Yet whilst the landscape is rugged, this boutique hotel has manicured, contemporary good looks. There are squashy sofas and woodburners in the lounges, 17 swish bedrooms, and a heated pool, sauna and spa to ease aching muscles. Floor-to-ceiling windows maximise the glorious views and the polished lacquer walls give the hotel a Scandinavian feel. This is a year-round destination: come in spring for mountain flowers, summer for perfect walking conditions, autumn for blankets of red-gold leaves or winter to go snow-shoeing and skiing.
- Staff are super friendly and kind: on each of our three visits, they couldn't have been nicer
- Stylish rooms have a surpisingly modest price tag: you get a whole lot of comfort for your euros
- Owner João is passionate about the region and has mapped out trails for various levels of agility: from gentle two-hour strolls right through to full day hikes
- Fab food: menus showcase regional specialities and the presentation is worthy of the smartest restaurant
- Great for outdoorsy kids: tors for hide-and-seek, caves to explore and lakes to swim in
- It can get pretty cold at night off season, but the heated pool, indoor fires and cosy rooms will keep you snug
- The nearest restaurant is 6km away, so if you stay for a week be prepared to eat in every night or drive
- You should be prepared for some cloud or rain at any time of year: after all, you are almost a 1,000 feet higher than the top of Ben Nevis!
- We have yet to see the latest incarnation of some of the rooms and suites in person
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Boutique Hotel
- 17 rooms
- Restaurant (open daily)
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Indoor Pool
- Spa Treatments
- Beach Nearby
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Car essential
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Bicycles Available
It was a leap of faith by P.D.'s architect to design such an innovative building in a deeply traditional region. Waving goodbye to local mores, he chose gleaming epoxy floors, laquered pannelling and a seamless union of glass and wood. The resulting rooms are light and uplifting with a Scandinavian feel. In the upper wing, the Double Rooms with Mountain View feature original pieces of 60s furniture by Nordic designers.
Floor-to-ceiling windows, large TVs with DVD players and sliding doors leading to bathrooms ensure that all available space is put to good use. Beds are dressed with bright Burel wool textiles, and comfy spa mattresses guarantee a great night's sleep. You also get iPod docks and writing desks.
Ensuite bathrooms have massage showers or baths with translucent glass panels. Expect towelling bathrobes, slippers, a hairdryer and a big pile of towels as well as locally sourced toiletries made from indigenous Beiras plants.
Most of the 17 rooms spread through the upper and lower wings of the hotel are Double Rooms with Mountain View or with Balcony and Mountain Views. When we last revisited, we spent a night in each, and loved them both. Those on the lower level are smaller, but have private terraces where you can drink in the extraordinary views from the comfort of armchairs. Those in the upper wing are bigger, with bigger bathrooms; these Mountain View Doubles can fit a rollaway bed and can interlink.
The Junior Suite also has mountain views as well as a living area and desk, and can sleep up to 4. The biggest room is hoisted high above the dining room – an airy Suite, which was once João's private apartment. With sofas, glass walls, a separate bath and shower and heaps of space, this is also a great option for families.
The buffet breakfast is designed to give walkers energy for the day ahead - in other words, it's huge! Served in the wood-clad dining room with its panoramic views, you can expect fruit salad, homemade breads and cakes, local honey, fruit marmalades, freshly squeezed juices and cheeses. Groups can sit around the big dining table or there are smaller tables set next to windows so you can gaze out as you eat.
A three-course lunch can be served in the dining room if requested in advance, and picnics can be made up for those going on a full-day hike (a sandwich, cookies, piece of chocolate, fruit, water, juice, hot coffee or tea).
Light snacks are available throughout the day, there's an honesty bar in each wing of the house, and tea and cake is served in the dining room at 4pm - a sweet treat for those who've worn themselves out walking.
The evening meals are also a reward for tired bodies, kicking off with a cocktail and nibbles in the lounge at 8pm; we had Port wine with tonic (surprisingly nice) and a gazpacho in a shot glass (delicious). Dinner is then a five-course feast. We started with a yummy Serra herbed goat's cheese salad, followed by a heavenly roast pumpkin soup with garlic bread. Next up was a beef steak wrapped in mushroom pate and filo pastry (sublime), followed by a yoghurt, honey and egg yolk dessert (sweet and rich). You later help yourself to cheeses, digestivs and coffee which are laid out along the counter. The price of your meal includes an excellent red or white house wine; your glass will be frequently replenished.
And if you can walk to your room after all that, you're doing well!
