The Serra da Estrela may not feature large on the tourist map of Portugal, but we love its granite-topped summits, its mossy valleys and pine forests, its pristine praias fluviais (river pools), and its endless supply of fresh mountain air. Maria Manuel, a university lecturer in pharmaceutical chemistry, felt the same when she visited over 20 years ago. She and her husband first set about rebuilding what eventually became the well regarded Casas da Lapa hotel; and then these two cottages a five minute walk away, which piggyback on the hotel's concierge service and, even more delightfully, its restaurant and spa. Think of it as the best of both worlds, far from the rest of the world.
- The view from the swimming pool is surely the best in Serra da Estrela
- Breakfast is delivered to your door each morning - an indulgent touch for a self-catering cottage
- And you can wander down to their sister hotel for 5-course gourmet dinners
- Enjoy wonderful, lung-cleansing hikes (or bike rides) to nearby waterfalls and granite-topped summits
- Or drive to the 'fluvial beaches' for wild swimming in the pristine headwaters of the Zazere, Mondego and Alva rivers
- The pool and gardens are shared between two houses (if you really want to ensure they're yours alone, you could book both houses)
- The gardens are steeply terraced, with lots of steps
- Parking space is limited and the lane is narrow
- It can be wetter, and occasionally cloudy, up here at 750m altitude
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Mountain cottages
- 2 cottages for 4
- Self-catering; meals available
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Outdoor Pool
- Spa Treatments
- Beach Nearby
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Car essential
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Daily Maid Service
- Towels & Bedlinen
- Concierge Service
- Bicycles Available
The smaller of the two cottages has a bright living-dining area, with white-faced kitchen units (including a retro Smeg fridge) and offset by vivid red accents and transparent Ghost dining chairs. Warmth comes from a woodburning stove and some colourful accessories. You get the basics for cooking up simple meals, including a hob, oven, fridge, microwave and toaster, plus a dishwasher; but don't expect a huge range of utensils, pots or crockery. That said, it's only a short walk to their sister hotel where you can tuck into 5-course gourmet dinners without lifting a finger (and they'll deliver yummy breakfast items each morning, too).
Upstairs are two bedrooms, one of which can be set up with twin beds if preferred. Expect comfy mattresses, ensuite shower rooms and bathrobes.
The larger of the two cottages is more rustic in feel, with exposed stone walls in its cosy living-dining room, alongside eye-catching artworks and a quirky spiral bookshelf by Kartell. The kitchen part again comes with gleaming white storage and cooking units - hob, sink and (eye-level) oven - plus a Smeg fridge. Again it's not designed for cheffing up multi-course dinners (head to the hotel for those), but it's more than adequate; and you get a daily breakfast delivery including local cheeses, freshly baked bread and still warm cake.
The bedrooms here are both doubles, and both bathrooms come with tubs.
- Explore the Serra da Estrela's uniquely primitive landscape of glacial valleys, granite outcrops, hidden waterfalls and mixed chestnut- and black oak forests: there are signed hikes, and bikes can be arranged
- In summer, swim at one of the 8 fluvial beaches near the village: we loved the wonderfully invigorating pure mountain water
- The town of Seia (7km) has a Visitor Centre, a Toy Museum and a Bread Museum; Gouveia has a zoo; Belmonte a museum recalling the rich Jewish heritage and the local woollen industry
- Further afield, in the spectacular Covao da Ametade (50 mins' drive), the crystal clear headwaters of the river Zezere emerge among silver beeches and the triple peaks of the rocky Cântaros
- The caves of Moura and Suma also are worth visiting; try your hand at abseiling nearby
- Discover the stunning villages of Liñhares and Piódão, and the crumbling castles which dot the landscape
- After all that exertion, book yourself a massage and sauna session at their sister hotel
Children of all ages are welcome in both cottages - though it's not ideal for toddlers given the terraced gardens and internal steps (no stair gates). Owners Nuno and Maria Manuel know the best (short) hikes, caves and river swims for younger guests. It is a long drive from the airport, but once you get here there is plenty to do for all the family.
Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)
Family friendly accommodation:
The smaller cottage usually works better for a family as it has 1 double and 1 twin bedroom.
Kids Activities nearby:
- Historical towns to visit
- River swimming
- Skiing and snowboarding in the winter
- Maria Manuel can recommend child-friendly walks
- Toy museum in Seia
- Zoo in Gouveia
- Airport: 2 hours
- Hospital: 15 minutes
The cottages are in the small village of Lapa dos Dinheiros, high on the slopes of the Serra da Estrela mountain range. The nearest big town, Seia, is 7km away.
Fly to Porto / Oporto (175km, 2+ hours' drive) or Lisbon (300km, 4 hours' drive); the latter has more flights. Both driving routes are very scenic; you don't want to rush, or drive at night. It is also possible to fly into Madrid in Spain, and drive via Salamanca (perhaps overnighting there).
From the Airport
You'll need to hire a car as the village is remote, with no public transport links.
Detailed directions will be sent when you book through i-escape.
- Oporto 175.0 km OPO
- Lisbon 300.0 km LIS
- Beach 150.0 km
- Shops 7.0 km
- Restaurant 7.0 km