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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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