Discover the wild Portuguese snowscapes of Serra d...

Discover the wild Portuguese snowscapes of Serra da Estrela considered to be the “healthiest place in Portugal”

Casa das Penhas Douradas

Photo: Casa das Penhas Douradas

Amid the wild landscapes of the Serra da Estrela, two boutique hotels weave contemporary designs with traditional Burel wool

Some of life’s greatest luxuries are time, space and tranquillity, three characteristics that make the Serra da Estrela Natural Park the perfect destination for a peaceful escapade.

Portugal’s iconic mountain range invites visitors to switch off, breathe fresh mountain air and explore wild landscapes with breathtaking views.

Established as a rejuvenating destination in 1881 by Portuguese doctor José Tomás de Sousa Martins, the Serra da Estrela is itself rejuvenating thanks to the Burel Mountain Originals. Over the last 10 years, the hospitality group has refurbished two of the mountain resort’s original chalets and an ancient wool factory in a tribute to Burel wool, bringing to light a tradition long hidden in the valleys of the Serra da Estrela.

Unique to this location, Burel wool is the traditional material the hoteliers have used to weave the mountain tale into its two ‘houses’, the Casa das Penhas Douradas and the Casa de São Lourenço.

Adding to its tribute project, the 19th-century Burel Wool Factory and its ancient looms were brought back to life to relaunch the country’s oldest woollen fabric with modern designs and vibrant colours.

Casa das Penhas Douradas

Casa das Penhas Douradas, the Burel Expedition Hotel

Located four kilometres apart, the hotels offer different landscapes and concepts. Casa das Penhas Douradas, the first of the Burel Mountain Originals units to be refurbished, is the Burel Expedition Hotel.

With its carefully curated decoration and themed excursions, its unique concept takes us back to the time of the Serra da Estrela Scientific Expedition, organised by Lisbon’s Geographical Society in 1881, when Dr Sousa Martins identified the Penhas Douradas (Golden Cliffs) as “the healthiest place in Portugal”.

Casa das Penhas Douradas

A hundred and thirty years later, this cosy four-star hotel has revived the expedition’s objective, transforming this remote location into a health destination.

At 1,500 metres above sea level, it offers the purest mountain air combined with peace and serenity. Perfectly integrated into its surroundings and inspired by local architecture, the hotel was refurbished using natural materials such as cork and birch wood, which isolate the exterior and interior of the building, and has an architectural design of simple and clean lines envisioned by architect Pedro Brígida.

Casa das Penhas Douradas © José Vicente | Agência Calipo

The interior mixes an old-world ski chalet feel with minimalistic Nordic design. Old wooden skis and leather boots bring to life the history of the location, while design furniture in earthy tones bring sobriety to the peaceful atmosphere.

On the walls, pieces by Nordic and Portuguese artists and designers such as Catarina Pinto Leite, Hans Wegner, Bruno Mathsson, Børge Mogensen, Pedro Silva Dias, and Pedro Brígida add touches of contemporaneity.

Casa das Penhas Douradas

The hotel has 17 intimate rooms and a suite, all of which feel like birchwood cocoons with details in soft fabric and vast windows and balconies that offer incredible views. The project’s linchpin, wool, is one of the main elements, with Burel fabric coating sofas, footstools, armchairs, and even some walls.

Several fireplaces give a cosy mountain feel across the hotel, a vast library with a film projector can be transformed into a multimedia meeting room, and a Ski Museum adds depth to the setting.

After a day out exploring, the hotel’s spa is the place to go for a Vichy shower, massage or signature treatment featuring oils made with hand-picked herbs from the Serra da Estrela or Terraké and Thalgo products. There is also a heated indoor pool with panoramic views, a whirlpool bath, and a sauna, offering the most dramatic setting on snowy days as you soak in the heated pool.

As for gastronomy, the hotel’s panoramic restaurant is the perfect place to contemplate the mountain as you taste some of the chef ’s nourishing signature dishes made with seasonal products, transforming the mountain’s flavours with an innovative touch.

Casa de São Lourenço, the Burel Panorama Hotel

The Pousada de São Lourenço, one of Portugal’s first mountain lodges, was the second to be refurbished by the Burel Mountain Originals group, reopening as the Casa de São Lourenço – Burel Panorama Hotel.

Its original 1949 design by architect Rogério de Azevedo was part of an innovative concept of small and welcoming “unlikely hotels” offering “genuine hospitality, the beauty of the Portuguese landscape and the delights of local cuisine”.

Casa de São Lourenço

Today, it is Portugal’s first and only five-star mountain hotel. Overlooking the Zêzere Glacial Valley, where Burel wool, design and comfort reign, the hotel’s new modern design features natural elements such as stone and wood and massive panoramic windows framing the magnificent views of the Serra da Estrela.

Maintaining the soul of the ancient lodge, the hotel has kept the original furniture designed 70 years ago by Maria Keil, one of Portugal’s most influential 20th-century artists, while also giving space to modern Portuguese designers.

The common thread of the “Casas”, Burel wool, is present throughout the hotel to help tell the story of the mountain and add soft details to the intimate decorative style. On the walls, embroidered poetry by Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, hand-painted panels, and art installations bring a beautiful feel as we unravel this tale.

Casa de São Lourenço

The hotel’s 17 spacious rooms and four suites, all designed with different colour schemes, feature several separate resting areas, private balconies, and access to a garden of autochthonous plants.

The decoration balances modern and old, concrete and wood, wool and thick Burel pieces. Art installations and pieces by Portuguese artists are also part of the rooms, along with Burel blankets made with 100% pure sheep’s wool for added comfort and fragrant Molton Brown products in the bathrooms.

Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, the hotel’s São Lourenço Restaurant boast a full view of the mountain range through its extra-large windows, giving the impression we are floating above the Zêzere Glacial Valley.

The menu offers Portuguese cuisine, where the freshness and seasonality of the mountain ingredients are privileged, seasoned with the innovation and ingenuity of the chefs, without losing their authenticity.

Casa de São Lourenço ©Luis Ferraz

There are plenty of activities to burn off those calories, ranging from rejuvenating signature spa treatments to invigorating hikes across the mountain.

With yet another set of huge windows giving onto the tranquil scenery, the Panoramic Spa comprises a sauna and a Turkish Bath, a waterfall shower and an indoor heated pool connected to an outdoor pool set in a garden overlooking the mountain.

Casa de São Lourenço

As for outdoors, there are more than 250km of marked trekking and mountain biking trails around the hotels, which can be explored with or without a guide to discover lakes, peaks, valleys, and historic mountain villages. In the summer, you can dive in the pure waters of the lagoons close to the hotel, explore them in a kayak, and discover the rivers as they initiate their journey down the mountain.

Burel Wool Factory

Down in the village of Manteigas, 12km from the hotels, the Burel factory with its antique looms, museum and factory boutique is an essential visit.

For those who cannot make it up the mountain, Burel has also opened shops in Lisbon and Porto, selling the latest collection of blankets, coats, furniture an more.


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