Serra da Estrela Natural Park
The first natural park to be created in Portugal.
It comprises a succession of plateaus that extend from Guarda, in the northeast, to the foothills of the Serra do Açor, in the southwest. It extends over 101 thousand hectares, spread over six counties (Gouveia, Seia, Manteigas, Celorico da Beira, Guarda and Covilhã), being the largest Portuguese protected area.
It is in the Serra da Estrela Natural Park that the highest point of the Portuguese mainland is found at 1993 meters altitude - the Tower.
Its landscape is characteristic for the granite and schist rock, for the high pastures, for the native forest made of oak and candlesticks, for the countless vestiges of the last glaciation, for ponds, peat bogs and the springs of three important national rivers: Mondego, Alva and Zêzere, for the “casais” (thatched houses) isolated in the Serra and for the white blankets of snow in the colder months.
The unique climate of the Upper Plateau of Serra da Estrela is determined by the fact that it is located in the transition between the mild and humid regions of the temperate oceanic domain, in the north, and the hot and dry regions, of Mediterranean influence, in the south. Its high altitude in relation to the surrounding terrain, the general organization of the relief and the relative proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, about 100 kilometers away, play a decisive role in the complex mosaic of local climates that characterizes the region.
These climatic conditions associated with a geographical situation that allows isolation, create exceptional conditions for the reproduction of fauna and flora populations, which leads to the appearance of exclusive species, subspecies and varieties, such as silene (Silene foetida foetida) or the mountain gecko (lacerta monticola). For this reason, the Council of Europe, in 1993, designated an area of 10 610 hectares as a Biogenetic Reserve, which represents approximately 12% of the total Natural Park.
The flora of Serra da Estrela is an example of this. Through the rocks and undergrowth, we discover the campânula herminii, the seagrass, the saxifraga spathularis and the juniper through the Serra, at the same time that trees like the chestnut, the oak, the black oak, the pine rise bravo and holm oak. On plateaus and valleys in the interior of the mountains, between pastures, heather, rosemary and broom emerge.
These landscapes are also the habitat for the typically mountainous fauna, for mammals such as the wolf, the wild boar, the otter, the fox, the genet and the European rabbit, flown over by the golden eagle and the winged eagle. -Round, the peregrine falcon, the owl and the black kite and small reptiles and amphibians with endemic species such as the mountain gecko.
The Serra da Estrela Natural Park is also home to the Serra da Estrela dog and the bordaleira sheep, the sheep breed that produces the milk that is the raw material of the famous Serra da Estrela cheese, a major protagonist of the region's gastronomy.
Source: CM Gouveia