Natural highs abound at cosy Casa das Penhas Douradas, perched in the rugged mountains of the Serra da Estrela Natural Park at an altitude of 1,500 metres. Snug, retro interiors riff on a Seventies-chalet theme, complementing the bold architecture; whatever the weather’s up to, you’ll never feel the chill, thanks to warm and heartfelt hospitality from the team. Bonus points go to the clever chef – who writes edible love letters to the region, and never neglects vegetarians – and the artful use of burel: a traditional local fabric, given a new lease of life by the hotel’s owners. Outside, a natural wonderland awaits…
Noon; earliest check-in, 3pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £153.40 (€175), including tax at 6 per cent.
The generous rates usually include buffet breakfast, an afternoon spread, fruit and fresh water in rooms, use of the sauna, Turkish baths and Jacuzzi, parking, guided walks, a tour of the Burel Factory and use of the hotel’s bicycles, sleds and snowshoes.
Design-fans will be in seventh heaven, thanks to covetable pieces from the Fifties and Sixties, including contributions from notable Scandi designers such as Hans Jørgensen Wegner, Børge Mogensen and Bruno Mathsson. Casa das Penhas Douradas has good genes: its stunning sister is Casa de São Lourenço, a seven-minute drive away.
Casa das Penhas Douradas doesn’t accept guests on 24 or 25 December, 29–31 December, 21–25 February and 30 March–13 April.
At the hotel
Mini ‘ski museum’ with vintage skis and ski manuals; fire pits and alfresco lounge areas; multimedia room; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, ability to play DVDs, iPod dock, Santal 33 bath products, workspace, air conditioning, minibar, free bottled water, kettle, tea- and coffee-making facilities, blackout curtain.
Our favourite rooms
We’re sweet on the suite, thanks to its partly glass ceiling and the day-bed designed for stargazing beneath it. Tucked away in the eaves, the suite also boasts a dreamy bathroom.
Survey the craggy rocks and spindly trees of the Serra da Estrela Natural Park from large picture windows by the spa’s sparkling indoor swimming pool. Watching snowflakes fall outside adds a certain frisson to steamy sauna sessions and dips in the heated pool.
The spa has several treatment rooms, a Vichy shower and a relaxation room, where calming herbal teas and infusions are served in silence. Treatments riff on the hotel’s surroundings: be massaged with birch-wood sticks or try an aromatherapy massage featuring birch bark, rosemary leaves and juniper berries. As if all that wasn’t soporifically seductive enough, there’s also a heated indoor pool with panoramic views, a hot tub and a sauna. Nature-lovers can request alfresco treatments in the ravishing grounds.
Bring a retro ski-suit and salopettes in winter; something with less potential for perspiration in summer.
Public and communal areas are wheelchair accessible and most rooms are on the ground floor, making them suitable for guests with reduced mobility.
Little Smiths of all ages are welcome. With a day’s notice, babysitting can be arranged (€15 an hour).
The usual rules apply: sit outside when it’s clement, inside when it’s not. This sociable hotel favours communal dining – nab a seat on one of the long benches.
Chalet chic: snug woolly layers; silvery shades of ice and pearl.
Sample Serra flavours at the cosy restaurant, whose tempting menu has been devised with help from top Portuguese chef Luís Baena. What you’ll eat depends on the seasons, with rotating highlights including: trout, chestnut and pumpkin, gorse, juniper, goat’s cheese and sheep’s cheese, native herbs and wild mushrooms picked from the Alto Mondego woods. Dinner is taken seriously, kicking off with a flute of champagne or a cocktail and nibbles, followed by soup, a main dish with accompaniments, a cheese buffet, a selection of desserts and fresh fruit, coffee and liqueurs. (There are great options for vegetarians and mini Smiths.) The hotel can also arrange waiter-toting picnics for you to enjoy amid the splendour of the Serra da Estrela Natural Park.
Breakfast is served in the restaurant between 8.30am and 11am; enjoy dinner until 10pm.
Order items from the restaurant menu to your room around the clock: the selection spans soup, sandwiches, cheese and nuts, smoked salmon, toast, quiche, cakes, fruit and so on.
You’ll find this hotel in the spectacular Serra da Estrela Natural Park, home to the highest mountain range in continental Portugal.
Fly into Porto airport, a two-hour drive away, or make the three-hour drive from Lisbon. Both airports are served by a multitude of airlines, including Ryanair, EasyJet, Vueling and Tap Air Portugal.
Covilhã's train station is a 40-minute drive away, with services connecting to Guarda, Castelo Branco, Portalegre and other destinations.
It’s certainly worth bringing wheels: the surroundings make for stunning drives and there’s plenty to explore here. Even getting to the hotel by car is an adventure, whether you come via the panoramic EN-232 or the scenic Forest Road. The hotel has plenty of parking space, right by its entrance.
You could also hop here by taxi from the airport or station – or arrive in style by chopper.
Worth getting out of bed for
Start by doing very little: treat yourselves to spa treatments, naps and several feasts at the restaurant. If and when you’re feeling a little more lively, explore the majesticSerra da EstrelaNational Park, perhaps with a picnic and an obliging waiter in tow. The hotel can arrange an array of outdoorsy pursuits, such as kayaking and canoeing, wild swimming in glass-like mountain lakes and guided nature walks. Go for an unforgettable dip in Poço do Inferno: a scenic waterfall that’s located in the steep gorge of Ribeira de Leadres, about 10 kilometers away from Manteigas. This spot is particularly winsome in spring.
In honour of the hotel’s burel-adorned interiors, go on a guided tour of the Burel Factory at R. de Benguela in Manteigas. The owners’ decision to kit out their two hotels with burel (a stiff fabric made from local mountain wool) reignited the dying factory and helped provide local employment. Burel has since gone on to complete impressive interiors projects, including kitting out Microsoft’s office in Lisbon.
Staff can arrange a variety of guided hikes in the Park for keen walkers: a four-hour trip around the Penhas Douradas and its viewpoints; a six-hour expedition around the Alto and the Sumo of the Mondego river; or a four-hour trip around the Fragões das Penhas Douradas, perhaps. With help from the hotel, you can unlock some of the region’s secret charms, such as sleepy slate villages, mysterious border castles and characterful historic villages.
Casa das Penhas Douradas is somewhat short on neighbours – but for a change of scene, you could always swing by its sister hotel, Casa de São Lourenço, for the excellent restaurant. (The two hotels share a chef.)
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this adventurous hotel in Portugal and unpacked their mountain cheeses and hiking boots, a full account of their country break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Casa das Penhas Douradas in Serra da Estrela…
Discover Portugal’s mountainous, snowy-in-winter side at Casa das Penhas Douradas, a Seventies-style crash-pad worthy of the Thunderbirds crew. It’s no surprise that the hotel was once the owners’ holiday home: it’s like a living invitation to kick back and relax (having explored – or at the very least toasted – that majestic scenery, of course). Tea and cake are offered daily, communal tables and benches in the restaurant encourage friendly conversation between guests, and the relaxed staff will treat you like family. Casa das Penhas Douradas has all the chic-chalet eye-candy you could dream of – retro interiors, sleek, striking architecture and even a covetable collection of vintage ski gear – but most importantly, it has heart. The owners helped revive a fading factory that produces a local fabric called ‘burel’, lavishing the hotel’s interiors with this stiff, felt-like material. And then there are the delicious dinners, a spoiling spa and spectacular outdoor adventures – the icing on the Casa.