Serra da Estrela


The Serra da Estrela from southeast

The Serra da Estrela ( Portuguese for Star Mountains) the most western part of the Iberian Mountains and vagina with a height up to 1993 m the highest mountain range in mainland Portugal. The core area of the mountain today forms the natural park Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela and houses the only ski resort in Portugal.



The Serra da Estrela rises in the east central Portugal in the statistical subregion Serra da Estrela, which is part of the district of Guarda and Castelo Branco district in the region Centro Region. The most important places in the surroundings of the mountains are Covilhã and Belmonte in the southeast, Seia in the northwest and Manteigas in the Northeast. Next to the northeast to the foothills of the Serra Estrela da extend down to about 40 kilometers from the highest peaks of Guarda.


The mountain is formed essentially of two plateaus, which are separated in south-southwest - north- northeast direction of the valleys Alforfa in the south and in the north Zêzere and fall to the southeast and the northwest with steep edges to about 1000 meters below the lowlands. The larger western plateau ranges from about 1450 m to the Torre (1993 m), the highest mountain on mainland Portugal. The eastern plateau reaches altitudes 1450-1760 meters.

Other important peaks are:

  • Cantaro Magro (1928 m)
  • Cantaro Raso (1916 m)
  • Alto da Pedrice (1759 m)
  • Polos Branco (1704 m)
  • Fraga of Penas ( 1658 m)
  • Navo de Sanio (1541 m)
  • Curral da Nave ( 1457 m)


In the Serra da Estrela the rivers Mondego, Zêzere and Ceira.


Geologically, the Serra da Estrela is dominated by a 300 million year old granite hercynischem. This granite intruded into low-grade greenschist facies metamorphism metamorphic, mainly turbiditisch resulting sedimentary rocks of Precambrian and Cambrian time. These rocks are shale and greywacke that are lithostratigraphically divided into two formations. The Malpica do Tejo lineup consists of metamorphic overprinted greywackes and phyllites Konlomeraten. The Rosmaninhal lineup consists mainly of phyllites and several layers of metamorphic greywacke. In the area of about one kilometer around the granite body also occurred in the sediments to a contact metamorphism with hornfels formation. The granite itself is to a large extent porphyry -like design of coarse-grained, biotite - and Muskovitgranit. Partly also occurs the granite -like but plagioklasreichere granodiorite.

The sediments were folded originally NW-SE oriented, before they were deformed by a hercynisch oriented fault system in NE-SW and NNE -SSW direction, roughly perpendicular to the original fold axes. In Mesozoic and Cenozoic the Hercynian mountains were eroded. By Alpidic the Hercynian orogeny faults were reactivated by compression and it formed a stepped Horst architecture.

In addition to the 300- million year old plutonic rocks and the still older sediments alluvial deposits, ie deposits of streams and rivers, as well as quaternary glacial deposits assume significant proportions. Striking the characters are glacial overprint: For the southern location and low height of the mountains strong characters glacier -related erosion can be seen. Most of these characters are from the Ice Age, which lasted about 115000-10000 years before present, with smaller glaciations likely also have to get long afterwards.


The climate in the Serra da Estrela is mostly Mediterranean, but also influenced by characteristics of temperate climates. The summers are warm and dry from October to May, the most rainfall are expected. The annual rainfall is up to 2,500 millimeters, the amount of precipitation on the west side are slightly lower, although here more rainy days are recorded. On the summit plateau, the annual average temperature is about 4 ° C. In these altitudes, ie 1400 to 1600 meters, it comes to about 40 to 50 days a year for snowfall, and the annual fluctuations are large. However, a continuous snow cover is usually only a few weeks to take a year. The main wind directions are west and northwest.


The vegetation of the Serra has no distinct height levels, since the individual vegetation zones due to different exposure, water availability and use by humans mingle strong. In the lower regions of the mountains form partially evergreen Mediterranean deciduous forests, especially characterized by holm oak, the natural vegetation. This has often been destroyed by several forest fires. However, deforestation and overgrazing have followed as well as intensive agriculture contributed to the destruction of this plant community, which is found today only in small isolated occurrences. Overall, this zone is now dominated by grassland, up to an altitude of 900 meters, the entire area is almost grown. The central regions are naturally dominated by the Pyrenean oak, the Yew is native here. Also this vegetation zone is now largely destroyed and only more fragmented present. The higher elevations are characterized by Scots pine forests and scrub vegetation, such as juniper shrubs. In the rocky summits of meadows from frost tolerant grasses of the natural vegetation, here are many pioneer plants to find. Often the ground is covered but also because of the erosion no longer of earth, large parts of the summit plateau are characterized by bedrock.


Of the numerous farm animals, particularly the numerous sheep, apart, wild boar, wild cats and otters are the most important representatives of the mammalian fauna, wolf and lynx were probably already extinct in the 1980s. A special feature of reptiles fauna is the Iberian rock lizard, whose subspecies Iberolacerta monticola monticola is endemic.

Nature Park

The natural park Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela ( PNSE ) with an area of ​​about 1000 km ² for almost the entire massif, and is the largest protected area in Portugal. It was founded in 1976 by the Portuguese Government and is managed by the six member municipalities Seia, Gouveia, Celorico da Beira, Guarda, Manteigas and Covilhã. Since 1999, a large part of the park also check the status of a Natura 2000 site. Visitor centers are located in Manteigas, Seia, Gouveia and Guarda.


Traditional economic factors in the Serra da Estrela are honey, cheese Queijo Serra da Estrela and the sheepdog Cão da Serra da Estrela, which is grown here. For a long time the abundant wool was processed in the region, but this industry has now hardly important. Apart from agriculture, tourism emerged as a significant income. Several reservoirs in the Serra da Estrela supply the surrounding towns with drinking water and electricity.

Development for tourism

The Serra da Estrela is well developed for tourism. Since the 19th century it was for cure, especially used in the rehabilitation of tuberculosis. Some of the then established health centers are in operation today. The Torre is accessible on a paved driveway. In addition, there is a dense network of marked hiking trails, which extends over a total of about 357 kilometers. While most of the summit for hikers are easily accessible, to lead others, such as the Cantaro Magro, climbing routes of varying difficulty. In winter, even ice and mixed climbing is possible.

The area around the summit Torre is developed as a single in Portugal for winter sports, also the highest peak of the mountain itself can be reached by lift. Here are four ski lifts, there are nine pistes with a total length of about eight kilometers.

In Seia the research facility CISE (Centro de Interpretação da Serra da Estrela ) is established, which provides a virtual multimedia permanent exhibition on the Serra da Estrela for visitors. It is one of two venues of organized annually since 1995 environmental film festival CineEco, the Festival Internacional de Cinema Ambiental da Serra da Estrela.