If there’s one town in the serra with a true mountain air it’s MANTEIGAS, 700m up, whose whitewashed houses run along the contour above the Rio Zêzere. The approach from any direction is dramatic: from Sabugeiro and the west the road winds down in convoluted switchbacks; from Belmonte and the east the river scenery is at its most bucolic; while from the south there is the breathtaking descent down the glacial valley of the Rio Zêzere. The latter route brings you into town past the therapeutic spa of Caldas de Manteigas and to the fertile valley bottom of the Zêzere, with Manteigas itself spreading across the steep slope opposite.
There’s no public transport further into the park from town, but with a car you can use Manteigas as a base to visit Torre, the glacial valley and ski fields, and the nearby villages. The town is on two of the official walking trails, but local routes are on the tough side since – south and west at least – you have to climb steep and far to get anywhere. There’s one easy circular walk to the Poço do Inferno waterfall. Most other routes are point-to-point, requiring a taxi ride out or back, though this is easily arranged.
That leaves Ski Parque (t275 980 090, wwww.skiparque.net) as the only other local diversion, an artificial winter-sports slope and adventure park 8km east of Manteigas down the N232 Belmonte road. It’s open all year round for dry-slope skiing and snowboarding, plus everything else from mountain-biking to hang-gliding.