- Kids' meals
- Vegetarian options
- Hike through some of Europe's loveliest and least-trodden mountain scenery: the 2000m Serra da Estrela offers glacial landscapes of white waterfalls, dark granite, green moors, ancient junipers and tiny villages. We were simply bowled over by the beauty of the area when João took us out on a short, two-hour 'taster' hike. This walk was a tiny part of the guided tours which João arranges in conjunction with Casas da Lapa and include two nights full board in each hotel
Click for 4-day walking itinerary
- If you'd prefer to walk independently, just ask for a sketch map
- Reception can arrange guided hikes and tours into the heart of the Serra; they own a jeep and, with a bit of planning, can drive you to the start of a trail / pick you up at the end / bring you a gourmet picnic lunch at a beauty spot halfway
- Admire massive granite tors and golden-pink quartz outcrops (penhas douradas), eroded by the ice, sun, rain, snow and wind into wierd and wonderful shapes. The local shepherds have names for many of them: the friar and the nun, the wizard and the wolf, the dog and the toad (lots of stories for kids, and great hide-and-seek territory!)
- Try your hand at abseiling or mountain biking (the hotel has 21-geared bikes to borrow and can recommend various routes)
- In winter, go skiing at Torre (Portugal's only proper resort) or borrow the hotel's snowshoes and hike through Planalto Central (great for toning the bum!). Return home to the heated swimming pool and watch the snow fall outside as you float in the warmth
- Check out Vale do Rossim lake, a fluvial beach, where in summer you can swim in wonderfully invigorating pure mountain water, or relax under the trees in pristine natural scenery. This natural park is also the source of the rivers Mondego, Zezere and Alva in which you can go trout fishing
- In autumn head out for a half day of mushrooming with João or Paolo then have the spoils of your hunt incorporated into your evening meal
- Discover the stunning villages of Linhares and Piódão, and the crumbling castles which dot the landscape. Seia has a Park Visitor Centre, a Toy Museum and a Bread Museum, Gouveia a zoo, Belmonte a museum recalling the rich Jewish heritage and the local woollen industry. Ski aficionados might be entertained by their collection of century-old skis and instructions on how to use them
- Back at the hotel, the blissful spa is just the ticket for easing tired muscles. A range of treatments and massages is on offer, some using oils flavoured with herbs of Serra da Estrela (juniper, rosemary), and others using the lovely Terraké range
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Mountain biking
- Plantlife / flora
- Well being
Chic, remote mountain hideaways usually sound more Bond-villain than family fun, but PD is an exception. The atmosphere is very child-friendly, with a special kids' menu, baby equipment and free food for under 4s (which impressed us a lot). Feedback from families who have booked through us suggests that it's a great place for teenagers too; outdoorsy kids will enjoy the varied terrain for hide and seek and other fresh air games. Take Joao up on the offer to tailormake a hike for your family, with the option of a jeep pick-up if it's too far for little legs.
Family friendly accommodation:
The Double Rooms with Mountain View can accommodate an extra bed, and can interconnect. The Superior Double Room also has space for a rollaway bed, and all rooms can fit a baby cot. If you're travelling with 2 or more children, book the Junior Suite (which sleeps 4) or the Suite, which sleeps 2 adults and 3 children (or 2 adults, 2 children and a baby cot). There's a small extra cost for the extra beds for children – cheaper for 4-10 year olds than for those 11-17. See Rates).
Cots Available, Extra Beds Available
- High chair
- Baby chair
- Baby bath
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
Kids' menu; those under 4 eat for free. Breakfast is huge, picnics can be made up for the day and there's a high tea (tea and cakes) at 4pm. You can get snacks through the day in the hotel.
Kids Activities on site:
- Mountain bikes
- Swimming pool
- Snowshoes to hire in winter
- Small walking programmes designed for families
Kids Activities nearby:
- Tors to climb and play hide and seek around
- Caves to explore
- Vale do Rossim Lake - good for swimming
- Mushrooming trips in season
- Seia Toy Museum and Gouveia Zoo are wet weather options
Families Should Know:
It rains a lot – so bring children's DVDs with you, although there are a few here. There are no nearby supermarkets so stock up on essentials before you get here.
- Airport: 2 hours (Porto), 4 hours (Lisbon)
- Hospital: 20 minutes
Casa das Penhas Douradas is in Penhas Douradas, a small village near Manteigas in the Natural Park of Serra da Estrela. This is a mountain range in central Portugal, near the town of Guarda. It's 200km from Porto (Oporto), 300km northeast of Lisbon, and 175km east of Coimbra. Don't forget that the Beiras and Serra da Estrela are pretty remote so set aside plenty of time for the journey to and from Penhas Douradas: this is a simply stunning area and you're bound to want to make frequent photos stops.
Porto Airport (200km) and Lisbon Portela Airport (300km) are the closest. Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving these airports.
From the Airport
We would definitely recommend hiring a car to reach Penhas Douradas - see our car rental recommendations. Allow the best part of 4 hours if arriving from Lisbon and about half that time from Porto. Bear in mind, too, that you could fly into Madrid then travel across to the Serra da Estrela from there. You could break journey in Salamanca or Ciudad Rodrigo, or cross the border and overnight in wonderful Guarda.
Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.com.
More on getting to Portugal and getting around
- Oporto 200.0 km OPO
- Oporto 300.0 km LIS
- Beach 150.0 km
- Shops 12.0 km
- Restaurant 6.0 km