Serra da Estrela is a mountain range located in the center interior of Portugal.

This is where you can find the country’s 2nd highest peak, Torre (the Tower) with 1993 meters. The highest overall is the Pico mountain, located on the homonymous island of the Azores archipelago. It is 2531 meters tall.

It’s a region that belongs to the Serra da Estrela Natural Park. It occupies 21 municipalities, with its majority being part of the Guarda district and the remaining belonging to Castelo Branco.

It’s very interesting when it comes to visiting the castles and the existent historical villages. They can be found at the top of the mountain and they are aligned with the Spanish border. In the past, these were sites of defense and watch.

I underline Sortelha, one of the most beautiful, ancient and well-preserved historical villages in Portugal.

In it, the houses made of granite rise majestically over an impressive rocky terrain. Its difficult access was very important when it was time to assume a defensive position against enemy attacks.

It started as a Castro settlement and it was subsequently occupied by the Romans, Visigoths and Muslims, before being taken by the Christians. The old settlement was founded in the medieval period and the location emerged as a defensive need. Throughout time, that initial role started to vanish and the population began to settle itself outside the castle, in a less hilly area.

Sortelha has undergone several changes but it’s still an urban site with medieval traces. When visiting it, one can travel back in time, to ancient centuries. It’s very interesting the way one is able to watch the Castle, a National Monument built by D. Sancho I. In its interior, you can see Torre de Menagem (Tower of the Keep) and Cisterna (Cistern), responsible for the water supply.

The wall which encompasses Sortelha has several openings to the outside, Porta da Vila (the main one), Nova, Falsa, Castelo and Traição. Inside the wall, you can find Passos da Via Sacra (Stations of the Cross), Igreja Matriz (Main Church) and some buildings such as the house of the Governor, the one of the Falcões (Eagles) and the Moorish house.

Outside the Wall, you can also visit the old Hospital da Misericórdia and Igreja da Misericórdia (Church of Misericórdia) and the oddly shaped rock called “Cabeça da Velha”. It really looks like an elderly face.

Between Porta Nova and the area where you can find the old Hospital da Misericórdia, you can find a section and the medieval pavement, with a length of 30 meters.

I will sum up this article with a curiosity.

The name Sortelha comes from the Castilian “sortija”, which is an old game of knights, in which you had to place the spear inside a ring. In the settlement’s coat of arms you can still see that ring.

Lastly, I suggest you to keep walking through those ancient times and go to Castelo Mendo or Belmonte. All these villages are gorgeous and have an immense history. And don’t forget Serra da Estrela Natural Park.

Go there and explore it!

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