Casas da Lapa

Serra da Estrela, Mountain Beiras, Portugal Book from

Stylish country hotel amidst Portugal's highest mountains, offering warm hospitality, great food and stunning hiking
You could be forgiven for wondering where the Serra da Estrela is - it's not explored by many tourists, not even the Portuguese. But this vast National Park's rugged beauty - 2,000m limestone peaks, mossy waterfalls, granite caves, crystalline river pools - make it amply worth the long drive. It's in Portugal's central highlands, 300km north of Lisbon, 175km south of Oporto. So now you know.

Constructed from old shepherd's cottages in 3 lawned tiers on the side of a terraced hill overlooking a swimming pool and courtyard, the hotel is perched above the village of Lapa dos Dinheiros ('Treasure Cave'), with fabulous views across the valleys and peaks. Inside you'll find light bedrooms with jacuzzi tubs, walls of rough stone and smooth whitewash, neutral colours enlivened by dusky reds and olives. And after a day of trekking, cycling, village touring or river swimming, the sauna and steam bath will leave you in the pink. For those seeking contemporary comfort and delicious food in an unspoilt mountain retreat, this is a perfect find.

Highs

  • Stylish modern interiors - unusual in such a rustic and remote location
  • Cosy living rooms (firelit in winter, beautifully cool in summer) showcase local sculptures and paintings
  • The sleek dining room and sunny poolside terrace offer the best in regional and home-grown cuisine
  • The National Park - 100,000 hectares of it - is on your doorstep
  • A great place to escape with a loved one, with the family (kids will love the Toy Museum in Seia and the zoo in Gouveia), or with a group of friends

Lows

  • The hotel is undergoing extensive renovations during 2016 - the apartments are open but the hotel is closed and there is on-going building work on site
  • Access is tricky: from the A1 at Coimbra it's all country roads, which get narrower as you go up, especially when you reach the village itself
  • Slightly rabbit-warren in construction; we found it a bit claustrophobic, though bedrooms are spacious
  • It can be cold and misty up here at 750m altitude (though rarely in summer) and bear in mind that the higher 5 bedrooms all have exterior access
  • The nearest restaurants are 7km away in Seia, though meals are on offer at the hotel

Best time to go

If you're planning to walk, spring or autumn is the best time of year to be here. But the village's soaring elevation ensures it remains cool enough for hiking to be enjoyable in summer, too. And don't forget that you're just a 30-minute drive from Portugal's most popular ski resort: most years you can expect heavy snowfalls in both February and March.

Our top tips

Don't forget to pack all your walking gear: boots, waterproofs, a daypack and water bottle, suncream and a hat

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Family
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 8 rooms, 2 apts
  • Breakfast (+ other meals on request)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Heated Pool
  • Sauna
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

The 8 double bedrooms are similar in size and layout, and have been ranked up on 3 levels beside and above the swimming pool. Most of these have kingsized or twin beds and contemporary furnishings: cube armchairs, sleek cylindrical lamps, laminated bedwalls and eyecatching sculptures set into a series of small niches. Crimson cushions and bright 'Burel' bed runnners add a further twist of decorative spice. All have great views to the mountains thanks to the big glass panels of their exterior doors.

The lowest two doubles are more traditional and have queensized beds with antique headboards. Up above these is a larger double bedroom, where there's plenty of space to slot in 2 additional single beds. These 3 rooms have the added advantage of interior access to a guest sitting room (in addition to that of the main house) with a televison and DVD: iPod docks are an added bonus.

Bathrooms are decorated in muted monochromes; stylish freestanding ceramic sinks are set on a generous sweep of black marble surface. You'll find a hairdryer, bathrobes, slippers, and a trayful of natural bath products sourced in Sicily; the jacuzzi tubs are perfect for a post-trek soak.

