knows Portugal until they have visited the Serra da Estrela Natural Park.
Here there is a perfect and rare alliance between open air and people
Text provided by the Portuguese Tourist Office (with minimal corrections)
in the largest mountain range in the country, the Serra da Estrela Natural
Park is the source of the rivers Mondego, Zezere and Alva. More than
half of its area is located above an altitude of 700m and it is here, at
1993m, that you will find the highest peak in continental Portugal.
central plateau, dominated by the Torre and Cantaros, location of the glacial
valley of the Zezere, contrasts with another mountain, the Videmonte plateau,
which is still in the initial bed of the Mondego, dotted with isolated
farms among fields of rye and pastures where cattle are bred. In
the valleys to the south west, decorated by terraces and surrounded by
the Penha dos Abutres, are the villages of Loriga and Alvoco, which have
developed on powerful rocky spurs. Finally, the north west slope stretches
from below Seia to the land dominated by the castle of Linhares and the
fields where maize is cultivated and vines are planted up the slopes to
where the broom grows. In terms of fauna, the admirable presence
of the bear is a thing of the past and even wolves only roam here sporadically.
In addition to the wall lizard that is a feature of the region, other species
include otters, genets, badgers, wild cats, water moles, red breasted bullfinches,
Algerian wall lizards and midwife frogs.
The villages in the Serra da Estrela Natural Park area are mainly at the bottom of the mountains and date back to medieval times. However, before this other cultures left their mark on this area. One of the most notable examples of the Roman presence are the remains, still to be seen at Famalicao and Folgosinho, of the road that connected Merida to Braga. The route by which it crosses the mountain would certainly have caused difficulties in construction. The Arab influence is seen in the irrigation system and the fruit orchards while the Visigothic culture organized all rural space by applying the ‘Visigoth Code’.
Throughout the Natural Park, a traditional mountain economy is practised, centred on agriculture, shepherding of sheep and goats, particularly domestic sheep and the manufacture of Serra da Estrela cheese. The craftsmanship of the region is expressed in basket work using chestnut and wicker, weaving, embroidered cotton and smoked produce.
In an almost imperceptible manner, the alliance between natural and cultural factors is revealed and this makes it possible to discover that any landscape on Estrela proudly shows off its human component. This is the greatest challenge to the visitor to the Serra da Estrela.
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