In August 2012 when Jon and I were holidaying in Portugal we decided to go for a little drive. The plan was to go to the picturesque town of Manteigas for a short walk in the Serra da Estrela (Estrela mountains), followed by short half an hour trip to the highest peak in Portugal. Torre, which literally translates into ‘tower’, and is 1, 993m in elevation. To put this into a little bit of perspective, the highest peak in England is Scafell Pike at 978m. On a very clear day you can see the Torre from the house.
Torre is the most bizarre peak that I have ever summited. I think that’s part of the problem – you don’t really ‘summit’ Torre, you drive up it and it requires a minimum amount of effort. Actually, I would strongly advise *NOT* walking up to the summit as the roads are narrow and there are no specific walking paths. As well as that, we had to dodge different kinds of wildlife and livestock, including a bull (we waited until the bull was looking the other way until we went around it).
And guess what is at the top of the mountain? A huge roundabout, a ski centre with a ski lift, a tower that looks like you would find Rapunzel at the top of it, several car parks, a restaurant and a small shopping arcade that doesn’t seem to sell anything other than cheese. I’m not kidding. It’s like the Portuguese version of Everest.
If you’re planning a trip to Torre or any of the surrounding villages then I would strongly suggest that you keep to the main N roads and don’t stray onto the M roads. We approached the Serra da Estrela from the north and began our ascent into the mountains from Seia, which is quite a large town.
There we made the mistake of going to Manteigas first and Torre second. The N232 just north of Manteigas is a painfully tedious road that made the journey take twice as long and it was also quite dangerous in places, so I would advise you to stay away from it completely and enter and leave the mountains via the N339. To put it into perspective, Google Maps claimed that it would take about 40mins to get from Seia to Manteigas but we were still driving 2 hours later – and that is NOT because I drive like a granny! Our trip to Manteigas has a post all to itself because it is such a beautiful place :)