Portugal is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe, especially the Algarve and cities like Lisbon and Oporto.
But I had the chance to explore the centre of the country – home to many communities and landscapes undiscovered by mainstream tourism.
Hopping from village to village, I was drawn in by the natural scenery and quaint lifestyle of the inhabitants in the Serra da Estrela mountain range.
We arrived in Casas da Lapa in the mountain village of Lapa dos Dinheiros, three hours outside of Lisbon by car.
Entering the hotel, it was immediately clear that this was a spot designed for rest and relaxation.
With seven bedrooms and eight suites, the hotel ensures comfort and class for each guest.
I stayed in one of the duplex suites, my favourite feature being a spacious balcony overlooking the village and the natural sights beyond.
Shortly after arriving, we were treated to some regional food at the hotel, including cod and cheese fishcakes, a creamy courgette soup and a sweet treat of natural yoghurt served with berries, honey and citrus shavings on a wonderfully presented crêpe.
Right down to the tableware, each dish was as aesthetically pleasing as it was flavoursome.
We then set out on a walking tour, following paths surrounded by chestnut and eucalyptus trees.
The natural scenery of the area was nothing short of spectacular, the streets winding their way between greenery and intertwining valleys.
Sustainability is Key
Sustainability is at the heart of everything the village has to offer, with fresh water sourced straight from local waterfalls – one of which passes through the hotel itself.
A major highlight for me in this charming little village was the praia fluvial, a picturesque river beach with captivatingly clear –albeit chilly– water.
While I wasn’t feeling courageous enough to brave a swim this time, the scenery was enough to warrant another visit in the future.
This was the first of two river beaches we came across during the trip – the other in a nearby town, Loriga.
Another aspect of the trip which really stuck with me was meeting the locals: these mountain villages have an incredibly authentic sense of community.
Each and every inhabitant we came across was wrapped up in the everyday tasks of rural life, their pride and passion for their role in the community never waning.
The warm welcome we received was like none I’d experienced before while travelling.
This element of warmth and kindness carried on throughout each of the villages we went on to visit in the region. Lapa dos Dinheiros was the perfect introduction to a unique and fascinating trip to the Center of Portugal.
A huge thanks to Visit Portugal for inviting me!