There are also 2 apartments, which are a great choice for families (although there are no twin beds), or people who want more privacy and independence. Set in the building across the road from the hotel, they are contemporary in style with either 2 or 3 bedrooms, kitchenettes, sitting areas and a shared courtyard terrace and small swimming pool.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fireplace
  • Hairdryer
  • Ipod dock
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Spa baths
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Tv

Eating

Breakfast is served in a fab dining room with scarlet banquettes, exposed stone walls and a wacky spotlit panel of plaster faces. You're welcome to come down any time up to 1pm, in which case it could easily become brunch. Accompanied by the sounds of classical piano music, my buffet feast included a selection of cereals, excellent bread, a fruit salad, home-baked cakes, local honey, freshly-squeezed orange juice, ham, an excellent selection of tasty Beiras cheeses and natural yoghurt.

Light meals are available during the day, either inside or outside by the pool: expect fish salads, pizza, hamburgers, vegetable omelettes and pies. If you want to eat out you will need to drive to Seia, 7km away, where most restaurants are of the rustic-regional sort: lots of lamb and smoked pork sausages as well as local sheep's cheese.

During breakfast, one of the friendly members of staff will discuss what's on offer that day for dinner - they are happy to adapt things to cater for your own dietary requirements or those of your kids. It will be a 3-course event with starters and mains served at your table then a choice of dessert laid out in buffet-style.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Coffee tea making
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • The National Park has a unique landscape of dramatic glacial valleys (geologists will be in their element!), powerful waterfalls, primitive forest of black oaks and chestnut trees, and granite outcrops. Reception can provide maps and recommend walks of varying levels of difficulty in the mountains - particularly lovely in spring and autumn. I only had time to accompany the owners on a short hike out from Lapa to a cave and waterfall but it left me in awe at the beauty of the Beiras National Park

  • Guided 4-day walking tour Click for itinerary

  • 4x4 drive tours can also be arranged, as can mountain biking - the hotel has its own bikes you can borrow

  • The caves of Moura and Suma are worth visiting; you can try your hand at abseiling, or (in winter) go skiing at Portugal's only resort

  • Near the village are no fewer than 8 fluvial beaches, where in summer you can swim in wonderfully invigorating pure mountain water, or relax under the trees in pristine natural scenery. The park is also the source of the rivers Mondego, Zezere and Alva

  • Discover the stunning villages of Liñhares and Piódão, and the crumbling castles which dot the landscape

  • Seia (7km) 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

  • Relax around Lapa's 11x4m swimming pool, or check out the steam room, gym, and sauna. You can book a massage too

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Mountain biking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Skiing
  • Swimming
  • Trekking

Kids

Children are greeted with open arms at Casas da Lapa. Owners Nuna and Maria Manuela have a young family of their own and have a genuinely caring attitude towards younger visitors. It is a long drive from the airport, but once you get here there is plenty to do for all the family and you won't have to bring much with you.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Rooms number 4, 5, 6 and 8 are suitable for 2 adults and 1 child. Rooms number 3 and 7 are suitable for 2 adults and 2 children. The apartments, with 2 or 3 bedrooms, kitchenette and sitting room, are the best solution for a large family. All the rooms have hydromassage bathtubs. In the apartments, the rooms have simple bathtubs.




Prices differ depending on where you're staying: cots are free in the hotel rooms but incur a small charge in the apartments. Extra beds are more expensive in the rooms than the apartments. See Rates. There are 8 extra beds and 8 extra cots available in total.

Babysitting:

Babysitting available, arrange in advance.

Baby equipment:

  • Highchair
  • Pram or pushchair to borrow
  • Baby bedding
  • Baby bath

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

Food is available all day, with special mealtimes for kids and half portions of adult mains on offer for dinner (see Rates). There is a small kitchenette with microwave and blender and baby bottles can be warmed.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Kids DVDs
  • Swimming pool

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Historical towns to visit
  • River swimming
  • Skiing and snowboarding in the winter
  • Cycling
  • Ask Maria to recommend child-friendly walks
  • Toy museum in Seia
  • Zoo in Gouveia

Families Should Know:

The closest shop for nappies etc is a 10-minute drive away in Seia. Watch out for steep stone stairs and an unfenced pool.

Distances:

  • Airport: 2 hours
  • Hospital: 15 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
9/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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Rates for Casas da Lapa