In normal weather conditions, the walk from Lagoa Comprida is relatively easy to follow and marked with red stripes painted on rocks to keep you on the right track. On days like yesterday, I wouldn’t dream of venturing out into snow covered hills without an experienced guide who knows the area well. Luckily for us, the lady who organised the walk is just such a person so thank you, Leen!

BEFORE YOU GO...

If you're interested in visiting or moving to Portugal, why not subscribe for free insider tips and resources?

No spam. Unsubscribe any time Powered by ConvertKit

15 Comments

  1. nice collie?big dogs make good guard dogs but they need looking after as well lovely pics hope to be in Portugal this year for good,nice work you are doing Julie ,must add ive had many dogs never had the need to chain one up if they are trained properly and always kept them inside they feel the cold like we do,if you have um you have to love um!!!

  2. Fascinating, Julie. I especially liked the first picture with blue sky below and the heavy cloud lowering above. I’ve only ventured up there in snow once, many years ago, with Stewart, and we retreated pretty damn quick (from Torre to Sabugueiro) when it became obvious that the roads were going to be closed very soon! The old Renault 4 was doing some smart figure-skating.
    I would just add that even in summer, Serra da Estrela waymarking can be unreliable (especially in steep ascents or descents) and if you’re going to venture very far off the roads you should have the National Park’s map and a compass. Some trails aren’t nearly as viable as the available literature suggest. Take plenty of water and a bar of chocolate, too.

    1. Author

      Hi Robert, I know what you mean about the unreliability of the trails. Dori and I got well and truly lost last summer and Leen (who was our guide for this trek) said that she knew of a family who got lost for 9 hours when trying to do a walk on their own. I asked her about the markings for this walk and she seemed to think they were okay but I agree, a map and supplies are a must. A guide is even better.

      Apparently, the powers that be in the Serra da Estrela are actually meeting and planning to do something about the trails in the area and make them easier to follow and maintain them. Fingers crossed – it’s such a stunning area, it’s a shame it’s not as easy as we’d like it to be to explore.

  3. Wonderful photos Julie. Looked like a lot of fun. Shame you couldnt sky down the mountain! We must visit that region next time.

    1. Author

      Thanks, Violet. I’ve never been skiing and am not convinced I’d enjoy it, to be honest! I’m quite happy with the walk 🙂

    1. Author

      Thanks, Nick! You should get up here and check it out for yourself before the snow melts 🙂

  4. Your photos look beautiful Julie, I went to Serra da Estrela quite a few times, but I don’t think I ever saw it with that much snow.

    1. Author

      Thanks, Sami. It was truly beautiful.

    1. Author

      I know. It looked and sounded so miserable, poor thing.

  5. What a beautiful walk! And that puppy – I think I’m in love! 🙂

    1. Author

      They are gorgeous, fluffy pups but even with all that fur, the poor little mite was cold. I think the owner had the heart to take it back indoors once visitors had disappeared. The cage was empty by the time we returned a few hours later, anyway.

      1. aww he may have actually sold the pup! Hope it found a new home!

        1. Author

          I wish people wouldn’t encourage this practice by actually buying them. And they grow up to be enormous beasts, which I’m not convinced that those who do buy them take into account. Or they get chained up as guard dogs 🙁

Over to you. Please share your thoughts in a comment.