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Visiting Portugal's mountains -- try Lousa

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I think that most of the people who visit mountains in Portugal either go to the Serra da Estrela or way north to Tras os Montes or the park around Geres. Here's another option -- the Serra de Lousa.

Lousa is about 35 km from Coimbra and easy to get to. There's not much in the town itself, but we stayed in a very nice hotel in the Sol Melia chain, in the 19th century Palacio dos Salazares. The hotel restaurant was very good -- we ate there because the restaurant a friend had recommended (Casa Velha) was closed for vacation.

http://www.solmelia.com/solNew/reservations/jsp/C_Search_Availability.jsp

Lousa also has a pretty tea house across from the church -- one of a very few in Portugal. Great pastries/desserts.

From the town, you can visit Lousa's castle (the Casttle of Arouce). The castle is a few km north of Lousa and is in a very nice heavily wooded setting, close to a riverfront with a good restaurant. Lots of walks from the castle grounds.

(I hope htis link to some pictures of the castle works)
http://www.guiadacidade.pt/portugal/index.php?G=monumentos.ver&artid=14727&distritoid=06


From Lousa it is easy to visit the "Schist Villages" that are scattered through the mountains. We visited Cerdeira, Candal, and Talasnal. We used a very good website that has pictures and a map: http://www.aldeiasdoxisto.pt/index/5
It's in Portuguese, but pretty easy to use for locations and to see pictures.

Now it is true that some of the roads that connect the villages near Lousa are not paved, but they were completely passable in our little VW Polo, except for a 1 1/2 km stretch between the national road and Cerdeira. We just walked it, not a problem.

We spent another day in an area closer to the Serra da Estrela, near the Pousada Vila Pouca da Beira. Driving from the pousada to Lousa we visited the really beautiful village of Piodao, also a schist town that's a little larger and a little more inhabited than the ones near Lousa. We sort of stumbled upon a little restaurant off in a corner, O Fontinha, and my husband followed the crowd and had a Chanfana (goat stew), which was yummy.

For me, the area around Lousa is much prettier than the Serra da Estrela, because the mountains are much greener (an incredibly dark pine green for the most part) and seem less barren/remote.

Laurie

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